Various Artists: Palm World Voices: Spirit (Palm Pictures)
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Various Artists: Palm World Voices: Mandela (Palm Pictures)
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Open Letter to Palm Pictures:
First, I want to say how much I admire your Palm World Voices series of releases. Sure, some cynics might accuse you of mining your back catalog for these compilation releases, but even if that's true, you've clearly put a lot of additional effort into them. There's the music CD and the DVD replete with on-location video and sound from around the planet. And the amazingly detailed National Geographic fold-out map with photos, drawings, and heaps of info. And the detailed 40-50 page booklet with more history and context, all bundled in an attractive (if somewhat flimsy) case.
Still, aspects of these releases have been hit or miss. Just as Baaba Maal (podcast) was better than Africa, I find Mandela more engaging than Spirit. Frankly, I was surprised upon opening the latter to find that it wasn't -- as I supposed -- a general celebration of the spiritual traditions of the planet, but rather an ambient music-and-video perusal of the "people of the desert" with a strong emphasis on the Middle East. I wonder if this was a marketing decision, a concession to the supposition that it would be difficult in these times of war and terror to sell something labeled as Arabic or Middle Eastern?
I'm sure the Mandela project was free of such complications. Nelson Mandela is today so widely revered as the key that opened the door to a modern, one-man one-vote South Africa, that who wouldn't want to hear, watch, and learn more about him? His story is really the story of modern South Africa from his royal birth to his 27-year imprisonment to his triumph as the first freely elected president. The president of all South Africans. The DVD, with images from the pre-transition violence to the celebratory inauguration ceremony, marvelously conveys the highs and lows the nation has experienced.
The CD with 26 pieces of music from the likes of Vusi Mahasela, The African Jazz Pioneers, The ANC Choir, The Specials, Johnny Clegg and Savuka, and many others is a delight. And I love that you've concluded it with the stirring "Black President" by the late Brenda Fassie. This is truly a powerful and fitting multimedia tribute to one of the great and inspiring leaders of our age.
Your Palm World Voices projects may have a few flaws, but overall they're wonderful contributions to global understanding. I wish you every success with this series.