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World Famous

Robert Urbanus, Don Bay & Scott Lund of Stern's
Robert Urbanus, Don Bay & Scott Lund of Stern's
Giving international currency to local musical styles feeds interest in traditional music which might otherwise be dying out. It also inspires musicians to use that music in innovative, non-traditional ways, resulting perhaps in the hybrids or fusions which cause so much controversy amidst the spectre of cultural grey-out. That there’s now a category which helps to sell this music is only part of the picture here. Cross-cultural collaboration or influences in music are clearly facilitated by the globalisation of the media, the availability of technological means of production and the nature of musicians.

Music from other cultures can increasingly be heard (and its performances seen) more easily all over the world. Musicians listen to music, they take musical ideas and sounds and playing techniques they like and they use them. Where and whether the result sells or not is a different matter.

In fact ‘world music’ artists often do not achieve sought-after international sales when they mix traditional elements of their music with Western pop production and Western rhythms. As Richard Branson’s partner in Virgin Records and key A&R man Simon Draper succinctly put it, “When we started selling African music in England, we found that if you tried in one fell swoop to Americanise it or Europeanise it, to give it an American production, it just fell between two stools. It sounded crap.”

Yet you can’t proscribe against musicians wanting to explore these possibilities. Jumbo Vanrenen recalls working with Salif Keita: “He wanted Quincy Jones, who liked Salif’s voice but was committed for two or three years ahead. I played him some Weather Report and the keyboard player Joe Zawinul got the job.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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