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UK goes global as World Music Album Chart launches



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Once upon a time the UK charts consisted of a top 40 list for albums and singles. It’s been getting ever more complicated down the years since, though; with the addition of downloads, airplay and genre charts, there are more chances than ever for PRs to legitimately claim their artist has enjoyed a UK Number 1.

We caught blind aboriginal superstar-in-the-making Gurrumul, or Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu to give him his full name, at Brighton’s Great Escape festival back in May. Finally his heartfelt acoustic debut album has been released to Blighty’s denizens, long after his countrymen had already decided he’d be a huge crossover hit and showered him with awards accordingly. That slowburning critical success has now been followed up with sales data which declares the Australian’s album to be the first ever UK World Music Chart Number 1.

This has been possible since The Official Charts Company, the custodian of many a PR’s hopes and dreams, launched two new charts this month. While Gurrumul tops the new Official UK World Music Album Chart, a second list is comprised of world music compilations and goes by the snappy title of the Official UK World Music Compilation Album Chart.

Some shy away from the nebulous term ‘world music’. It’s as though everything sung in a language other than English should be banished to a corner, away from ‘proper music’, lest Anglophonic peoples raise their gaze to the horizon and discover with shock that there’s a world out there, and in it people play music.

While the Official Charts Company declares that these new charts will “give consumers a practical guide to this specialist genre and provide retailers, labels and distributors with promotional tools dedicated to their market,” the debate will likely forever rage about whether such segregation helps or hinders cross-cultural artistic appreciation, or indeed the artists it declares as ‘other’.

While I have sympathy with Baaba Maal, Camille, Manu Chao and others who snarl at the use of the term, and while I’m far from convinced that everything ever recorded in a language other than English can realistically be called a “specialist genre”, hopefully anything that helps to shine a spotlight on music that would otherwise remain undiscovered is more help than hindrance.

As such, maybe ear-opening labels like Honest Jons and Sublime Frequencies will be able to populate the compilation chart with found songs from 1950s Gabon, 1930s Baghdad, Syrian bazaars and other exotic locales while Wrasse, World Circuit, Six Degrees, Real World and others get some recognition for their valuable support for emerging artists from around the globe.

  • Check out our recent Africa Special, featuring reviews and features of and on, amongst others, Tinariwen, Oumou SangarĂ©, Rokia TraorĂ©, Amadou & Mariam, Tony Allen and Fela Kuti.
  • More on Gurrumul at his MySpace.
  • Gurrumul: Djarimirri (Live)


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