Joy to the world of music

It's been a year of great losses, made up for in some measure by great releases

It's been a busy year for "World Music" fans. There have been some fabulous new releases from artists across the globe, and compilations of music that might easily have gone unnoticed. But while we are celebrating new music and golden hits from the past, some musical giants have left us for the great stage in the sky.

Aretha Franklin, saxophonist Charles Neville (of the Neville Brothers, one of World Beat's favourite bands of all time), blues and soul man Otis Rush, Algeria's Rachid Taha (play his cover of The Clash's Rock The Casbah loud in tribute), South African jazz master Hugh Masekela and Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks are just some of the cultural icons we lost this year.

The European Broadcast Union's World Music Chart for 2018 contains some brilliant, and in some instances somewhat surprising, new music releases (see Top 10 below). Perhaps the biggest surprise hit is the superb collection, Yiddish Glory -- Lost Songs Of World War II (Six Degrees), produced by Dan Rosenberg. These songs were only recently discovered in a vault in Ukraine in the 1990s. The songs offer a fascinating glimpse into Soviet Jewish folk music, mainly sung in Yiddish from just before and during World War II, when some 400,000 Jews joined the Red Army to fight against fascism.

Given the current reactionary and authoritarian times we are going through, Yiddish Glory is a truly inspirational release.

Two fusion music albums ride high on the charts and both would make perfect New Year gifts. Anarouz, a meeting of musical minds between a valiha player (Rajery of Madagascar), an oud player (Driss El Maloumi from Morocco) and the kora (Ballake Sissoko) is outstanding. And I have to say I never expected anyone to combine the talents of a Welsh harpist (Catrin Finch) and a West African kora player (21-stringed African harp by Seckou Keita), but Soar is not only a sublime meeting of two great musicians, it has also been a runaway success. Both albums show the beauty of celebrating diversity -- highly recommended.

My favourite African release is the compilation of the work of the Dur Dur Band of Somalia on the Analog Africa Dur Dur Band Of Somalia Vol 1&2; it is a beautifully produced package (best in vinyl format) with such funky tracks that you'll be dancing as soon as you hit play. Mali is well represented on the charts, which is topped by France-based Malian singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara.

One other album on the chart worth considering if you need to perk up your festive season: Calypso Rose's compilation So Calypso!. The calypso legend from Trinidad fires up any dance floor with witty lyrics and great beats -- one for those in a party mood.

I received an early Christmas present in the form of the newly re-issued collaboration between blues-influenced poet Langston Hughes and photographer Roy DeCarava, The Sweet Flypaper Of Life, first published in 1955. I wrote about DeCarava's amazing photography of life in Harlem, New York, earlier this year after I finally got a copy of his long-form poem and photos of (mainly jazz) musicians, The Sound I Saw. This year would have been DeCarava's 100th birthday, and to celebrate his life and work, the good folks at First Print Press have reissued The Sweet Flypaper Of Life, which was the inspiration for DeCarava's own free-form text and photo book. Highly recommended.

Finally, it is not often that World Beat gets published on Christmas Day, so to celebrate this auspicious event, I'd like to recommend that you try out my favourite Xmas song, Jabulani Nonke by one of the great South African female singing (and all dancing) groups, The Dark City Sisters, with assistance from the Transvaal Rocking Jazz Stars. Find it on YouTube, get yourself a dance partner and enjoy!

John Clewley can be contacted at

World Music Chart 2018 (European Broadcast Union)

(Album title, artist, country, record label)

  1. FENFO - Fatoumata Diawara, Mali (3EME BUREAU / WAGRAM)
  2. ANAROUZ - 3MA / Rajery, Driss El Maloumi, Ballake Sissoko, Madagascar/Morocco/Mali (Mad Minute Music)
  3. SOAR - Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita, UK/Senegal (Bendigedig)
  4. LA ALEGRIA Y EL CANTO - Marta Gomez, Colombia (Aluna)
  5. BU BIR RUYA – Dirtmusic, Turkey/USA/Australia (Glitterbeat)
  6. WANDE - Samba Toure, Mali (Glitterbeat)
  7. KAYEBA KHASSO - Djeneba & Fousco, Mali (Lusafrica)
  8. DUR DUR OF SOMALIA VOL 1&2 - Dur-Dur Band, Somalia (Analog Africa)
  9. ANGATHIN, Monsieur Doumani, Cyprus Monsieur (Doumani)
  10. SO CALYPSO! - Calypso Rose, Trinidad & Tobago (Because Music)

Full Top 200 Chart and mail order available at