If there's one cat who knows his ps and qs in the worldmusic arena, it's Charlie Gillett, the famous host of BBC's equally famous "The Sound of the World". The present 34-track dual-CD compilation of music spanning 28 countries is Charlie's definitive collection of exciting discoveries this year, with a focus on obscure or up-and-coming talent. Where Putumayo in general focuses on organic Ethnic material, Charlie's DJ roots favor crossover fare that combines acoustic instruments and voices with electronica influences though purely acoustic material features on this as well, his 5th annual compilation (the four prior ones appeared on EMI).
What can I say? If 6moons could afford to pay an ambassador-at-large with "WorldMusic Consultant" on his card, Charlie Gillett would be the man. He's clearly up to his eyebrows in music, knows what people like, knows how to sequence widely different tracks and has an obvious penchant for identifying completely left-field acts only true initiates will have heard of before. While you may be hip to Ojos Brujo and Tinariwen, Souad Massi and Lo'Jo, Khaled and Dona Rosa, you probably draw a massive blank over Chango Spasiuk, Markschneider Kunst, Wax Poetic, Rosa Vermelha, Taffetas, JJC & 419 Sound or Fat Freddy's Drop - and that's just the beginning. Hardly a track here is straight-away anything. You'll hear Russian voices mixed with Soukous, Turkish qanun and clarinet doing some outrageous soft Techno improv. You'll hear smoldering Blues from Tuareg bedouins and a Venezuelan charango player with a honeyed voice that transitions from head to throat like a Bavarian jodler. Cuban lounge vocals shimmy atop a Kruder & Dorfmeister-reminiscent TripHop groove while the infamous Gipsy clan of Taraf de Haidkouks gets remixed with Rap and HipHop flavors. World War II cabaret from Berlin gets a thoroughly modern make-over while a Uruguayan milonga meets Ambient beats and a Kiwi Maori riffs to Reggae-fied accompaniments.
This is the most creative and generous, truly global master compilation I've come across in the last two years. Buddha Bar has its own flavor but remains more mainstream in its selection of artists. World 2004 is truly off the charts yet not capriciously so. DJs and radio programmers know what works and what doesn't. They live in a veritable maelstrom of call-ins and e-mails, tune-in stats and live events where people either have a good time or leave bored to tears, where programs either enjoy growing sponsorship support or are killed off. In short, their living is contingent on being popular.
From pouting puffy-lipped French to hoarsely gruff Italian via Guinea Bissau and Nigeria, you'll circumnavigate the globe in awe over how influences intermingle and thus elude easy identification. While you listen, try to pin down the country of origin of each track. Chances are you'll be wrong half of the time. I'll guarantee lots of surprises and very high chances that you'll write down at least three or four names you'll want to follow up on by hunting down full-length albums of your favorite discoveries. That's exactly what a good compilation should provoke - and I for one am already following my own advice. Most highly recommended, with major compliments to Charlie Gillett and Wrasse Records for sharing these spoils with us for widespread enjoyment. In one of the Lethal Weapon installments, Danny Glover learns the street slang meaning of 'word'. Say what? "Word, dog." Okay, make that 'world' where these albums are concerned...