World music in America is tainted by Starbucks. The term itself is farcical, 'world music'. But as it's become a staple of record store racks in the last decade or so, it's been codified as lifestyle sounds for people who wear linen tunics, self-described (or perhaps self-important) liberal thinkers who speak ebulliently in air quotes about a native culture they read about on a bag of freeze-dried coffee beans. Compilations catering to this admittedly spendthrift crowd don't have to take many risks; usually the cocktail's a passable blend of foreign tongue and foggy electronics. Thankfully, mercifully, BBC DJ Charlie Gillett is different. His World series follows a happily zigzagging muse, alighting on sounds and grooves spanning thousands of miles, hundreds of languages, and myriad approaches to making music adventurous again. Even for clueless yanks. World 2004 is no different, offering an incredibly varied patois of both traditional and experimental sounds. As Gillett himself warns in the liners, "[these songs] do not all sound the same. "There are fast songs and slow ones, dark moods and dance tracks, sung in many languages, hardly any in English." Brazil's Fat Marley kicks off disc one with softly electronic reggae beats fronted by two vocalists, one Chinese and one Indian. Portuguese vocalists Dona Rosa and Katia Guerreiro sing in the bittersweetly gorgeous fado style, accompanied by nylon-stringed guitars and plaintive accordions. Ex-Specials vocalist Terry Hall teams with Bangladesh/Iranian musician Mushtaq for a song mixing Arabic rhythms with Jewish melodies. Meanwhile, "Ghetto Blaster" is a modernized Afro-beat workout, DJ Dolores y Orchestra Santa Massa builds an electro-organic, street-level beat for "A Danca da Moda," and Algerian rai superstar Khaled doesn't disappoint with the upbeat, exuberant grooves of "Madre." Other highlights of World 2004 include "Was Bleibt," 17 Hippies' song that seems borne from the tarnish on the walls of some gilded aged patisserie; a pretty French lilt from model Carla Bruni; and Aïwa's half electronic, half naturally grooving "Oudaïwa." World 2004 definitely offers something for everyone. But its real trick is to bring the appeal and discovery back to a much-maligned musical category.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2