World music fans are in for a treat over the next five months. Palm Pictures in conjunction with Universal Music Enterprises will be releasing a new series of multimedia packages. Palm World Voices has six titles ready to roll, with the first, Vedic Path, already in the stores.
Each of these six releases will include a CD of music culled from the Universal Music Enterprises catalogue, an essay booklet with history and information about the area written by journalist Robin Denselow , maps designed by National Geographic of the area, and a sixty minute DVD of music and imagery created to complement the release.
Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records (The man who brought Bob Marley to the world’s attention) is the force behind this project. The aim is to provide as much of an “experience” as possible with this collection. To immerse the consumer in not just the music, but the environment that creates it.
“When I started marketing reggae I would bring the press to Jamaica,… because only then would they understand the context of the music. You have to take people to the music… you can hear the music but also see where it comes from, read about that place and feel involved in the culture.”
The L. A. Times has already said that the first release, Vedic Path, is the best World music release of 2005 leading one to have high expectations for the ensuing compilations.
They’ve put together a pretty impressive team for these packages: photographs from National Geographic and Adrian Boot, Bruno Guez, founder of Quango Records, is Music Director, and rock cover designer Tony Wright is Art Director (Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Natty Dread are two of his covers)
Here’s a rundown of the six releases with the information provided by the Palm World people. Each title is followed by it’s release date.
·Vedic Path – June 21
Focusing on the music and culture of India, Vedic Path is both meditative and contemplative. This release showcases contemporary and traditional Indian music and chants. Indian superstars Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and Ani Choying Drolma are just a few featured on this release.
·Africa – July 19
A continent of rich musical history alongside political strife, Africa has delivered Juju, chimurenga and marabi. Africa presents a grand portrait of the music and leaders of this influential nation. A few of the superstars included on this release are Juju star King Sunny Ade, Senegal’s Baaba Maal, and Afro-pop artist Salif Keita.
·Baaba Maal – August 9
Senegal’s shining star is considered the voice of his people and was the first artist released on Palm Pictures. Crafting a distinctive sound that fuses traditional African music with pop and reggae elements, Baaba Maal lead the way in what was to be termed ‘Afro-pop’. This compilation showcases the master in various stages of his esteemed career.
·Spirit – September 27
Tranquil sounds of the Sahara comprise Spirit. Featuring music from the Mediterranean basin and Middle East, this recording plays like a mystical journey into the spiritual world. Featured key artists include Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses, Anouar Brahem, Omar Faruk Tekbilek and Bel Canto.
·Brazil – October 25
A country rich in culture and music, Brazil is home of the samba and bossa nova. Seductive in sound and landscape, this release features both classic and contemporary artists from the Universal catalog, including Caetano Velaso, Stan Getz, Monica Salmasso and Marcio Faraco.
·Mandela – November 22
The original soundtrack to the 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary will be reissued as part of the series. Artists include South African Jazz legend Hugh Masekala, Gospel greats the Skylarks, and influential vocal group The Manhattan Brothers. The CD has been reworked to showcase the heritage of South African Jazz music.
This appears to be one of the more ambitious World Music projects yet undertaken. But they also appear to have the people and recourses to make it happen. Blackwell’s Palm Pictures specializes in DVDs that mix film and music, Universal Music Enterprises has a huge selection of music for them to pick from, and they’ve assembled quite the creative team.
Probably most of the music has been released in one form or another before, but the manner in which it’s being presented this time will affect the experience. At least that’s what the folk behind Palm World Voices are hoping for.
These packages are probably going to be out of reach price wise for the average buyer, but they seem to have taken that into account with their marketing which seems geared towards an exclusive group of people. Instead of just hitting music stores, they’re pushing it through Natural Food stores, alternative health places like Yoga studios and Wellness centres, and in Airports. They make no bones about it actually, they’re looking to hit the affluent New Age market.
Still if you can get your hands on one of them they’ll probably be worth listening to, and watching. Most of the music, and musicians, is first class, and the footage on the DVDs promises to be spectacular. There are links at the bottom of this article that will take you to samples of music and video so you can get an idea of what’s in store.
The concept of presenting the music of a region within its cultural and historical context is a good one. I’ll be interested in seeing how this experiment works out.
Mumbai Theme Tune, A.R. Rahman, 2004 (Windows Media) (QuickTime)
Yala, Oumou Sangare, 2004 (Windows Media) (QuickTime)