Mondomix – Petit Atlas des Musique du Monde (Book review)

Mondomix is an influential freesheet, website and multimedia empire from France dedicated to global music culture just like us at Fly. Their latest venture is a hardback book, published at the same time as Rough Guides’ new World Music: Volume 1. How does it stack up?

As one is in French and the other in English, in one sense it does not matter, very few punters will be interested in both but in another sense it is quite fascinating to compare them. Petit Atlas des Musique du Monde is (ironically perhaps) more of a travel guide than a pure reference. The travel may be in your mind but it is a personalised tour guide to what is best, most interesting, most worthy of making a detour for. Not surprisingly, it is somewhat slimmer than its British cousin but nonetheless aims to cover the whole world in one book (Rough Guides is going to come out in three parts, all of them larger than the Petit Atlas).
The Petit Atlas is also somehow the more charming. Colourful, hardback and full of lovely details like the overlapping world map at the back, where some territories make it into more than one area (as in real life), and full of history lessons, this book is like some impossibly worldly uncle generously sharing knowledge and more importantly enthusiasm.
Ancient and new maps, obligatory artist biog boxes, recommended listening lists and arrows with page numbers that let you navigate the world in your own chosen order, make this about as close to an interactive application as one of Caxton’s descendants could be.
Connoisseurs of the scene will be fascinated to see who is picked to be worthy of inclusion and who omitted in this version. How much of this is down to the editors’ preferences and how much down to the very different view of music from around the world held over the channel is hard to say. This is by no means a criticism though, that the French have been and remain more open to music from outside their own country than we are is undoubtedly the case and Mondomix have done more than anyone to help that be so.
And if you are thinking that the usual web rivalry (let alone the Anglo/French thing) does not apply here, you are right. We love Mondomix (and the French for that matter).
If your French is up to it, get yourself a copy and sail away, c’est la vie.

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