Various Artists

Sound of the World

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Every year respected world music broadcaster Charlie Gillett releases his best-of compilation, and every year it contains some glittering surprises, as well as some glimpses of rising and established stars. In 2005, it seems, the unknowns and little-knowns outnumber the big names -- you'll find Youssou N'Dour (from his glorious Egypt album) and a track by Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure with kora genius Toumani Diabate. But the meat here is in the unfamiliar, from the disorienting gypsy electronica of Shukar Collective to the Senegalese roots sound of Daby Balde, whose mesmeric voice makes for a perfect introduction to the two-disc set. Gillett might be a little late picking up on Clotaire K, the French/Lebanese oudist, producer, and rapper whose debut arrived three years ago, but in this case it's definitely better late than never, as his "Beyrouth" kicks with an elegant, simple power that puts much Ameircan hip-hop in the shade. Elsewhere the Chehade Brothers link the music of their native Palestine with the Mediterranean, Amadou & Mariam bring new life to their soulful, bluesy African sound with a production by Manu Chao, and Yasmin Levy helps revive the Jewish Ladino tradition in stunning fashion with her gorgeous, often understated voice. Even many world music aficionados won't have heard much by several acts here, like Ana Salazar or Tokyo-chutie-iki, for example. The joy, really, is in the way Gillett imparts his discoveries, as a friend rather than as a teacher. You might not like everything here -- tracks by Julian Jacob and Mei Tei Sho seem labored at times -- and there's a definite tilt toward Russia, with several tracks from the massive region, but there's constantly something to interest and engage in the album's 33 tracks. It'll set you off pursuing new names -- which, after all, is the intention.

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