Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bands across the water- traditions vs. global reach in World music

From the Financial Times comes this interesting article on world music: Bands across the water
Specifically, it describes the conflict between recording 'authentic' music and third world music trying to break out of its market.

"In world music circles, this potential clash of interests is given added frisson. A couple of days before Womad’s opening night, the veteran record producer Joe Boyd was complaining in a radio interview of his dealings with the Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, one of world music’s shining lights. Boyd was due to collaborate with N’Dour on the African singer’s new album, and he explained that he favoured a basic, stripped-down sound, for it was simplicity and authenticity that the world market was after. N’Dour, he said, accused him of being a racist; of wanting to keep African music in its place, not allowing it to benefit from the sophisticated techniques offered by cutting-edge popular music."

"It is an understandable dilemma. If western ears are exposed to, and warm to, west African music, the last thing they want is for that music to become infested with the ubiquitous banalities of western pop music. Yet if you are a west African musician, the last thing you want is to be patronised by foreign markets who want to be charmed by your “different” sound, but would prefer that it remained in a comfortable niche. It is the epitome of first world arrogance: essentially not allowing world music to join the world. And yet a truly “global” music, melding different styles and traditions, can be the most awful mess. Do we really want distinctive, centuries-old art forms to converge into commercially driven pap?"

And so, who's right here? Both sides have valid arguments: preserving tradition and outreach. Maybe the question shouldn't be who's right but why can't both things be achieved?


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