Running for about two hours and 15 minutes altogether, this two-CD compilation features tracks from all 32 nominees for the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music 2004. With almost as many countries represented as there are tracks, it's a guaranteed smorgasbord of the state of world music 2004, including sounds from corners of the world not given much airtime on Western media music programming, like Iraq, Croatia, Uzbekistan, Mali, Poland, and Turkey. While some of the performers had attained some level of recognition in North America and Europe (Oumou Sangare, Trilok Gurtu, Ibrahim Ferrer, Césaria Evora, Khaled, and Caetano Veloso), most were more obscure at the time of this release, likely making this an educational experience even for collectors with sizable world music libraries. Judged on a purely musical level, the major reservation is that many of the songs have a bubbly, repetitively upbeat feel -- something that some listeners might value highly, but which makes this less of a voyage of discovery than some might want. There are, of course, a good number of selections that don't fit into that description at all, like the dramatically orchestrated British folk of John Spiers and Jon Boden on "The Outlandish Knight," the Tuvan throat singing of Huun-Huur-Tu, Frenchman Manu Chao's convincing roots reggae on "Mr. Bobby," the Warsaw Village Band's dark haunting vocals, or the lively Cuban dance music of Ibrahim Ferrer. There are also tracks where numerous influences bump up against each other to produce sounds not often previously heard, whether it's the injection of rap or electronic dance beat into some more traditionally ethnic music, Cibelle's mix of romantic Brazilian vocals with trip-hoppiness, or Think of One's "Barcas," on which they sound like an army brass band gone into slightly loco Afrobeat. There are good track-by-track liner notes, but it's strange that nowhere does it say exactly what categories of the Awards for World Music the performers and songs were nominated for.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2