New York’s annual globalFEST isn’t a huge event, but a skim through the archives made my ears prick up: Mariza one year, Fanfare Ciocarlia another year, Kayhan Kalhor … oh. Selector is the festival’s inaugural album and it’s been imagined with so much vividness that I hope the people who put together those stiff compilations for Womad are listening and taking notes. The secret, I think, lies in the two forms of music that seem to be the compiler’s polar opposite loves.
On one hand, they like a brassy mass of instrumentals, “Sochan Dongian” from the Brooklyn Qawwali Party and “Dirty Chompers” from Mucca Pazza. On the other hand, they love a piercing solo voice, Martha Redbone going old-style American country over “sorrow, grief and pain,” or Alif Naaba from Burkina Faso feeling his way so tenderly through “San Kuily” that he’s coming up on Oliver Mtukudzi territory. (Mtukudzi played the festival in 2013, Naaba in 2010.) The compilation is always sampling from one side of things or the other: it spins around in this atmospheric vortex and keeps itself awake. Here is Noura Mint Seymali, deep and round as cherries. None of the megafamous names are on here, but nobody’s going to miss them.