21 August 2009

100 Best World Music Albums Ever(?)

Another high-profile music list was just unveiled over at Amazon, their 100 Greatest World Music Albums of All Time. 100 is a nice number -- round, large, and far less likely to include glaring omissions than, say, a top 10 or top 25 list. Still, there are some mysteries. I love Andy Palacio and was honored to have him and his Garifuna Collective into the KAOS studios for live music two years ago before his truly untimely passing. But #1? His music is great, but it's certainly not had the global popularity or impact of Fela Kuti, or Bob Marley, or Sergio Mendes.
Andy Palacio - Best Global Album Ever? - on SoundRoots.org
The list's compilers aren't specifically identified ("our editors") and their criteria remain shrouded in mystery. So I'll offer my own criteria, if not my own top 100 list (at least, not today). The best global albums of all time should first of all be ones that you turn to again and again. They should have some global impact, perhaps spawning imitators and spreading certain rhythms. And they should have clear roots in their local culture, have a message that's rooted in that culture but is also universal. Finally, they should simply hit you where it counts.

Finally, if you have a list of 100 of the greatest world music albums of all time, you want to have a sense of history. It's easy enough to include such talented newcomers as Sara Tavares, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Think of One, and Konono No. 1. But only the shortsighted editor would fail to include seminal artists such as Miriam Makeba, Zap Mama, Tarika, Vusi Mahlasela, The Mohatella Queens. And while I'm on a roll, also missing are Johnny Clegg, Lila Downs, Dorothy Masuka, Virginia Rodrigues, Susheela Raman, Vera Bila, and Fanfare Ciocarlia -- artists I'd likely rank above the likes of Solomon Ilori, Willie Bobo, and Ami Koita.

Still, the Amazon list is a great starting point for delving deeper into global music, so kudos to them for compiling even a flawed effort.

2 comments:

Abrey said...

Just asked the same question on Facebook this morning. At least Amazon's list is a start. But for the whole world, and considering we're talking about, say, the past 50 years of recorded music, I'd think a Top 1000 list would be more reasonable. (The Skatalites, anyone?)

And I'd love to see who you come up with.

S A Stevens said...

Abrey - I still haven't started to tackle this, and while a top 1000 list would certainly be more inclusive, I bristle at the work this would entail (and the possibility of missing someone, or leaving someone out...). Still, this has been on my mind recently, and I'm sketching out a radio show featuring some of the most influential global voices. Perhaps this will ultimately morph into my own Top 100/1000 list, so stay tuned.