Various Artists

World 2000 [Hemisphere]

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Compiled by noted London radio programmer and music historian Charlie Gillett, this brought together 32 songs that he felt represented some of the best music being made around the world in the two years or so leading up to the year 2000. The geographic and stylistic diversity of the anthology is impressive, encompassing about 20 countries, from Brazil and Zimbabwe to Poland, Russia, Turkmenistan, and even the U.S.A. (Asia has virtually no representation, however). A few of the names will be known to those who don't specialize in world music: Femi Kuti, Pharoah Sanders, Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate (dueting on "Mississippi Mali Blues"), Ali Farka Toure, Cesaria Evora (from Cape Verde), and Salif Keita. Most of the artists, however, will count as discoveries even for many with sizable world music collections. The selection leans toward easygoing, cheerful, and danceable Afro-beat and Latin music, but there are some more surprising bits too. From Russia, Auktyon's "My Love" is an unusual blend of dance beats and the kind of melodies (and sitar) associated more with India. Poland's Kroke weighs in with "Time," a mysterious instrumental with a classical pop character not unlike some of Ennio Morricone's more whimsical soundtracks. The Yugoslavian Goran Bregovic blends female voices and operatic choral backup with chilling contemporary electronic textures on "Ederlezi"; Italy's Cristina Dora also offers an eerie, but more pop-based, mix of sensuous vocal and electronic effects. Senegal's "Wasis Diop" offer a truly odd, to Western ears, cover of Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime." Most of the compilation plays it safer. It's still an above average investment, or gift, for someone who wants a reasonably wide assortment of world music sounds without getting immersed in something too esoteric.