January 26, 2021
Excavated Shellac rejects the western canon of pop, rock, jazz, classical and more to champion 78rpm gems from overlooked corners of the world – ‘an alternate universe’, according to the man behind it
Kyrgyzstan ballads, Okinawan folk, Ugandan hymns … the album rewriting global music history
Imagine an anthology of 20th-century music making that purposely ignored pop, rock, jazz, blues, country, classical and opera. Cue outrage, at least from English-speaking listeners. But away from the western canon that has come to dominate our conception of music-making, much of the world was busy creating swathes of very different, extremely beautiful music.
These overlooked styles are collated on a new 100-track compilation, An Alternate History of the World’s Music, and presumptuous as it may seem to announce that the best album of 2021 has already been released, to my mind it’s unlikely it will be topped. Helmed by Dust-to-Digital, the US label that has done a magnificent Job with box sets chronicling overlooked areas of pre-second world war music, the digital release also features a 186-page ebook (complete with beautiful illustrations like the ones here), in which every tune gets discussed – the first is a South African miner’s protest against police brutality, the last a sultry Cuban dance tune whose singers sound like they might have been hitting the rum while recording. This sonic smorgasbord from across the globe lives up to the provocative title, with music from Afghanistan, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Uganda, Spain, Albania, Mongolia, Mexico and elsewhere. Ever wondered what the Crimean Tartar Orchestra might sound like? Well, their raucous, minor key, brass party music is fabulous.
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