Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: One World, Many Cultures

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There are numerous examples of multiculturalism in world music. Brazilian artists are combining samba with American funk and Jamaican reggae; Celtic singers in Ireland and Scotland are incorporating rock. And hip-hoppers in Eastern Europe are sampling American R&B while rapping in Polish, Russian, Hungarian or Czech. But many of those multicultural-minded artists -- although greatly influenced by musicians living thousands of miles away -- will not have the opportunity to actually play or record with people from other countries or continents. And the thing that makes One World, Many Cultures special is its emphasis on international or intercontinental collaborations -- for example, Algerian rai star Cheb Mami's encounter with Jamaican reggae icon Ziggy Marley on the infectious "Madanite," or American country-pop veteran Willie Nelson joining forces with Jamaican reggae/ska veterans Toots & the Maytals on the haunting "Still Is Still Moving to Me." On the Celtic/African fusion of "A United Earth 1," Breton harp player Alan Stivell meets up with Senegalese vocalist Youssou N'Dour, and "Malonghi" finds Italian pianist/songwriter Rocco de Rosa teaming up with Congolese singer Martin Kongo. The key to making these collaborations a creative success, of course, is for the artists to find their common ground -- and on "Madanite" (which has no problem combining rai and reggae), Marley sounds as comfortable with the tune's rai element as Mami does with its reggae element. Another collaboration that sounds perfectly natural is U.S. bluesman Taj Mahal's meeting with Malian artists Toumani Diabaté and Ramata Diakité. The broad-minded Mahal, who was never a blues purist, has been showing his appreciation of African pop for a long time -- and Diabaté and Diakité prove to be highly appropriate companions for him. Putumayo's compilations are usually full of interesting surprises, and the excellent One World, Many Cultures is no exception.

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