The World As We Know It

Various Artists – World 2004
Various Artists

World 2004 (Narada / Wrasse Records Wrass 123, 2004)

Charlie Gillett knows what global music listeners like, having tested the waters by showcasing sounds from all over the planet on his radio shows in the U.K. World 2004 is the fifth in the annual series of Gillett-selected tracks deemed as representing the best world sounds around, including many collaborations between musicians from different nations and continents. As in the past, Gillett rolls out a sizable, thoughtful lineup of satisfying selections with hardly a misstep.

The 34 songs include recent works by bold fusionists (Sidestepper, Fat Marley, Think of One, Lo’Jo and Django), acoustic traditionalists (Chava Alberstein, Kekele, Dona Rosa), those who take tradition a few respectful steps forward (Ojos de Brujo, Taffetas, Souad Massi) and a sizable heap of artists who straddle several categories. And then there are those who confound all expectations, including a band from Russia that plays a mean Afro-Latin groove and an Argentinean playing deeply rooted accordion music that isn’t tango. Suffice to say a lot of places and bases are covered.

Newcomers to global music will take comfort in some familiar hip-hop, jazz, rock and dance textures as well as getting an earful of how such sounds can fit in beyond assorted borders, while even those with extensive global collections are likely to discover much that’s new to them. Along those lines, I was particularly taken by the combination of Jewish and Muslim music put forth by former Specials singer Terry Hall and intrepid collaborator Mushtaq and the lengthy, quietly inspiring reggae track by Fat Freddy’s Drop. But everyone is likely to glean something different from this collection, which like its predecessors is a quite wonderful excursion into some of what Earth has to offer musically in this day and age. Adventurous, heartening and at times startlingly good, World 2004 is an essential purchase for anyone with ears to hear.

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