The World’s Been Waiting For You

Posted by in November's Magazine

Prior to my current job I worked for 9 years promoting world music (all around the world), I was solely focused on getting people to write good things about the albums/acts on the labels I worked for, it’s still quite novel for me to sit on the other side of the fence.

‘World Music’ is a term that was created just over twenty years ago as a way to both market and find retail placement for what was a loosely cobbled together random group of music types. It’s a bone of contention for many (including major world music artists) who feel that it marginalises their culture; to me it’s simply music indicative of a country that isn’t an already internationally recognised genre in its own right such as reggae.



If you go onto Amazon or read Songlines Magazine you’ll see that the latest world releases are an almost equal combination of new recordings and re-issues of unearthed ‘gems’ from the archives – unlike other genres there’s still a wealth of music to discover, both old and new…

Perhaps my favourite label of recent years has been Analog Africa, who’ve spent the past 5 years presenting music from previously untapped countries such as Togo, Benin and Angola, whilst re-launching the career of the timeless Orchestre Poly Rhythmo de Cotonou. The label’s new release Bambara Mystic Soul brings us obscure 70s funk from Burkino Faso in typically beautiful packaging, 10 albums in, long may they continue.

My other favourite re-issues label Soundway, have broke with convention by teaming up with dance music maverick Tim ‘Love’ Lee and his Tummy Touch label to present three albums by Nigerian funk pioneer Joni Haastrup and his group MonoMono, laced with funky bass, swirling keyboards and screaming guitars. Such collaborative projects, whilst common in film and TV are highly unusual in music, but with the right combination could result in some truly innovative music. The Crammed label’s Tradi Mods v Rockers compilation gave some of the finest indie acts of the moment free reign on their African back catalogue with fascinating results.

Out Here Records occupy a unique position in music, although home to hugely respected roots artists like Bassekou Kouyate, they are perhaps the leading ‘urban’ world music label, with house music from South Africa, hip-hop from Senegal, and minimalist electronics and rap from Lebanon in their latest album Golden Beirut, which shows that there’s much more to the war shaken city than meets the eye.

For a more conventional African album, but with a contemporary feel, you can’t go far wrong with Fatoumata Diawara’s Fatou on the ever-dependable World Circuit label. A former actress and dancer Fatou toured with the legendary Oumou Sangare before going solo, bringing a fresh sound to her mentor’s Wassoulou grooves. Of course, being currently on the road with Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s Chop Up can only help to broaden her musical range.

Persian albums
US label Secret Stash started off with rather fine blaxploitation and porn soundtrack re-issues, then dipped their toes in the world music waters with their Soviet Funk compilation. Inspired by the Buena Vista Social Club, the label travelled to Peru last year, filming and recording some of Lima’s finest musicians for the joyous Peña album. That trip has not only lead to a remix project but also the label releasing tracks they found on their travels, and since then they’ve re-issued some classic African, Latin and even Persian albums, all to their credit, on vinyl.

Over the past decade UK born Will Holland has made his name producing music under the name Quantic. After establishing a reputation in the world of downtempo/jazz/electronica as both artist and remixer, Quantic moved to Cali, Colombia, immersing himself in the Colombian scene. His Flowering Inferno projects fuse dub and reggae along with the Latin sounds of his surroundings in a Tropical Soundclash. With his live Colombian band Combo Bárbaro, Quantic’s Tradition in Transition album is both classic yet bang up to date, and he still managed to find the time to compile an album of classic cumbias for Soundway.

For some people, the interest in Cuban music fizzled out with the unfortunate passing of various Buena Vista Social Club members, although ‘singing cowboy’ Eliades Ochoa’s collaboration with Malian superstars Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyate and Djelimady Tounkara, AfroCubism, has taken that country’s music on a fascinating detour. Or a more contemporary tip, tastemaker supreme Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura album project saw the DJ/producer hook up with some of the country’s finest young musicians, and spawned a remix album, live tour and forthcoming Havana Cultura Revisted album. Buena Vista alumni, pianist Roberto Fonseca’s forthcoming album is bringing together all these elements, incorporating both Cuban jazz and traditional African sounds, with a contemporary production tinged with electronica, courtesy of Peterson.

Finally, it’s the 10th anniversary of the release of Cachaíto by the Cuban bass legend of the same name, blending Latin jazz, talking drums, Hammond organs and turntablism, in an album that sounds as fresh as ever – just buy it, that’s my last word on the subject!

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