The Rough Guide to World Music, Volume 2: Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific (published August 2000 by Rough Guided Ltd., and distributed by the Penguin Group; ISBN 1-85828-636-0)
Well, I now know what my main activity is going to be this ‘rentrée’! Picking my way through the 673 pages of this book, or more accurately, encyclopedia, and following up on the countless leads provided! And what fun it is going to be! Part 1, dealing with Asia and the Pacific, takes up 269 pages, with 32 chapters covering from Afghanistan to Vietnam – with 7 chapters on Indian music. Part 2 covers the Americas in 357 pages, with 31chapters ranging from Andean music to Venezuela – with 8 chapters on music from the USA. The rest of the book – Part 3 – contains various directories, with information on record labels and shops, contributors (more than 80), and an index.
Since a thorough review is not possible at this time – I only just received the book – all I can do now is to communicate my preliminary impressions, formed by reading a few chapters on countries/genres in Part 2 of particular interest to me, and with which I am reasonably familiar. In the introduction, the editors state that the chapters are ‘designed to provide the background to each country’s music styles, explaining how they relate to history, social customs, politics and identity, as well as high-lighting the lives and sounds of the singers and musicians’. My one-word rating of their efforts: superb!
The contributors appear to know their stuff, and have managed to portray the sometimes confusing stories in question in an user-friendly, orderly and appealing way, with each chapter concluding with a discography of recommended recordings. The texts are very helpful in sorting out in an acceptable sequence who has produced what and when, and the discographies – coherent with the texts – are invaluable in suggesting what to look for! Of course, I am lucky enough to possess already a fair number of the recommended recordings, but I now better know what gaps I have in my collection, and how to try to fill them.
Given the overwhelming abundance of recorded material, as well as the obvious limits on available space, the discographies seem brutally restrained. I think that I have several other recordings worthy of mention, but will concede that the recordings listed probably reflect in a satisfactory, if not outstanding, manner the essence of the preceding texts.
One understandable and relatively minor disappointment, given the passing of several months between finalizing the texts and the physical appearance of the book, is that the stream of excellent new recordings never dries up. One could argue that this kind of reference book is out-of-date the moment it appears!
Another omission is any mention of regional, and indeed global, compilations which, in my experience, are both excellent introductions and usually my preference in terms of listening and programming, since I find variety more appealing. In my view, however, neither short-coming detracts significantly from the value of this publication, since it provides the essential foundation and edifice, onto which one can add on, as one sees fit.
It will take me months to digest this book, since each chapter is so crammed with interesting and useful information. Judging from my behavior in recent days I will be checking out items on a daily basis. I am now also thinking of rearranging my collection of ‘world’ music to match the order laid out in this book – and the previous volume, which I still have not fully absorbed!
Author: William Bain
William Bain wrote these reviews while he was host of ‘Chimes of Freedom’ on CFFF/ Trent Radio (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada)