There are some unenlightened souls who still think of world music as a bunch of sub-Saharan drummers hammering away or, perhaps, some old bearded guy from Latvia sitting cross-legged coaxing a drone from a one-stringed instrument. Traditional sounds along those lines are indeed at the root of world music but the contemporary international scene is often as far removed from those roots as hip-hop is from the Delta blues. World music today is all about fusions, the cross-pollination of cultural ideas with new technologies and the quest for a common ground somewhere within. It allows for a group of Tuvan throat singers to cover a Led Zeppelin tune or for Brazil to foster a thriving electronica dance underground. It also allows for the 11 tracks that comprise Putumayo's One World, Many Cultures, wherein reggae legends Toots & the Maytals team with Willie Nelson (yes, that Willie Nelson) and American blues stalwart Taj Mahal collaborates with kora player Toumani Diabat? and singer Ramata Diakit?, both from Mali. It's not only Americans, of course, who are discovering what musicians from outside of their respective homelands have to offer. Tama, a quartet whose members also hail from Mali as well as Guinea-Bissau, is joined by Susheela Raman, the extraordinary U.K.-born, South Indian-identified vocalist, who interjects a sultry lead vocal into "Snimbe," an easy rolling acoustic ballad. And world music integration doesn't get any more seamless than the funky reggae of "Madanite," which pairs Algerian ra? master Cheb Mami with Ziggy Marley, from a family that knows a thing or two about bridging cultures. Only one track here is not a duet, "Utopia" by Ethiopia's Gigi, perhaps because this singer, whose 2006 Gold and Wax album was produced by her always-forward-looking husband, Bill Laswell, is by herself the epitome of positive culture clash. ~ Jeff Tamarkin
Dirty Linen (p.77) - "[A] musical smorgasbord of sounds that celebrate the culture-crossing power of music."
African Dream - Lena Fiagbe/Wasis Diop
Come to Me - The Idan Raichel Project
United Earth 1, A - Alan Stivell/Youssou N'Dour
Still Is Still Moving to Me - Willie Nelson/Toots & the Maytals