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Re: that's a lot of music.....

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:06 am
by jackdaw version
Des wrote: [ . . . ] so obviously falls short of being a meaningful survey of the continent's music gives me an excuse to buy more African CDs in the future. Result.

Wow! That's a pretty staggering dismissal. That weak? I'd guess you could pull off a meaningful survey in only 9 CDs — that's a survey, not a comprehensive guide. And then there's always the African Serenades series, a slightly different concept which I think reached 50 volumes.

Of course, an excuse to buy more African CDs in the future ain't all bad, is it?

Re: that's a lot of music.....

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:20 pm
by jackdaw version
It's here — and I've hardly had time to listen, am just part way through my second CD which in my case is CD 1 of Afrique Centrale. It's predictably gorgeous.

I echo the remarks of kk and Des re the packaging. Obviously, corners were cut when it came to putting the 18 CDs in a box. I wondered how 18 would be presented in one unit; it's not an easy design problem. The solution is hardly elegant; no doubt there were budget restraints.

And while we have our 200 African tracks, Neil is dead right about the short time of at least several discs. The first I plugged in, CD 1 of East Africa, was on the short side, too. I'd suggest that, given the concept of "50 Years of Music," there were 250 tracks, which would be a more pleasing number arithmetically and would have filled up the CDs a bit. The budget again, I suppose.

However, what really disappointed me was the booklet, or more precisely the notes. Firstly, to boast of your "80 pages booklet" is all very well, but when half of it's French and the other half English and they're basically the same, that's really only like a 40 page booklet. And the French get more pages than the English — and it actually happens to be only 76 pages including the front and back cover! Perhaps they counted the other piece of paper with the track listings as part of the booklet. However, that's relatively trivial.

The booklet actually looks very nice, lovely pictures and decent design — but does the three things that drive me nuts. Firstly, there are pictures of record sleeves that don't appear to be on the compilation. Second, musicians and songs not on the compilation are mentioned while some of those represented are not written about. Thirdly, the albums the tracks are taken from are not credited — just the year of release and the label. Additionally, there seems to be great effort made to provide a potted, very potted, history of the African continent's escape from colonization, but it's rather done at the cost of covering the music coherently, although different regions get treated with varying attention to detail. Each region's notes is written by a different (French) writer, which I suppose explains it, but a bit of editing or direction would almost certainly have improved things.

Overall, it feels as though there wasn't a consistent eye on the ball. The result is that as a source of information the booklet falls short. A good example is the section on Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland which first points out that none of them "figure in the authoritative World Music : the Rough Guide anthology" and then suggests "Sit back, then, and enjoy veteran guitarist composer Banjo Mosele" — who I suppose may be a member of Hip Hop Pantsula, the only group featured from Botswana, but there are no further credits and so one just doesn't know. Something similar happens with the section on Eritrea, which I'm particualrly interested in right now 'cos I met some people from Eritrea not long ago and discovered that I had nothing from there in my collection, know almost nothing and again, that it's barely in World Music : the Rough Guide, just getting the briefest of listings at the end of the Ethiopian section — and it was Ethiopia that Eritrea fought a bloody 30-year war against to gain its independence, so it's not all Europeans that this African independence is about. Anyway, Faytingua and Tsèhaytu Bèraki are mentioned as musicians from Eritrea but are represented nowhere on Africa 50 Years of Music — and neither is any other Eritrean artist — and so one is left scratching one's head about the relevance of it all.

However, Africa 50 Years of Music certainly presents a lot of good and interesting music to listen to, whatever its exact representation of the varieties of and historical significance to African music. The sequencing seems pretty good in the limited listening I've managed (now into CD 1 of Afrique Australe) — and I'll just agree with Des about still having an excuse to buy more African CDs in the future. But perhaps I'll look for shorter and more focused ones — and keep listening to the many I already have. For the money, I don't suppose you can really beat this, especially for beginners — I'm not aware of anything I'd recommend over Africa 50 Years of Music as the broadest of broad views.

Re: that's a lot of music.....

PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:34 am
by jackdaw version
However, with a bit of further thought, I'm not sure that buying 18 of the better Rough Guides to African music wouldn't provide you with a more satisfying musical and reading experience, although obviously you'd spend some more overall, wouldn't get the flimsy box to complain about, and perhaps the general shape of your listening experience wouldn't be quite so 50-years-of-independence oriented.

Btw, another typo on the back of the box — at the top, "50 Years of Indenpendence"! I think there's probably cause to ask for that discount.