Subscribe     

To listen to audio on Rock Paper Scissors you'll need to Get the Flash Player

Sample Track 1:
"Seu Jorge, " from Sound of the World
Sample Track 2:
"Darko Rundek & Cargo Orkestar, "Ista Slika" " from Sound of the World
Sample Track 3:
"Camille, "Au Port"" from Sound of the World
Sample Track 4:
"Clotaire K, "Beyrouth Ecoeuree"" from Sound of the World
Buy Recording:
Sound of the World
Layer 2
Various Artists, Sound of the World (Wrasse) BBC DJ Charlie Gillett Exposes the Sound of the World: 2 CDs + 28 Countries x 33 Musicians = 1 Compelling Album

Every year, world-renowned radio DJ Charlie Gillett plays a round of musical ping pong on our ears: a two-CD compilation of some of the most intriguing sounds to be released. The new album—Sound of the World on Wrasse Records—takes its title from Gillett’s weekly radio show on BBC Radio London. Though many of the tracks and artists featured on the CD are rare or unknown, Gillett has tested them all out on the airwaves; listener calls being the first criteria for inclusion on the annual collection. 

For Gillett the annual CD becomes a summary of his highlights from the year, but for North American ears it is a preview of what is to come. Europe tends to get word of global music recordings and touring acts before North America, so consider yourself forewarned on these 33 artists from 28 countries.

About half of the featured artists—from Mali’s Issa Bagayogo to Portugal’s Mariza, from Croatia’s Darko Rundek to Mauritania’s Malouma—were once on Gillett’s radio show, either as performers or as part of his regular ritual known as Radio Ping Pong. “This reflects both how personal the compilation is, and confirms that these artists are making their own connections by touring,” says Gillett. “But for each artist I have met, there's another that I would like to meet. I am hoping that some may be discovered through their inclusion here, and subsequently come on tour; Bulgaria’s Sissy Atanassova, for instance, and Ana Salazar, from Spain.”

In his musical version of table tennis, Gillett spars with his guests by trading turns at the turntable, turning the tables on the traditional interview format. Host and guest take turns playing songs, discovering unexpected parallels and surprising juxtapositions.

Listening to Sound of the World has a similar effect: “As each track starts, you can’t immediately guess what will happen next,” Gillett says. “Contributing to that sense of unpredictability are the arrangements—the way the instruments and voices relate to each other, enabling the singers to jump the language fence that so often forms an invisible barrier to music not sung in English. Compared to musicians to an audience that speaks the same language, the artists here face a bigger challenge, needing to beguile us with irresistible and unforgettable melodies, and to present them in arresting frameworks.”

The album has its share of world music’s stars of the past year: Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, whose album Egypt met much critical acclaim and re-invented his career with strengthened musical ties to the Arab music world; Amadou & Mariam, the “blind couple of from Mali,” who springboarded into the international spotlight with an album produced by Manu Chao; Brazil’s Seu Jorge, who reached new audiences with his David Bowie cover songs in the Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic and his currently charting solo album Cru (also on Wrasse Records); Portugal’s shooting-star fadista Mariza; and, Zimbabwe’s allegorist Oliver Mtukudzi.

Lesser-known discoveries include Lebanese rapper Clotaire K; the electronically remixed, spoon-accompanied Gypsy band Shukar Collective; Japan’s ten baritone saxophones known as Tokyo-chutie-iki; the modern throat-singer Okna Tsahan Zam, from the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, and of Mongolian descent; and Laye Sowe, whose Sengalese vocals are gently offset by bluesy British collaborators. But none of these artists will remain unknown with Charlie Gillett at the controls; whether on the air or on his annual compilation.

“[Charlie Gillett] has a canny instinct for what the novice listener will pick up on, as well as a passionate belief in everything he plays… If you need someone to hold your hand through the tangled webs of world music, you couldn’t hope for a better guide.”

-- Mark Hudson, The Daily Telegraph (London)