It's only been in the last twenty years or so that the world music genre has obtained a significant level of popularity among the general public. What had first been a sort of novelty in the 1980s is now just another one of the genres of music that we take for granted. Weekly, it seems that one label or another is releasing music from one part of the world or another. From the Middle East to the Amazon basin, from music as basic as tribal rhythms to stuff as sophisticated as the intricacies of classical Hindustan compositions, it seems like we've got the whole world at our fingertips.
Although no one says it, the implication is that all of this is happening for the first time and that if it weren't for certain intrepid individuals and labels we wouldn't be able to experience things like music from Nepal or Kenya. While it's true that these new labels are making more and more music from various parts of the world available to us, and in quantities that were perhaps unheard of before now, it would be wrong to think that music from these parts of the world had never made it to record or distributed before.
I'm not talking about music ethnologists who recorded for research purposes only and weren't making their recordings for popular consumption. Major record labels like EMI of England were making recordings of music from around the world as far back as 1903. One only needs to look at the latest collection of music from Honest Jon's Records, Sprigs Of Time: 78s From The EMI Archive, that's being released on October 14, '08 and you'll see recordings that date as far back as 1903 (The Imperial Palace Band of Japan playing a piece called "Seigaiha") and are as recent as Trinidad's The Mighty Sparrow singing "The Queen's Canary" in 1957.
There's something a little odd about a seemingly haphazard collection of music like this one. Thirty tracks have been culled from the archives of EMI's back catalogue of 78 records in Hayes Middlesex, restored at Abby Road Studios in London, and then dropped onto the CD in no particular order. At first there is something rather disconcerting about hearing voices and instruments that have nothing in common with each other. One moment you're listening to music from Iraq and the next the stages of Britain's music halls from between WW 1 and WW 2, but as the record progresses do you find yourself getting used to it, but it's never quite enjoyable.