various artists,
Sound of the World
(Wrasse, 2005)

World music compilations can be tricky to examine and listen to. On the one hand, they can be valuable for introducing new world artists. Even if they are stars in their own countries, most of them cannot get much of a hearing in the U.S.

On the other hand, you might hesitate to buy a compilation that has a global reach like this one. After all, you can legally make one of your own from the Internet, through various sites that provide free tracks for promotion of CDs.

But Sound of the World is pretty much a two-for-one deal, with 33 songs for the price of one CD. And it is compiled by Charlie Gillett, host of a weekly radio show with the same title as the CD (on the BBC World Service), who presumably knows more about world music than you do.

About half of the artists have appeared in person on Gillett's show. They range from African superstar Youssou N'Dour to the obscure Tokyo-chutie-iki, a Japanese group of 10 baritone saxophone players. Not only is there a large assortment of countries represented, there are diverse types of music, from folk to dance/electronica.

There are some delightfully quirky tracks here, which will surprise listeners used to the conservative world collections like Putumayo's. "Geo," by the Russian Ivan Kupala, features folk scat singing and clarinet. Gillett says on his website that this track has been attracting a lot of attention. "Calling Tamango," by Shukar Collective, is a rap song from Romania. "Okna Tsahan Zam," from Russia's Kalmykia, is electro-folk featuring throat singing.

This is one of an annual series of CDs from Gillett. As the host of a radio show, he can combine a wide variety of music into a listenable blend, offering many new and interesting discoveries.

by Dave Howell
14 January 2006

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