Ah, listening to this double-album (or a double-whammy of sound in my case) brings back good memories. It was the summer of 2006, I was in my second year of University and in experimental listening mode. I've always been a funk, soul and disco lover and knew of some of the great African experimentations with these, from the likes of the greats like Fela and Manu Dibango. I also knew a lot of Indian classical, through my own musical background, and some of the artists working on fusing these with electronica, drum n bass and jazz, the likes of Nitin Sawhney and members of the Asian Underground. My ears were introduced to new artists through the BBC world music awards collections [also an excellent buy]. But what really clinched the deal was this compilation I purchased at a CD fair in the student union. It startled, amazed, confused and made me search out more - I went on to present a world music show on my student radio station, and my CD collection has grown in size from the likes of the artists in this collection.
Charlie Gillett (God bless his soul and what he bought to the world music scene) is an expert craftsman when putting together an ideal compilation of the best ethnic grooves and experiments of the past year. He hasn't always hit the mark in my opinion - World 2004 and 2003 fall a little short, there isn't enough ''pick-up'' for me - but here, the collection rides on the crest of the wave. From Daby Balde's soaring 'Sora' (mind the pun, but it is exactly that), to the fusion of ska and Balkan brass in 7/8 time on Mei Tei Sho's mindblowing 'Lambi Golo', Camille's vocal orchestra on 'Au Port' to the late Ali Farka Toure pitted against Toumani Diabete, guitar vs kora battle, on 'Kadi Kadi' - and that's just the first CD.
What I love is the experimentation - rare gems and musical styles unearthed, boundaries crossed and altered, radical ideas being played around with. Sissy Atananova's track could sound right at home in a Bollywood movie (and I should know, I've seen too many of them...), just change the lyrics to Hindi and hey presto! Julien Jacob sings in his own made-up language, so appealing to all listeners no matter what their background, accompanied by Rachid Taha. Amadou and Mariam with their blistering West african guitar rock about the problems of Coulibaly, to State of Bengal playing a tender acoustic number alongside Paban das Baul. Forget what you thought was 'radical', 'out there' - as this collection showed me, there's more experimentation to be found away from the Western 'canon' of rock n roll and pop.
Yes, there are a few low points too - but only because they're my low points, and could well be someone's highlight. Volga on CD one just sound heavily out of place - the weird, trippy electronica is just...well, a bit too trippy for me. While I enjoy Ana Salazar and Laye Sow, they don't add anything new or that much of a 'spark' to their work. But out of 33 tracks, hey, three ain't bad!
I've bought previous world music compilations since - ones from Real world, Nascente's 'Beginners' guides, other BBC compilations. But none of them really reach the mark as this one does. It is an odyssey from start to finish - one that'll make you think, (possibly) cry or at least become a little tender in your heart, and more than 60% of the time dance like there's no tomorrow. Buy it and open up your ears to whole new worlds.
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