Various Artists – 7/8 Music, The San Francisco World Music Festival Live 2000

Dan Kaufman

By Dan Kaufman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

This engaging world music survey, culled from the first year of an increasingly popular annual festival, features top-notch acts from Central Asia, West Africa and the less industrialized portions of Europe; it's replete with non-Western harmonic and rhythmic surprises. The album runs a wide musical gamut, starting with the surreal and joyous opening track, "Eldek Kys," by the Tuvan (Tuva is a tiny, remote republic in Mongolia) throat singing group Chirgilchin, which alternates between happy Beach Boys-esque harmonies and some gritty throat singing that might have made Howlin 'Wolf envious. There are also some more somber moments, like the standout, eerie cry to the heavens, "Ave Mama e Deu" by Alessandra Belloni, a vocalist, percussionist and expert in the largely forgotten traditional music of southern Italy. In an era when historians (and, more perniciously, politicians) insist that civilizations must clash, this album offers a subtle and welcome refutation. In fact, the seamless way these vastly disparate songs work together adds to a body of unscientific evidence that suggests a more peaceful counter-hypothesis: that all music — and by extension, all people — no matter how different, share an indefinable spiritual unity.