Sunday, March 13, 2005

world music blues

I recently bought the BBC's Radio 3 World Music Awards CD on a whim, and found that there were some great songs in there. I have been listening to Radio3 on and off for a while and based my purchase decision on the quality of music they play. And then I heard about the controversy surrounding World Music at this year's awards ceremony. I quote:

"Adepegba believes this small and tightly knit group promotes only a very narrow range of artists, who are represented by a small group of labels, and don't represent the music that Africans themselves listen to."

While I'm quite late to the World Music genre, my opinion of the genre stems from the fact that this is music that is accessible to anyone around the world. It's not simply what people in various parts of the world are listening to. There is an element of 'fusion' in world music, either by modernizing folk rhythms or by actually incorporating western influences in to the traditional format. It's this aspect hat makes it appealing to someone who doesn't speak/know the language.

Adepegba further argues:

"and world music favourite Rokia Traore is, he says, "being pushed entirely by Europeans. No one in Mali knows who she is - let alone the rest of Africa."

I can easily extend this argument to India as well. Most of the people in India listen to bollywood/ regional film music, which while entertaining in the context of the film rarely transcends the genre. To fall under the definition of world music, there has to be something that appeals to people irrespective of the context. These days this something is a typically westernized approach to music, but I strongly think that well done fusion also works. To give one example, my favourite album of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is Night song, the one in which there is an active collaboration with the Jazz artist Michael Brook. Technically the rest of Nusrat's music should be accessible to me, but it's the fusion elements of that album that cause it to cross over into the World Music label. And coming back to the Radio3 awards, the one song from India, a song by Alka Yagnik (Pyar ka matlab) from a bollywood movie really struck a wrong note. It just didn't belong there in the collection.