JJ 03/92: The Virgin Directory Of World Music, The Billboard Book Of Brazilian Music, Africa O-Ye!

Thirty years ago Mark Gilbert noticed that world music was already a well-worn concept, though perhaps without the political cachet it later acquired. First published in Jazz Journal March 1992


‘World Music’ was a phrase coined by music business executives in 1987 to help record shops sell non-Western vernacular music, and these three publications reflect the fad for such music in recent years. Although one would have thought that sev­eral aspects of jazz were both arcane and demotic enough to appeal to the seeker after exotica, jazz rarely seems to fall within the ambit of world music, disquali­fied perhaps because it is considered to be fully integrated into the mainstream of Western popular culture.

Thus, as Philip Sweeney’s survey moves systematically around the globe, it only occasionally brushes with jazz. South African jazzers such as Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim and Dudu Pukwana are duly recognised, but when the tour reaches New York, jazz is ignored entirely, the focus falling on the rather less indigenous Cuban music. The book is nevertheless a comprehensive and authoritative-sounding introduction to a huge subject. A CD sampler of a variety of world music (no jazz) is available to comp­lement the book.

Ironically, while concentrating on non-Western regions, the other two books say much more about jazz. The Brazilian book does not stint in its coverage of the inter­course between North and South American culture, including chapters on Bossa Nova and Jazz and Instrumental Music and touching on the Amero-Brazilian crossover heard in the music of Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham, Herbie Mann, Laurindo Almeida, Weather Report, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Byrd, Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny, Dave Grusin and others. The book is also musically literate, identifying the musical as well as the social compon­ents of various forms and illustrating their rhythms in notation.

Similar illustrations would have added weight to Africa O-Ye!, which confines itself to very general discussions of the musical characteristics of various African styles. However, jazz specialists will find interest in the book’s examination of Afro-American exchanges, including a photo of Louis Armstrong ‘returning’ to Africa in 1956, and in various passages on Pukwana, Masekela and Ibrahim. Subjects the purist might find less immediately appeal­ing are brought to life by some vivid colour photography.

The Virgin Directory Of World Music, by Philip  Sweeney. Virgin Books; pb; 262pp; £9.99; ISBN 0-86369-378-4
The Billboard Book Of Brazilian Music, by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pesanha. Guinness Publishing; pb; illus; 215pp; £11.99; ISBN 0-85112-990-0
Africa O-Ye! a celebration of African music, by Graeme Ewens. Guinness Publishing; pb; illus; 224pp; £13.99; ISBN 0-88112-977-3