Not all of us can be experts on the 1970s rock scene in Benin and also be all over the late 1960s Thai jazz & molam movement, which is why world music compilations made by thorough musical archivists are so worth your time. Of course not everyone wants to know about the Ethio-jazz movement, and that’s also fine, but if you have an interest in world music, here is a playlist that combines the best world music compilations I’ve ever heard.
So this is a world music compilation compilation for want of a better name, but be warned this is a beautiful rabbit hole to disappear into – over 3000 songs, and more than 200 hours of music. Pop it on random and enjoy!
Like the late, great Alan Lomax of 20th century United States folk fame, there are many excellent ethnomusicologists, audio archivists and record labels with extraordinary researchers.
Soundway Records is at the more prolific end of the scale, responsible for classics like the legendary Ghana Soundz, Kenya Special, Nigeria Special, Highlife on the Move, The Kings of Benin, etc.
Luaka Bop’s World Psychedelic Classics are a must for deep dives into particular artists, such as William Onyeabor, Os Mutantes and Tim Maia, and the third compilation in the series that brings together a variety of music is one of my favourite albums, World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s A Real Thing.
The Strut label put out Nigeria 70 and the Next Stop… Soweto series, and Soul Jazz Records have many great compilations on particular geographical music scenes like the 100% Dynamite series and the Studio One compilations from Jamaica. Analog Africa have the Legends of Benin, Afro-beat Airways, The Vodoun Effect and African Scream series.
Similarly Buda Musique put out the incredible Ethiopiques compilations that captured the essence of the Ethio-jazz scene and broader Ethiopian scene, practically making Mulatu Astatke a household name (probably with a little help from Jim Jarmusch’s films).