The latest installment to Charlie Gillett’s acclaimed compilation series Sound Of The World, 2009’s Sound Of The World presents: Otro Mundo
takes us to all the corners of the musical world, with some of the greatest names in world music, such as Manu Chao, Rokia Traoré, Oumou Sangare, Miriam Makeba, and Šaban Bajramović, as well as Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe, Portuguese fado star Mariza, Angolan singer Bonga, nu-flamenco vocalist Buika, and Arizona’s Calexico.
At a time when world music is at a low ebb in terms of sales (and the music industry itself is arguably under attack from cyberspace), it's a relief that its leading patron saint is still releasing his annual compilations.
For the past ten years, BBC radio DJ Charlie Gillett has meticulously compiled selections of the best or most requested tracks aired on his radio shows. This year's edition is called Otro Mundo ('Another World') and it’s as reliable a guide as ever to what's worth checking out.
Even those well versed in the field will appreciate the odd delectable discovery. The sequencing makes nattily intuitive and sometimes surprising connections between genres, such as the way Australian-born CW Stoneking's New Orleans-modelled blues is followed by Benin's similarly influenced Gangbe Brass Band. Yet Gillett manages to avoid what you might call the 'Putumayo effect' – a seemingly diverse collection of tracks put together in a way that somehow manages to homogenise them. See any compilation on the Putumayo label for an example.
That said, no music fan is without their stylistic blind spots, and if Gillet has one it's Asian music, which this year doesn't get a look in, unless you count Gorillaz's Hong Kong. I don't. The Spanish language title kind of gives the game away, and the bias is, always, in favour of Afro, Latin and European sounds, with the Middle East possibly better represented than usual.
Gillet's enjoyable sleeve notes offer a personal touch, with short sketches of each artist and pertinent explanations of his choices, such as the way he avoids tracks already given exposure on other collections. There's the usual mix of those artists who’ve regularly appeared in the past (Mariza, Manu Chao, Issa Bagayogo, etc), or recently died (Miriam Makeba, Saban Bajramovic) and plenty of newcomers.
The passion he maintains for this music is obvious from his closing comments: “It is a scandal that all these artists are so completely and utterly sidelined and ignored by people who should know better…what else do these artists have to do for their work to be rightfully acknowledged?” --Jon Lusk
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