Humans across the world dance to the same beat that enables coordination in social situations and encourages group bonding, suggest researchers.
A team from the University of Exeter in Britain and Tokyo University of the Arts has found that songs from around the world tend to share features, including a strong rhythm.
"The results help explain why humans make music, most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions," said Dr Thomas Currie from the University of Exeter, lead author. The study appeared in the journal PNAS
It suggests that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups. "It can be a kind of social glue," he said.
The team analyzed 304 recordings of stylistically diverse music from across the world to reveal the common features.
Although they found no absolute universals, they found dozens of statistical universals (features that were consistently present in a majority of songs across different world regions). These included features related to pitch and rhythm as well as social context and inter-relationships between musical features.
The results showed that rhythms based on two or three beats were present in music from all regions sampled - North America, Central/South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
The researchers combined a new way of classifying music with statistical analysis to reveal the features that are common to music from across the world. In the old days, western people believed that their scales were universal.
Researchers have shown that despite its great surface diversity, most of the music throughout the world is actually constructed from very similar basic building blocks and performs very similar functions.