Music

Various Artists: Sound of the World

Deanne Sole

The latest instalment in Charlie Gillett's series of annual world music round-ups is a mixed bag of favourites, imperfect but interesting, an appetite-whetter.


Various Artists

Sound of the World

Label: Wrasse
US Release Date: 2005-10-18
UK Release Date: 2005-10-03
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

"I've never before been so apprehensive about the reaction to one of my compilations," writes Charlie Gillett on his website. This is an ingenuous confession from a man who has been on air since the 1970s and put out a two-disc world music compilation at the end of every year from 2000 to the present, so he explains. "[It] includes many artists that don't seem to have had as much impact on any other professional as they have had on me."

He does have one advantage however: his audience. "Regular listeners to my two shows on BBC London and BBC World Service will recognise most of the tracks, almost all of which have drawn comments of approval and/or requests to play them again." The music in his other compilations, from World 2000 to World 2004, has had its roots nourished in the same soil. "Listener reaction remains a primary criterion for inclusion," he wrote of World 2002, and "When listeners to either of my weekly radio shows send messages enthusing about particular songs, I ... put them in a spreadsheet of tracks to consider for the next year's album," of World 2004.

So Sound of the World is a playlist of popular favourites. Oh god, is it as bland as that description makes it sound? Are we going to be stuck listening to the Urdu equivalent of "My Humps"? Thankfully not. Like the other World releases it's a mixed bag but nothing in it is as bad as that. Parts of it are very good indeed. Other parts are interesting. A few parts might have been better left out. (Malouma is a dynamic Mauritanian figure, but her "Tuyur El Wad" sounds like an easy listening radio station in Arabic.)

It covers so many countries and so many genres that at least one or two of the good parts are bound to make a listener wonder where they can get their hands on more of whoever they're listening to. Myself, I liked Camille, who clinks bellbird notes off her voice like a wet finger rubbing a wine glass. I'm also tempted to hunt down Shiyani Ngcobo, a South African who sets up a rolling rhythm with his guitar and sings over it in a way that balances sweetness against dryness with marvellous finesse.

Rather more aggressive is French-Lebanese rapper Clotaire K's "Beyrouth Ecoeuree," three years old but still a good, thumping track. (if you like this, there's a live version on EP that you might want to look out for.) Rapping as well, but more playfully, is Kenya's Nairobi Yetu on "Nijenge," while the Malian couple Amadou and Mariam turn up with "Coulibaly," a bouncy song from Dimanche À Bamako, the collaboration with Manu Chao that gave them the big European hit they'd been hovering on the edge of for years.

Sound of the World is Euro- and Afro-centric, and while this is understandable, considering that Gillett and most of his audience come from a country close to both Africa and Europe, it's still disappointing not to hear more from Oceania (one track: a piece of mellow reggae from DJ Fitchie and Joe Dookie, members of the Kiwi band Fat Freddy's Drop who featured on World 2004) and Eastern Asia. (one track again: a gently avant-garde three-minute composition for baritone saxophones by Akira Mizutani.) The Americas fare only slightly better, with one musician representing the North (Lhasa) and two the South. (Argentinean accordion player Chango Spasiuk; and Seu Jorge, who's had a good year.)

Still, the compiler has made it clear that this is a set of favourites, and you can't force people to prefer songs from Asia if their tendencies lean towards Mali. (three tracks all to itself.) Don't go into this compilation expecting a completely comprehensive overview of music from around the globe and don't expect the pieces to stick to a theme. This is not Roots Music Of The Lovely Indigenous Peoples of Country X, nor is it Forty Hot Hits In Languages You Don't Understand. It's a mixture of both. Usefully, there are tracks here by musicians who will never have the kind of access to the Western media enjoyed by stars such as Youssou N'Dour or Mariza, so in that respect Sound of the World acts as a level playing field where the gallop of Okna Tsahan Zam's "Edjin Duun" merits the same attention as the more famous sound of Ali Farka Touré. Approach it with the same mixture of expectation and thrilled scepticism that you might have felt while reading those 'Best of 2005' lists that popped up everywhere at the end of last year, and you should come away with your appetite whetted.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.