Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Rough Guide to World Music Returns (and Departs?)

Posted By on 02.25.10 at 02:00 PM

Rough Guide to World Music: Europe, Asia & Pacific
It wasn't until I read about it in the January/February issue of the British world-music magazine Songlines that I learned that the latest installment of the invaluable Rough Guide to World Music had recently been published. The second volume of the book's third edition—focusing on Europe, Asia, and the Pacific—came out in the U.S. on December 21, perfect timing for getting lost in the holiday shuffle. The first volume, on Africa and the Middle East, came out in October 2006, so the wait has been pretty long for the second.

Sadly the wait for volume three could be even longer. In Songlines (the magazine's editor, Simon Broughton, has also been one of the guide's editors since its first single-volume edition back in 1994) writer Nigel Williamson explained, "Volume three is due to cover North and South America and the Caribbean, but the state of the market for reference books dictates that a third volume covering cumbia, rumba, tango, mariachi, bossa nova, samba, salsa, reggaeton, calypso, soca, zydeco, Cajun and bluegrass is no longer—in a physical format, at least—on the cards." When I asked the U.S. publicist for the Rough Guides about this, she responded vaguely: "The third volume has been postponed for the time being." I certainly hope that the tide shifts and a physical edition of the third volume does materialize eventually, because the second volume is a doozy.

The 824-page book is packed with history, photos, and listening recommendations. With each edition the guide's scope has expanded, and there are lots of new sections—on Melanesia, Wales, and East-West fusions based in Indian music, to name just a few. And with the radical shift toward online music distribution—sometimes it seems like emusic.com stocks stuff from every foreign indie label in the world, though of course that's still far from true—it's become easier than ever to actually hear the recordings compiled in long lists at the end of each section.

Correction: The first quote in the second paragraph was originally attributed in error to Simon Broughton. The mistake has been fixed.

Today's playlist:

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Mosaic (Blue Note)
Keith Rowe & Toshimaru Nakamura, ErstLive 008 (Erstwhile)
Cesaria Evora, Nha Sentimento (Lusafrica)
Graham Lambkin, Softly Softly Copy Copy (Kye)
Gareth Williams, Flaming Tunes (Life and Living)

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