In 1982, British musician Peter Gabriel co-founded WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) to take traditional and new music from around the world to a broad audience. With a popular annual festival and recordings, among other projects, WOMAD has been a success in its aims. For this blogger, one of the first "world music" recordings encountered back in 1990 was the cassette edition of the company's fourth volume of introductory music, this on Asia.
One could quibble about assigning a unifying identity of "Asia" on places as differed as Israel, Pakistan, Iran, and Sri Lanka (presumably, the "Far East" being China, Japan, and what is commonly referred to as "Southeast Asia"), but it is hard to argue against the very high quality of traditional and modern sounds on this excellent album.
The first track featured traditional music from the desert region of Rajasthan in India, followed by a "roots" turn coupled with club dance rhythms by Israeli-Yemeni pop star Ofra Haza. Iranian classical music with the lute-like tar is just ahead of a political work by a Kurdish singer, Sivan Perwer. The rhythms of men beating their chests with their hands while women engage in a trance-like chant on a piece from Pakistan called "Mersiyet," commemorating the massacre of Shi'ite Muslims at Kerbalain 680 A.D. comes right before a pop track from the Indo-British collective Alaap. Four pretty traditional works from Sri Lanka (an awesome ad hoc field recording at a temple), Uzbekistan (a plaintive male vocal accompanied by a lute called the doutar, the gijak or fiddle, and a large drum called a dora), Iraq (a stunning track with a 79-tone zither called the kanun), and India (an impressive tabla solo) lead up to the finale, a stunning rendering of the song Yun Na Thi by the legendary Indian singer Asha Bhosle.
This is a wide-ranging record of a variety of musical sounds from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent and gives about equal time to women as to men and to modern as to traditional works. Peter Gabriel, along with other musicians like Bill Laswell and Mickey Hart, is to be given credit for presenting a balanced and compelling approach to bringing music of other cultures to the Western world. WOMAD's An Introduction to Asia had a major impact on this blogger's budding appreciation for "world music" and is well worth the effort if the rare recording can be located.
WOMAD, Volume 4: An Introduction to Asia (1987)
1. Desert Musicians of Rajasthan: Raga Sindhi Bhairavi
2. Ofra Haza: Im Nin 'Alu
3. Daryoush Tala'i & Djamchid Chemirani: Tar and Zarb
4. Sivan Perwer: Daye Ez Xelim
5. Pakistani Womwn Singers: Mersiyet
6. Alaap: Chunni Ud Ud 'Jae
7. Temple Musicians of Sri Lanka: Ritual of Siva-Linga
8. G.Iakobov: Assalom
9. Ali Kamel: Kanun Solo
10. Pandit Sharda Sahai: Tabla Solo
11. Asha Bhosle: Yun Na Thi