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World Famous

Ian Anderson
Photo: Dave Peabody
Ian Anderson
We construct meaning and authenticity from sound. It’s authenticity which sells, whether it’s local music recorded in the field (generally considered to be favoured by an older audience), or a hybrid created with an ‘honest’ artistic intention (i.e. not simply made to jump on a bandwagon and make money in an attempt to appeal to a younger audience).

Age is an issue, as is class. The ‘world music’ audience is perceived by the media gatekeepers in this country as ABC1 broadsheet-reading people of 35 and upwards – which it is, partly. But this does not account for the incredibly wide range of people who actually buy the music and turn up at clubs and festivals to see it performed. One of the reasons ‘world music’ gets such little national airplay now in this country may be, as Tinariwen’s manager Andy Morgan points out, that “the media is scared that if it gives exposure to non-English stuff, they’ll come across as being elitist, middle-class and old”.

Even back in 1987, getting exposure was difficult, despite the media being more open to ‘world music’. Roger Armstrong remembers that the NME would put out cassettes which readers bought by mail. “I had to persuade my friend there to put out a ‘world music’ cassette. It was called One World or something and he really didn’t want to, as he said it wouldn’t sell. Anyway Ben Mandelson compiled it, and I was recently told it was their best-selling cassette ever.”

Radio and TV producers lump together everything not in English as ‘world music’ and refuse to play it. Yet, as Simon Draper points out, the sales for records in other languages have increased, and if the music gets exposure through advertising or film, it sells more. If exposed to it, people get it. Buena Vista Social Club and Ladysmith Black Mambazo are obvious examples. Meaning in music is not just conveyed through the words.


fRom fRoots 289, July 2007

 

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