Music from the furthest corners of the globe has never been more popular in the Western world. Every week new recordings hit the streets – some highly publicised, like the recent surge of excellent Cuban releases, others less so. The Rough Guide To World Roots offers the perfect place to start your own explorations into this fast-growing market, fast-tracking across the five continents. It starts in Uzbekistan, then crosses the Middle East, explores the African musical powerhouses of Senegal and South Africa, next journeying across the Americas, visiting Brazil, Ecuador and Cuba. Touching down in Europe, it samples the roots music of Hungary and Italy, and finally alights in Pakistan for a fourteen-minute qawwali classic from the great Sufi master, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
The selection focuses on some of the world’s best female vocalists; indeed the first four tracks cover a remarkable range of female talent. Yulduz Usmanova from Uzbekistan starts the proceedings with her extraordinary brand of oriental ethno-pop. She is followed by raq sharki (belly-dancing) queen Natacha Atlas, streetwise South African singer Busi Mhlongo, and Senegal’s rising star Fania. The female motif continues throughout the album, with offerings from Hungarian star Márta Sebestyén, Indonesian pop sunda star Detty Kurnia, and the intrepid explorer of Brazilian indigenous music, Marlui Miranda.
Classic tracks from two of the superb and hugely popular Cuban big bands, Afro-Cuban All Stars and ¡Cubanismo!, do more than enough to redress the gender balance – each band includes four generations of Cuba’s best musicians – all men! And there’s a wonderful, rootsy number from Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal and his long-time musical accomplice, Mansour Seck. Add some traditional music of Esmeraldas, a track from Californian/Venezuelan collaboration Daboa, and music from the oldest bagpipe family in Italy, La Piva Dal Carner, and you have over seventy-five minutes of wonderful music from around the world, designed to whet your appetite for further investigation.