Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A bouillabaisse of music from the cultural capital of the world.

New York has long been a one-city trip around the world, and that's vividly demonstrated by this wide-ranging compilation. With so many cultures represented among players living in the five boroughs, the city is spoiled for musical riches. Some have enjoyed long professional careers, like the female Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies, whilst others, such as Besim Muriqi, are essentially unknown. But the quality of the performances here is universally high. That's part of what makes this so thrilling, but even more is the juxtaposition of styles — jubilant Jewish klezmer next to Chinese wedding music, for instance. At times the music takes on American colours, like Simon Shaheen and Qantara with Olive Harvest, where jazz inflections became part of the whole. It makes for a vibrant snapshot of a city where immigrants treasure their heritage, but are also changed by their new circumstances.