A Luring Guide to Africa and the Middle East

The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa and Middle East
The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa and Middle East (Volume 1 of 3)

Compiled and edited by Simon Broughton, Mark Ellingham and Jon Lusk with Duncan Clark

Published by Rough Guides, Distributed by The Penguin Group, ISBN-10: 1843535513

The third edition of The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa and Middle East, set to hit the streets on March 13, 2007, is a veritable pleasure cruise for the back porch music lover to the hardcore backpacking musician with a guitar slung over his shoulder. This chunky paperback tromps across the musical map from Algeria to Zimbabwe, from the Arab world to Turkey, riding the rails with traditional roots music pioneers and picking up cross-pollinating travelers along the way.

Chocked full of engaging articles, discographies, playlists and photographs, this 656-page reference guide lures even the most casual of page flippers onto the musical landscapes of Africa and the Middle East.

The Rough Guide isn’t meant to be a street-by-street surface map – so nitpickers beware, not every artist is going to be included. Instead, it’s an aerial journey with frequent, fascinating stops along each country’s musical geography, detailing the evolution of its different musical styles, its stars, and often the political and social upheavals that led the way to emerging groups of songwriters and musicians. That’s not to say the guide just skims the surface – just give me the name of another guide that includes sections on Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, the musical traditions of the Bedouins and Kurdish and Pygmy music.

Despite dubbing itself as a "rough guide," the book delves into the traditional and genre distinctions, often ignored by meatier tomes. For example, the guide covers both the rai and kabylia traditions of Algerian music, divides South Africa’s musical expanse into chapters on popular music, jazz and gospel, and offers sections on arabesque music, the music of the Gulf, Israeli music, and a separate chapter on the Jewish Sephardic traditions. Essentially, you get the whole ball of wax, a condensed, informative one.

It would be impossible to pinpoint just one aspect that makes this guide work Instead, it’s the combination of smart writing by a whole host of contributors, like Simon Broughton, Lucy Duran and Phil Meadley that keep the material grounded and interesting, while the photographs and CD covers captivate and enliven the material.

The discography and a playlist at the end of each chapter, giving the reader a gems list of artists and styles to discover, make the book worth the price. And if that weren’t enough, The Rough Guide offers up some side tidbits and stories that are scattered throughout the book like precious coins, like where to find music in Addis Ababa or "One Producer’s Story" about Liberia’s E. Tonieh Williams or the article on Congo’s Papa Wemba. Its totality transforms a mere guide into a traveler’s handbook, a history lesson and a music encyclopedia all wrapped up in one. Of course the companion CD with tracks by Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck, King Sunny Ade and Mariem Hassan make the reading all the more enjoyable.

Picking up The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa and Middle East is easy, putting it down is almost impossible. But I might like the opportunity to try if given The Rough Guide to World Music: Volume II Europe Asia and the Pacific.

Buy The Rough Guide to World Music: Africa and Middle East.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.