Documentary telling the story of the British world music revolution from the early 1980s to the present, featuring the Bhundu Boys, Mariza, Youssou N'Dour and many others.
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In the 1980s,
some British music fans were searching for something new.
The answer lay somewhere out there,
but how to find it over here?
Where did you put a Bulgarian tractor-factory workers' choir
and some guitar-slinging hotshot from Guinea-Bissau?
How did you put them in a record shop?
This is the story of how a new music genre was born.
What could we have?
OK, tropical? Well, that leaves the Bulgarians out.
After ten minutes, then more audience came.
After 20 minutes, more audience came.
Maybe someone said "ethnic".
And after 30 minutes, packed.
"World music" and everybody went, "Yeah, that works."
And it's the story of the meeting of cultures, collaborations
and conflicting ambitions
that have changed our musical landscape for ever.
You know, any idea they were these kind of innocent noble savages
who were going to be corrupted by Western influences was rubbish.
We have been offered to be in a limousine, we travel with limousine.
MUSIC: "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham!
At the turn of the 1980s,
Britain was sound-tracked by chart-friendly pop.
Punk was dead and so was Bob Marley.
Music was reflecting, not criticising the excess,
the glamour, the new drama of life and those that really
loved the idea of just music,
they felt an awful lot would be missing,
you know, in terms of authentic music, real music,
music that wasn't about showbusiness or escapism.
Now people were looking for the kinds of things
they used to get
from roots music in the early '60s and jazz,
that kind of virtuosity
and improvisation and connectedness to culture.
I think people were really casting around for something different
because it was almost like if you admitted that manufactured pop
was the king again, then the whole punk thing had been a waste of time.
Meanwhile, the post-punk scene of the early '80s
found itself in a dark place.
They too were looking for fresh sounds from somewhere, anywhere.
MUSIC: "All My Colours Zimbo" by Echo & The Bunnymen
Enter WOMAD, the World Of Music And Dance Festival in 1982.
Musicians from around the world arrived to share the stage with
indie bands - Echo & The Bunnymen
teamed up with the drummers of Burundi.
All of the Bunnymen fans from Liverpool were so excited.
They just drummed all night,
there were about 80 people just drumming in a very good-natured
fashion, I may add, on a sheep-shearing shed
and as they did it,
it just gradually just fell over, the whole shed just collapsed.
The first WOMAD was an expensive venture and founder Peter Gabriel
had to put on a gig with a re-formed Genesis to pay for it.
But a spark had been ignited.
I'm very hopeful that even if we can't continue,
that the idea is going to be pushed through by some others
because, if nothing else,
we showed that a rock audience
could give a standing ovation to a 50-year-old Chinese horn player
and that was great.
Several radio pioneers had also been trying to push their listeners
to look outside the UK charts.
The trouble with the industry at the moment is that everybody is
kind of recycling existing ideas and copying each other
so fast you can't even remember who copied who any more.
Radio 1's John Peel had always slipped in the odd foreign
record from the BBC sound archives...
..as did his enthusiastic young apprentice.
One day, Peel and I were sitting in the office of Radio 1 and almost
together we opened cardboard mailers which contained the same record.
I said to Peel, "The Bhundu Boys. I've never heard of them.
"Have you, John?" He said, "Oh, stick it on."
The instant it went on,
it was as though somebody was showering the room with
this fountain of jewelled guitar notes
and it was one of these great "What is this?" moments.
HE SINGS IN SHONA
By the time their demo bounced into the Radio 1 studios in 1985,
the Bhundu Boys had long been entertaining audiences
back home in Zimbabwe.
Their journey to the UK began in a Glaswegian Jobcentre
as musicians Owen Elias and Doug Veitch set their sights
beyond the drizzly Scottish dole queue to hotter climes.
It was the glorious days
of something called the Enterprise Allowance Scheme,
so Owen went off to Zimbabwe
with his £40 a week
from the government of the day to start an African record label!
He came back with this globetrotter case full of records.
The one that stuck out was the Bhundu Boys.
And our producer came to us and told us,
"There are guys who are coming from England
"and they want your group to go to England and play there.
"Would you be interested?" Who would reject an offer like that?
We got in the plane, actually with nothing besides our rucksacks
and we're thinking, "Well, we've seen London on the telly,
"it looks like heaven.
"Probably we are going to buy our clothes there."
We were told this guy is a professor and if you want money -
the professor, you expect him to be very rich.
I think the band were under the impression that Owen
was a professor and there was this pop-star musician called Doug Veitch.
Now, when they arrived off the plane, they very quickly see that
I was no pop star and that Owen was no real professor.
The band came off and I think the most any of them had was
a toilet bag and I thought, "Shit, where's the instruments?", you know.
They were waiting with their trolleys,
waiting to pick up the stuff and at the end, there was no stuff.
We didn't ask what they were waiting for,
we just thought this is what you do at the airport.
The Bhundu Boys were due on in Glasgow that night.
They're in London with no instruments.
With only a few hours until their UK debut,
Owen and Doug hurriedly scoured the music shops of Glasgow
to secure some last-minute instruments.
As we arrived here, we didn't know what to expect.
We are coming from a country where we are used to play
to our own black audience
and there we are where there was only white audiences and we're going
to speak in our own African language which they don't understand.
People were so tense at first, they didn't know what to expect.
And something used to happen around the third number.
It was as though something coalesced, gelled, at that point,
and all of a sudden it would seem like the whole room -
audience, band, structure, the lot - was bouncing up and down as one.
But when we finished the first set,
the lights started going kito-kito-kito off and on
and it sounded like that was the end of the day and I'm thinking,
"What's going on?" Back home, we were used to play for long hours.
If you play one and a half
and people have paid £10, they'll stone you to death.
Instead of going back to Zimbabwe, the boys from Harare
became temporary residents of the Scottish village of Hawick.
They emerged with a new album and a tour van.
The Bhundu Boys were ready to take jit jive on the road.
What the boys are doing
and other musicians like the Bhundu Boys is not as dramatic and severe
as the whole punk phenomenon when that happened, but it's nevertheless
as, erm, as important. It's...
This is the next stage of popular music.
We played everywhere.
In certain places where when you arrive, it would be empty.
We would be asking ourselves, "Oh, we've made a mistake,
"we shouldn't have come here." We go on stage, it's packed.
When you come to Zimbabwe, we are going to give you sadza,
because you have given us Guinness.
Peel and Kershaw had become entranced
and championed the Bhundu Boys on their Radio 1 shows.
They were playing at a college in Chelsea and anyway Peel
and I plodded along and I was just, I don't know, with this enormous grin
on my face and I looked at Peel and Peel, of course, being an old softy,
he was standing there with fat tears running down fat cheeks.
Then he said something to me
at the end along the lines of he never expected
to be as moved by music again
as he was by what he heard that night.
When I'm invited to dinner by friends in the village here,
instead of taking the bottle of unpleasant wine that's obligatory
even in these backwoods, I take a copy of the Bhundu Boys LP Shabini.
This has by so much supplanted the Dire Straits LPs
on the smarter turntables in the area that we now get
invitations from people we barely know who just want a copy of the LP.
Why aren't these people getting more daytime radio airplay,
the Bhundu Boys?
I think we came on the right time where a lot of people wanted
some change and we have come with a different beat,
different from reggae, different from pop, something different.
It seems, I think, we are proving ourselves to be the Duran Duran
of Zimbabwe and, well, any time from now the Bhundu of the world.
It turned out the Bhundu Boys were right on the money.
In 1987, Shabini hit the indie charts at number two
and stayed in the top 20 for five months.
And that year, less than two years since their first gig in Glasgow,
the Bhundu Boys signed with Warner Brothers.
There is a bigger untapped source of absolutely fabulous talent
on the African continent than anywhere else in the world by far.
# Back in the Bhundu is where we are from
# Dancing back from there the whole night long
# They seem not to care They say it's all right
# Let's avenge each child in the bhundu night. #
But their first album with Warner, True Jit,
was a far cry from early albums like Shabini.
I think it was the death knell for the band.
They had a brilliant formula, they sang in their own language,
they sang in Shona,
people were perfectly willing to listen to the band in Shona.
It was part of the appeal of the band.
They signed to WEA and went down a completely different route -
they sang in English, they added brass sections to them.
Why would you change a winning formula?
Why would you change everything the public liked about the band?
Why would you change that?
They put us on a tour in America.
We had to sleep in five-star hotels, which was great,
because we have never tasted that kind of life before
and we never thought it would come our way.
We had been offered to be in a limousine,
we travel with limousine.
MUSIC: "Material Girl" by Madonna
That year saw the Bhundu Boys support Madonna at Wembley Stadium,
but it wasn't to last.
True Jit was a commercial flop and in 1989, just three years
after they'd arrived in the UK,
the Bhundus were dropped by Warner.
They had this quality which excited people, thrilled people,
and brought out a, er...
..like a sense of devotion.
People loved them.
And they did reach people who would not ordinarily have been
listeners to African music, even me mother liked the Bhundu Boys music.
The broad appeal of the Bhundu Boys was undoubtedly
helped by radio airplay.
One of the big differences and very positive things about
that time was you could hear a lot of things on Radio 1.
You had not only John Peel, but you had Andy Kershaw
and you had a sense in which both Radio 1
and Radio 2 would let all sorts of unusual musics in.
But even the likes of Peel and Kershaw had to know where to look.
There was this shop, Sterns, in London, which was selling...
It was selling toasters and repairing weird
bits of electrical equipment, but they also sold African records.
And I'd spend hours in there and I couldn't have carried on
with these radio eccentricities had I not had the support of that shop.
MUSIC: "A Lambkin Has Commenced Bleating" by Nadka Karadjova
Terry Wogan's breakfast show had
a reputation for dipping into exotic sounds and one day he picked up
Nadka Karadjova's Bulgarian folk tune,
A Lambkin Has Commenced Bleating.
It turned out to be a radio hit.
People were picking up different things
and obviously pre-internet period,
you were finding scraps of information
and people were going, "I've got this thing," you know,
and they would play it to their friends and run off a cassette maybe
and you'd pass it
in a very hand-to-hand, word-of-mouth kind of way.
MUSIC: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus
I'd been given a third copy cassette from a stagehand friend of mine.
The moment I heard it,
it was a brand-new, wonderful, almost operatic,
aria-type folk song.
MUSIC: Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir
At the end of each session, I would have a sort of listen to this music
and Ivo was very piqued by that and he quickly moved in on it.
Ivo Watts Russell was the head of art rock label 4AD,
home to the likes of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance.
In 1986, he released the songs from Pete Murphy's
cassette on a 4AD album.
It was called Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares.
I think they actually leaked the record onto the market
and sold 500 copies of it with a conventional choir on the front
cover and they didn't sell any copies
so they kind of did a Cocteau Twins Design with the jewelled slipper
underwater and immediately that just started to intrigue people.
The label had applied to the cover
their trademark enigmatic art work to dramatic effect.
The cover looked like it was a still from a horror movie.
It was obviously mysterious and drew you in.
You certainly wanted to know who was behind it
and lots of people were talking about why Bulgarian
women singers were suddenly appearing in the independent charts.
For the average 4AD fan,
the otherworldly voices of Bulgaria seemed to fit
right in with the ethereal sound of the Cocteau Twins.
It was a rock audience that was just going,
"There's something amazing here," and, you know, musicians would
start to pick up on it and play it for people and, you know,
the word didn't exist in those days, but it was a viral thing.
Who do you enjoy listening to now? Do you enjoy listening to Madonna?
There was a nice record by the Bulgarian Ladies' Choir,
which I think is sensational.
We'll have to look that out at the BBC record library,
the Bulgarian Ladies' Choir, yes.
I'll bring it with me next time.
In 1987, a Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares touring choir
met with British audiences for the first time.
Their appearance was certainly unlike anything that we've
come across in the conventional pop and rock sense in a long time.
Off the back of the success of the 4AD album,
Bulgarian choirs started springing
up all over, including splinter group Trio Bulgarka.
In some ways, it's the most exciting communication I've ever had
with musicians because we can't communicate intellectually because we
don't have the language, so we speak to each other emotionally, really.
We sort of feel each other, that's what it feels like.
Everyone wants to be a part
of the apparently ancient magic of rural Bulgaria.
There was just a real sense of, this is an extraordinary phenomenon
and it's something that's obviously been hidden away for centuries
and suddenly it's come out into the open.
But in fact, when 4AD
had licensed the music, the trail for its owner had led them
not to Bulgaria, but to Switzerland.
The recordings were traced back to music collector Marcel Cellier,
who since the 1950s had been poking behind the Iron Curtain
looking for folk music.
He'd stumbled across a goldmine of recorded songs
in the archives of Bulgaria's national radio station.
To enter the radio, you had to give your passport...
And to pass a man with a gun.
..with a machine gun was before...at the entrance.
The songs were in fact the creation of Bulgaria's Communist regime.
In the 1950s, they embarked on a programme to promote national
pride by taking old folksongs and rearranging them for whole choirs.
In 1975, Cellier released a compilation of his findings
and called it Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares.
We sold very little during ten years, but then it was the new generation
actually who was eager for new sounds that discovered it and it spread.
In 1989, the songs that had started life in a Communist radio station
before being collected by a Swiss musicologist
and finally repackaged by a British indie label, won a Grammy award.
And thanks to that Grammy,
they went to be well known over the world,
and succeeded everywhere.
It was a great success.
Non-Western music was starting to appeal on a global level...
..but there was a problem.
Record shops wanted it,
but they didn't know where to put it physically in the shops.
They didn't want to put it alphabetically by artist
because lots of people who went in looking for these things
didn't know how to spell the names of the artists,
so where did you put two albums as diverse
as a Bulgarian tractor-factory workers' choir
and some guitar-slinging hotshot from Guinea-Bissau?
How did you put them in a record shop and, moreover, put them together?
A handful of independent record labels and journalists
met to work out where to put this music and what to call it.
And as with all good ideas, the discussion took place in a pub.
'What can we have?'
OK, Tropical? Well, that, you know, leaves the Bulgarians out
and the Finns.
-Maybe someone said Ethnic.
And so on.
World Music was one of the terms that was around
that was chucked into the pot and everybody went, "Yeah, that works."
-# Movement of the people
-Send us another brother, Moses... #
Finding musicians from overseas with enough crossover appeal
to excite a UK audience
was the ultimate dream for many independent record labels
throughout the '80s.
And since Bob Marley's death in 1981,
there was quest to find a Third World superstar to replace him.
Their attention was starting to turn to a generation of stars
emerging from Africa, whose presence was growing closer to home.
It's really something that comes back from the colonisation period.
African artists are used now to come here to record for years, really.
A new generation of African musicians was descending on Paris,
aspiring to break into the international market.
Among them, a young Youssou N'Dour.
HE SPEAKS FRENCH
Youssou N'Dour used the opportunity whilst in Paris
to record his debut international album.
Immigres would put Youssou N'Dour on the international music map
and indicate greater things to come.
Also searching for international stardom was Malian, Salif Keita.
In 1985, he was approached by producer Martin Meissonnier
to record a demo for record label, CBS.
Salif's band was two guitars, percussion, backing vocals -
like a rock'n'roll set-up.
So we went to the studio and we recorded just like, you know,
three days and one take. Boom.
HE SINGS IN MALIAN
That was it. I actually thought he was fantastic.
I took it to CBS
and, basically, CBS didn't like the demo, because they thought
it was too African. Salif got really pissed off with me
and he got pissed off also with his band, so he actually
fired the band.
Because he wanted to have a more modern sound.
Salif found a new producer, a few electronic instruments
and a 48-track mixing desk to re-record the album, Soro.
HE SPEAKS IN FRENCH
It was an extraordinary LP.
It really all came down to the opening few seconds
of the first track on the album, where he goes... Here we go!
SALIF'S NOTE CONTINUES
'Oh, wow! When you heard that,'
it was that wonderful sense, as ever, of "What is this?!"
But not everyone was so convinced of Salif's new direction,
including his own producer, Ibrahim Sylla,
known as the Quincy Jones of West Africa.
HE SPEAKS FRENCH
HE SPEAKS FRENCH
Soro sold 60,000 copies in the UK for Sterns,
which was the nearest the record label had to a mainstream hit.
All these guys, they didn't want to sounds like grandpa, you know.
They wanted to be hot.
And so, on one hand you have the critics, who actually want the band
to feel the dirt and... you know, make a trip to Africa
as they listen to the track.
And the other guys, they want to be Michael Jackson.
In 1988, traditional kora player Mory Kante actually pulled it off,
with his hit record,
Yeke Yeke - the first-ever African single to sell
over one million copies worldwide.
While some African musicians were trying to sound more Western...
# People say she's crazy, she's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes
# Well, that's one way to lose these walking blues
# Diamonds on the soles of her shoes. #
When Paul Simon released Graceland
in 1986, its jubilant South African township jive went platinum,
selling over 1.5 million copies in the UK alone.
If I had a mountain to climb, trying to convince
the British radio audience
that these kind of groups were worth listening to,
then that job was made a doddle by Paul Simon releasing Graceland.
Suddenly, people's ears had been opened.
# As if everybody knows what I'm talking about
# As if everybody here would know exactly what I was talking about
# Talking about diamonds on the soles of her shoes. #
African music was finally getting
increased exposure in the mainstream.
And by the late '80s, Salif Keita and Youssou N'Dour were starting
to take the stage in front of a global audience.
The time was surely right for an African superstar.
Leading the search was the man who helped Bob Marley
reach a rock audience.
Head of Mango and Island Records, Chris Blackwell.
Chris Blackwell, as a believer in a certain sort of music
that was very dear to him, he had the missionary zeal to make it
accessible to a wider audience.
At which point, Blackwell discovered an acoustic album
by a young Senegalese singer called Baaba Maal.
It was based on West African folk songs
that Maal and guitarist Mansour Seck had collected as students.
We were just a group of young people
and we went into that journey,
going from village to play. Sometimes, I spent two weeks
in a place. Sometimes, one month.
In a journey like that, people come to you, naturally.
Sometimes you meet an older person who'll say, "Hey, boys, come here.
"I have one song or two songs that I want to teach you.
"Take your guitar and play that melody, that rhythm."
And this is how we get a lot of the songs off Djam Leelii.
Blackwell entrusted Mango A&R man Jumbo Van Renen
to find a producer to work on an album with Baaba.
I was living in Hackney as, pretty well, an underground DJ
and suddenly, Jumbo phones up and says,
"Would you like to go to Africa and work
"with Baba Maal?"
I went round his house and then he started singing
a song to his son.
I just said to him,
"If we can just record that moment, that would be perfect."
And he went, "Oh!
"So you're not here to make a disco record?"!
The producer from East London and the singer from North Senegal
had just a few days to put an album together
in a makeshift studio.
One night in Dakar, Baaba Maal turned up with his kora player
and he said, "Nope, we're not going to do the track with the band.
"I want sing a song for you." And he went in the studio.
surrounded by the band, his griots - the wise men - they were all there.
Some of his family, the kids, and he sang
a track called Daande Lenol - the voice of my people,
the voice of my race.
It was just amazing.
I had an epiphany.
The following year, they went back into the studio in Dakar
to record a new album, Firin' in Fouta,
which they hoped would push Baaba into the charts.
When we turned up, all of Baaba Maal's band
were completely conversant with modern technology.
They were itching. Any idea they were these, kind of,
innocent noble savages who were going to be, kind of,
corrupted by Western influences was rubbish.
What I found was a very sophisticated musical scene
that was deprived of technology.
I say, I want
this album to be a meeting between whatever fascinated me
into the West - like this modern beat, the bass and drum
and all the programming, like that. I think you can work very well
with African music. It depends on how you put it together.
We went up to the north of Senegal, borders of Mauritania,
Baaba Maal's ancestral homeland.
We were recording everyone and everything. We recorded the women
pounding the grain. We tried to get microphones in the earth,
to get the sound of the earth.
And then I go to my local people and say,
"Hey, listen to that beat. Refer yourself to that traditional dance
"or that traditional drumming and you can do the millet pounding
"in that rhythm. It will work with that beat."
It's the kind of work that was
really exciting, because nothing was planned,
but at the same time, there was a lot of experimentation.
Baaba was such a huge star back home in Northern Senegal that he had
at his disposal an almost limitless number of musical contributors.
When we turned up in Podor, we were led into the town
by a griot on a white horse.
The whole community were there and they were all chanting.
And they were all singing for Baaba.
It was like the rhythm even of the voices of the young people chanting,
"Baaba! Avec Baaba!" It goes with the house music, that beat.
It goes really well.
CHANT: Baba! Avec Baaba!
In October 1994, Firin' in Fouta was released.
It mixed ragga with Senegalese drums, house music with hip-hop,
salsa with swing.
His experimental fusion was rewarded with a Grammy nomination.
But a global mainstream audience would prove more elusive.
It was interesting, the idea of Baaba Maal,
who, on the surface, seems to have everything to be a new superstar.
Never quite achieving it.
Getting a lot of loyal followers,
getting a lot of great-sounding records,
always just on the verge of it happening.
But for some reason, the adjustment of a Baaba Maal sound,
as much as they tried, didn't seem to lend itself
to the adjustment of the Bob Marley sound.
But just months before Firin' in Fouta came out,
fellow Senegalese star, Youssou N'Dour,
released a duet he had recorded with Neneh Cherry.
# Into this world, it has no concept
# Of the tone of skin it's living in
# It's not a second Seven seconds away
# Just as long as I stay
# I'll be waiting
# It's not a second Seven seconds away
# Just as long as I stay. #
It proved it was possible for an African artist
to have a global hit. All you needed was the right pop song.
Would Baba Maal just work as Pop?
But then if people went to Baaba Maal because it was under Pop,
they would immediately dismiss it, cos it's not their kind of pop.
So what would it work under?
Unfortunately, it works under World, cos that category now exists.
MUSIC: "In An English Country Garden"
In a small Wiltshire village outside Bath, Peter Gabriel had set up
a studio complex and record label to harness world music in one place.
He called it Real World.
Just as the way that the WOMAD Festival
was aiming to give
equal billing of music from different corners of the continent,
alongside Western pop names, if you like,
we wanted to have a record label that did the same.
The Real World Recording Weeks
were these extraordinary events that we started. We had a series of them,
beginning in 1991.
The idea was to turn the whole of the studio here at Real World
into a, sort of, recording festival.
'People would get together.'
You might have an Egyptian string section and a Japanese percussionist
in one room, with, I don't know, Paul Brennan from Clannad.
It was across the threshold
of the Real World studios
that one of the biggest world music stars of the '90s would emerge.
It was actually Pete Townshend who said,
"You must hear kuali music. It's fantastic."
I think my experience, when I first heard Nusrat
was very much the same.
It was a very powerful, sort of spiritual feeling.
I get tingles in the back of my neck.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a sufi from Pakistan,
who devoted his whole life to qawwali,
the spiritual music of Islam.
Since the late 1970s, he'd been distributing his music
through a small record label in Birmingham.
To the broad Asian audience in Britain, he was already a huge star,
whose music transcended the boundaries of faith.
I went to a local performance in a community centre,
which was an old cinema. I think it was in Southall.
People were rushing to the stage and throwing themselves at the stage.
I think that was quite... Something that I had never seen before
in any kind of music performance. It was like watching a punk gig.
People were just going crazy.
In 1985, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
found himself on the bill at WOMAD,
alongside The Fall and New Order.
For whatever the reason,
it was, kind of, a hotly-anticipated performance.
Everybody there knew that this was an artist that
they should go to see, even though I don't think anybody
in the audience had ever seen him before.
After ten minutes, more audience came.
After 20 minutes, more audience came.
And after 30 minutes - packed.
The arena was packed.
The energy and the intensity of the night just grew and grew and grew
and, at points where you just felt, "My gosh, this is the height,
"this is fantastic",
it would then just get amped up even another notch.
It just made this huge impact.
It really just was one of those moments, I think.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan obviously had an extraordinary experience there
and a bit of a revelation that there was this new audience out there,
because straight after the festival appearance, the following week
he went in and recorded two albums' worth of music for us
and he decided to arrange the music
with an accompaniment of a guitar and a mandolin,
and I think he felt that that would be something
which would be something
that could help to introduce the music to western ears.
Aside from the Sufi stuff, the mystic stuff,
the devotional, the religious element,
it was just a bloody great dance-floor filler
whenever I went out
and, you know, those rare occasions when he did a live gig.
If you wanted to get the buggers on the dance floor,
even if they'd never heard it before, all you had to do was go,
"Allah Hoo, Allah Hoo!" and they were out there! Fantastic!
Nusrat was becoming more and more aware
of the power of his qawwali to reach new audiences.
In 1990 he met up with Real World producer Michael Brook
to collaborate on an album for the first time.
'One thing that I quickly learned
'is that Nusrat likes to sing for a long time.
'My backing tracks were only four or five minutes long,
'so it seemed we were always rewinding the tape.'
And so we just recorded very long takes
so he could improvise as long as he wanted.
And that worked out really well,
although we then had a massive editing challenge.
In the West - do, re, mi.
'Qawwali is a kind of'
spiritual, sacred music
that has lyrics with meaning.
And I wasn't that clear on the distinction at the time.
So I just cut it up in a way that... So it sounded good.
But, anyway, it was a big problem,
because I had cut up these sacred lyrics
in ways that they were nonsense.
He said, "Well, OK." But, in fact,
he got a lot of criticism at home.
Back home in Pakistan, Nusrat was an even bigger star,
with millions of fans watching his every move.
It's like if you had the Beatles, Frank Sinatra
and Elvis all in one person.
'It's hard to exaggerate how big a deal he is there.
'And if you went into the music store - which I did -
'there would be a wall, you know,'
like the size of this book shelf,
'and half would be him
'and half would be everybody else.'
He lived in a very grand house in Lahore, as was appropriate,
and it was almost like a sort of medieval court,
where he was at the centre of all this activity.
'Very Louis XIV.'
Like all this really ornate French-looking furniture.
And there was always a sort of anteroom
full of people waiting to meet him.
People coming with gifts or asking advice.
But basically, there was a host of people
waiting to meet the great master.
The recording of Mustt Mustt was not without controversy
amongst Nusrat's more orthodox fans,
who saw his experimentations with the West as a step too far.
Over the years, there've been a few people
who've sort of been concerned about your defiling,
or kind of diluting something,
but the fact that he would like a KORG synthesiser,
or something modern or different than his tradition,
I don't think in any way meant he didn't like his tradition.
It wasn't a rejection in any sense.
It was more an acceptance of something new.
THEY PLAY AND SING
At the time of the release of Mustt Mustt,
the emerging UK dance scene
was starting to discover new global sounds.
I think there's something transcendental
about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's music.
The sort of repetition in it,
the way he goes through this process
of getting himself into an ecstatic state,
that really engulfs the audience.
There's something there that seemed to sit comfortably
with dance music at that period of time.
The title track was remixed
by British trip-hop group Massive Attack,
and Nusrat's invigorating qawwali
also inspired a generation of British Asian dance producers
in search of a new cultural identity.
But, in 1997, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died suddenly,
leaving behind hundreds of recordings
and millions of fans around the world.
Throughout the '90s, fusion and dance electronica
had been at the cutting edge of popular music.
But towards the end of the '90s,
one of the biggest world music hits of all time would emerge,
and instead of looking to the future,
it would make the world audience turn towards a vanished past.
The original idea for the album that became Buena Vista Social Club
was a collaboration of some Malian musicians and some Cuban musicians.
And then I thought it might be quite nice
to see if Ry Cooder might be interested in working on it as well.
But then just before we were supposed to make the trip,
I learned that the Malians couldn't come.
So I told Ry that we couldn't get them,
he said, "Let's go anyway and see what happens."
Ry Cooder and World Circuit's Nick Gold
had worked together with musicians around the world,
but never in Cuba.
With an album to record and musicians to find,
they turned to local band leader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez.
I was the one that selected the musicians,
because Nick knew, of course, the music,
but he didn't know the people.
Marcos would say, "I've found this musician,
"I've found that musician!" And a lot of those musicians,
they hadn't played or sung for a long, long time.
You know, they had their glory days in the '50s
and they were massive stars in the '50s.
So to come back into the studio was just incredible.
'In particular for Ruben.'
'You'd get to the studio and he was sat there waiting at the door'
and you'd unlock the studio
and he had sort of this little shuffling run he did,
he'd run to the piano and open it,
and he'd play and he'd play and he'd play and he'd play all day.
Uno, dos, uno, dos, tres.
# Y llegando bailadores, comay
# Por los caminos atascados. #
'People were suggesting songs all the time,
'and they weren't suggesting them by saying, "Can I do this song?"
'They were just playing them.'
But they'd all be playing their own songs at the same time in the studio.
It was like a laboratory, everything was...flowing.
I remember at one point we wanted to do Dos Gardenias, a bolero,
and I think Puntillita was singing it,
but he's got a very sort of hard, declamatory voice,
and Ry asked if there was a singer with a softer voice to sing it,
and Marcos sort of stood there and he went, "Yes!"
He sort of beamed and literally ran out the studio.
An hour, two hours later, he came back in with this...
man who was just...
I mean, this beautiful man. He sort of walked like a cat.
'And it was Ibrahim Ferrer'
and he started to sing this song.
# Dos gardenias para ti
# Con ellas quiero decir
# Te quiero
# Te adoro
# Mi vida
# Ponles toda tu atencion
# Que seran tu corazon
# Y el mio... #
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959,
the Communist Government
began closing nightclubs and entertainment venues,
including the once-famous Buena Vista Social Club.
Musicians were out of work, and before long,
even their music fell out of fashion.
Relics of a forgotten past.
The room that we recorded in
was this gorgeous room built in the '50s
by a record company called Panart,
In these tiny little back streets of Cuba.
You would go in this little room, wind up these stairs
and this huge, beautiful room would be revealed to you.
Ry wanted everything mic'd ambiently
because he fell in love with the room.
'At the time, the Cubans would separate everything,
'close-mic everything as possibly as they could,
'so the whole idea'
of recording them ambiently
was very, very unusual.
Originally, in the '50s, they would have recorded like that.
'The Buena Vista Social Club sounds like a rehearsal'
in your house.
Like if you have all of these outstanding old guys
surrounding you, having a drink
and smoking good cigars and singing for you,
and this was very special.
'At the end of the recording we were elated,
'because, you know, we finished'
and you play the music back and, really...
it was very apparent that something wonderful was there.
When the album was released,
few outside the increasingly niche world-music market took much notice.
Then suddenly sales started to rise. And rise.
I don't know. Maybe a few hundred thousand, I thought we'd sell.
But, yeah, sold millions.
You did start to hear it everywhere.
You'd go to a cafe and you'd hear it. You'd go to a bar and you'd hear it.
Your mum's friend had heard it, your neighbour had heard it.
For a little while, it was sort of inescapable.
Before long, the Buena Vista Social Club album became synonymous
with the growing high street coffee culture
and a familiar soundtrack at many dinner parties.
The great triumph of the Buena Vista Social Club record was marketing.
World Circuit Records are masters of marketing and presentation.
It looked beautiful.
We sent out hundreds and hundreds of copies,
because we just thought there was something special there.
A year after recording,
the original line-up embarked on a tour of Europe and the US.
When we called them to go on tour, it was the first time in years
that they went out of the country - in YEARS.
Touring with them was fantastic. They were very excited
and the rider was great,
it wasn't beer on the rider, it was warm milk, which was quite nice.
My wife became the nurse for the old guys, to give them the medicines
because they were musicians and they forgot the medicines.
One of the stops on the tour was playing at Carnegie Hall,
New York's leading concert venue.
I think that would have been the first time
nearly all of them had been to the states.
There was an embargo, we shouldn't forget.
They didn't just not play there cos they chose not to,
they weren't allowed to play there.
For the past 40 years, the relationship between Cuba
and the USA had been marked with fear and distrust.
Since then, Cuba had remained cut off from its neighbouring superpower.
It was a very rare chance that we got these licences
to bring them in to play,
so, you know, America hadn't seen them,
it wasn't just that they hadn't seen America, America hadn't seen them.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
They walked on stage and the place erupted.
And it's loud, that place, when it's full,
and you know, a shiver goes up your spine.
HE SINGS IN SPANISH
There was a huge sort of warmth coming from the audience to the stage
and they really played. Marcos had them, he was firing them up.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
It was very important to play there
and to see the response of the audience.
The people standing, the people clapping
and singing the Cuban music, the music we grew up with.
It was unbelievable.
It was a story made for cinema,
and luckily, director Wim Wenders was there to film it all.
When his documentary was nominated for an Oscar,
the old players of the Buena Vista Social Club
became global stars on screen as well as on stage.
Now, everybody, after the success of the Buena Vista,
wanted to make money with the name.
Spirit of Buena Vista, The Passion of Buena Vista,
Live From Buena Vista, The Bar at Buena Vista.
Even Nick had to make a trademark of the name.
People started recording a lot of old Cubans after that!
I got asked a lot, "When is the next Buena Vista?
"What's happening next? What's next? What's next?"
Sort of, "Let's do a Buena Vista there,"
or, "Let's do a Buena Vista here," which I found a bit weird,
because it wasn't, it was very... not contrived, this thing,
we partly made it by accident.
Accident or not,
the Buena Vista Social Club album hit a key formula for success.
Through repackaging Cuba's abandoned musical past,
it presented a very different country
before the days of Communism and embargoes.
In an age of increasing globalisation,
the feeling of stepping into a world on the verge of disappearance
The worldwide success of Buena Vista Social Club showed
how music from other cultures could be presented to a global audience.
It was no longer enough to have the right sound.
Music would also need to be accompanied by a strong story
and some photogenic characters.
And like a mirage, one band emerged from the sands of the Sahara
with the perfect backstory.
The legend has it that they were going into battle
with AK-47s and electric guitars strapped across their backs.
THEY SING IN TAMASHEK
Tinariwen were the Tuareg nomadic warriors
that rose from the desert wars of Mali,
bringing with them a slow African blues groove.
Lots of bands know how to rock, but very few know how to roll
and Tinariwen, by God, they know how to roll!
THEY SING IN TAMASHEK
There's a slightly menacing quality,
a kind of gang quality about Tinariwen,
which I'd not really seen since the heyday of The Clash.
As band biographies go, even The Clash have nothing on Tinariwen.
When Libyan ruler Gaddafi was gathering young Tuareg men
to fight in his territorial wars,
the founding members of Tinariwen, exiled by the Malian government,
answered the call.
Along with learning how to fight, they would also pass the time
in the camps discovering western blues and rock music.
The Tuareg message was finding a new sound
and their home-made cassettes were traded widely throughout the Sahara.
The truth is that if you talk to a lot of Tuareg,
not even Tuareg musicians, just normal Tuareg,
and you say, "How did you first become aware of the Tuareg cause?"
It would be, "Because we listened to a cassette of a song by Tinariwen."
Conflicts rumbled on throughout the '90s
between Malian forces and Tuareg rebels.
Apparently they started the rebellion in June 1990
with, like, six old German hunting rifles
and a couple of Tuareg swords or something, you know,
and all the old guard of Tinariwen were combatants in that rebellion,
they were soldiers, you know,
but they all considered themselves musicians first, soldiers second.
Their music would find a way out of the North African desert
when they met producer Justin Adams.
It was really like a Western movie or
what's it called, the Kurosawa movie... Seven Samurai.
It was like, that because one by one,
the dudes turned up.
Then there was the day that this thin guy, with tangled hair,
turned up where we were staying and he came in,
quiet to the point of... A completely introverted-looking guy.
He sat down in the tent where we were sitting, having tea,
and he got his guitar out
and it was a moment that still sends shivers down my spine, thinking of,
because he started to play the guitar so gently, just touching
the strings, and this absolutely mesmerisingly-beautiful scales.
And then hit a gentle, lilting rhythm and then started to sing.
There must have been ten or 15 Tuareg men or women
sitting around in the tent.
When he hit the chorus, everybody started singing.
HE SINGS IN TUAREG LANGUAGE
Everybody knew the song.
It was clearly an anthem, written by this guy.
I could tell that we were sitting with an absolute master.
It helped their rock image that they had a lead singer with
Jimi Hendrix looks
and Justin wasted no time getting Tinariwen into
whatever studio space he could find
in the communes of northern Mali.
The way that Tinariwen had recorded mostly was
they just used to put a cassette in their ghetto blaster,
sit round, play and that was the record they'd made.
Then that cassette would be copied.
Immediately after making Radio Tisdas,
the Tinariwen collective held a meeting of Tuaregs that,
by accident, became a mini festival.
Everyone was saying to me,
"When we go to the festival, you will see the camels dancing".
I was like, "Yeah, right.
"I'll see camels dancing." But sure enough, they do this fantastic thing
where the women sit in circles and are playing the tinde drum.
Suddenly, on the horizon, you see camels coming at top speed
These guys with all the veils, amazing costumes.
Looking cool as hell.
They come as close as they can to the circles of women,
like young guys on motorbikes. Showing off, basically.
Then they start to control the camel and they circle the group
and this is where they do this kind of thing where
they control the camel and the camel dances to the music.
HE SINGS IN TUAREG LANGUAGE
Adventurous festival-goers started to descend in greater numbers,
hoping to glimpse a unique culture in its natural habitat.
The troubled existence of the Tuareg was starting to reach
a new audience through the music that became known as desert blues.
The Tuareg call their music assouf.
It means the pain that isn't physical. So it's the blues.
In 2007, Tinariwen went back into the studio
and emerged with a new album.
They embarked on a year-long tour of Europe and the US,
taking the Tuareg message with them.
I spoke to the band
and I said this is really your chance to communicate with the world now.
HE SINGS IN TUAREG LANGUAGE
The minute they started playing live, it connected with people.
Tinariwen were immediately seized upon by the international media.
They were excited because they were beginning to see that their music
had a life outside the desert.
In the summer of 2007, Tinariwen swapped the sands of the desert
for the mud of Somerset and took the stage at Glastonbury.
HE SINGS IN TUAREG LANGUAGE
When you do a thing like that,
what's for sure is that suddenly there are 15,000 people
like, "What the hell is this?
"I've never seen anything like that before."
It really felt that we were beginning to go
way beyond the world music lovers
to a new crowd of guitar fans, basically.
It's something very difficult for music outside
a Western rock milieu to work
for a rock and pop audience in a way that is instantly convincing.
Tinariwen definitely do that.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Thank you! Thank you!
Increasingly, the secret to being a world music star today is
the ability to present an authentic past to a modern audience.
In the tavernas of Lisbon, a young singer of African birth
was giving an old tradition a contemporary international twist.
SHE SINGS FADO
Born in Mozambique and raised in Portugal,
Mariza was the new face of fado.
SHE SINGS FADO SONG
My parents, they moved to Lisboa
and they rent a little taverna,
and fado was the music who everybody used to listen and to sing.
So I started singing fado at five years old.
Fado is Portugal's own blues music -
full of melancholy and a sense of despair -
which started life as the drunken songs
of sailors and fisherwomen in the 19th century.
When I went to high school,
everybody was asking me, "What do you do in your free time?"
And the first times I used to say, "Well, I like to sing fado.
And they were like, "Ooh, fado. Urgh. That's for old people."
And I was like, "Really?"
These mournful songs, with anguished lyrics about love,
the sea and city life, were the heartbeat of the streets of Lisbon.
Since the 1930s, fado had enjoyed a golden age in Portugal
and achieved international success with the Queen of Fado,
SHE SINGS FADO SONG
But since the 1980s, the blanket spread of western pop
meant that fado was seen as unfashionable
amongst young urban Portuguese -
an embarrassing reminder of their country's impoverished past.
And suddenly Amalia died.
And it was a very sad time for all of us Portuguese people.
They decide to make a tribute on television.
Mariza was plucked from a new generation of singers
to perform in her memory on national television.
SHE SINGS FADO
Everybody starts talking about the blond fado girl.
Suddenly I was singing in several cities in Portugal.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Mariza's debut album displayed the word "fado" boldly on its cover.
And suddenly, boom! In Portugal, only in Portugal,
I sell 120,000 copies.
It was a lot because now only a fado record used to sell
about 3,000 to 5,000.
In 2002, Mariza broke onto the international scene,
performing at WOMAD.
-The songs you sing are called fa...fado?
-What is fado?
Fado is a kind of melancholic music. We don't have only melancholic fado.
I used to say it's like the Portuguese blues, you know.
Her international following was growing.
The winner is,
combining supreme elegance with all the angst of the Portuguese fado...
..the divine Mariza.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Within two years, Mariza had shot to global fame,
selling out prestigious venues in both London and New York.
I mean, Mariza, I've always enjoyed.
Though she was brought up within fado,
she was born in Africa and she'd sung rock music,
so she brought these other kind of... This other sensibility to what she does.
But she's also somebody who really can sing fado amazingly.
I still want to sing with the basis and roots of fado,
but more and more I want to do my own fado.
'And I think that is fair with an artist.
'Because if you don't have your personality inside of the music,
'or your stamp in the music...'
..you're not saying anything to anyone.
SHE SINGS FADO
Mariza had given fado a 21st-century makeover,
with a new-found confidence in its roots, and crossover appeal.
The new Queen of Fado, Mariza!
So many artists are coming through who are like her.
You know, they know so much, they speak English,
they're sophisticated people in charge of their careers.
But they're also realising at a very early age
that what they grow from is tremendously important.
In other words, they put a real value on their traditions.
'The world, in a way, has turned to look at its history in all sorts of ways.'
And that brings with it the kind of roots, if you like,
that a lot of this great music is about.
'The internet has created a dissolved chronological area
'as well as dissolving national borders, so the music just appears.
'You might hear something now that,
once upon a time in the '70s and '80s, would've sounded old-fashioned.
An antique, and therefore of no use.
But now it sounds fresh and therefore new and exciting.
'There's this mad profusion of different roots,'
and of people joining up
and exploring different beats and different styles.
Personally, you know, bring it on. I think it's fantastic.
And now it doesn't have to be called world music.
You're just hearing a music.
It's a fado or it's a singer from this country
or it's a rhythm from that country.
And it's just part of this new decentred zone, if you will.
The world has become dispersed and diverse.
This was its dream.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Documentary telling the story of the British world music revolution from the early 1980s to the present. Through a variety of careers, starting with Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys and culminating with Portugal's Mariza in the new millennium, the film explores what it takes to bring music from 'out there' over here.
Through the testimony of artists from all around the world alongside key British producers and broadcasters including Andy Kershaw, Joe Boyd and Nick Gold, it tracks the evolving story of what British audiences have wanted from what has come to be called 'world music' and what a range of artists including Les Mystere des Voix Bulgares, Salif Keita, Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Buena Vista Social Club and Tinariwen have made of us.
At the dawn of the 80s, in an age of spandex and synthesizers, many music fans were becoming bored with the pop charts and hungered for a new music that could excite them once again. Where music from the rest of the world had once been regarded as mere exotica, there was increasingly a sense that world music could be the future of pop music.
The documentary traces the hopes and ambitions of a new music industry as cultures came together for the first time, producing much brilliant music and a degree of human comedy.
From the tribal warriors of Mali who fought in rebellions with guitars and guns strapped to their shoulders, all-female choirs from the other side of the Iron Curtain playing to rock fans, a band from Zimbabwe who supported Madonna to a group of old men from Cuba who took the world by storm with their music from another era, these tales from musicians from out there arriving over here trace an evolving market that has both offered a blueprint for the future and an escape into a romantic past.