Various Artists

Music of the World's Peoples, Vol. 2

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This set boasts a string of highlights starting roughly halfway through. It features an authentic Afro-Cuban rhumba; a solemn Finnish ballad; a modally ambiguous Ukrainian women's chorus (whose strident style has become familiar with the popularity of Bulgarian folk music); a plain-spoken French Canadian solo vocal; a rare Souix flute melody; a passionate Serbian love song (also modally quite ambiguous); the Chinese hu-kin (two-stringed violin), nasal but animated; a distinctly un-operatic Italian Christmas song; an Iranian rhapsody with its curiously fluttering voice accompanied by exotic violin (in Cowell's words, "The old Iranian scale defies description in Western terms"); buzzing digeridoo and hissing voices from the Australian outback; a swinging Chilean dance intercepted at full tilt; a hypnotic minor-key Albanian dance; a buzzing cloud of rapid-fire xylophones from the Congo; a Jewish prayer sung in a style said to date back to the second century; a Kashmiran dance whose tempo increases measure by measure; and a searing Azerbaijani vocal.