Various Artists

Global Voices: Traditional, Sacred & Contemporary Vocal Music

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In the 1990s, some of world music's most thoughtful compilations came from Music of the World, a small label based in Chapel Hill, NC. This lavish three-CD box set unites a variety of vocal-based music from around the world and breaks it down into one category per CD: traditional, sacred, and contemporary. The first two are closely connected -- all of the sacred or spiritual music heard on disc two is traditional rather than contemporary. Within each category, MOTW is quite broad-minded; the Traditional and Sacred discs, for example, boast artists with ties to India (the Katnataka College of Percussion), Colombia (Maria Olga Pineros), Laos (Khamvong Insixiengmai), Hungary (Voces Equales), and Africa (Dumisani Maraire, Ainu Center Choir). A cappella performances and tribal chanting abound on those discs, and when instruments are used, they're acoustic instruments. Meanwhile, the Contemporary disc becomes an eclectic survey of modern ethno-pop thanks to the inclusion of vocalists from Brazil (Boca Livre), Haiti (Boukan Ginen), Spain (Mayte Martin), Bulgaria (Folk Scat), Greece (Diaspora), and the Congo (Samba Ngo). On the Contemporary disc, MOTW isn't nearly as slick as it could have been -- nothing as high-tech as Algerian rai or Indian bangra is included. To say that the liner notes are thorough would be an understatement; MOTW includes a 52-page booklet that devotes at least half a page to each artist. For those who can afford to splurge on a three-CD set, Global Voices makes for consistently rewarding and unpredictable listening.

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