The noble attempt to fix the shifting sands of music from around the world has been likened to the book equivalent of Apocalypse Now. A project whose twists and turns continually threaten to overwhelm its resources makes it all the more welcome and cherished as it arrives
Volume Two focuses on Europe, Asia and the other bits that don’t fit well like Australia (hence the Pacific bit). We have already had the wonderful Africa & Middle East edition. Only the Americas have been left out, will they get their own volume or forever be cast adrift?
The country-by-country format works well mostly, with some wonderful insights into the unique features of national history and internal diversity that give us the framework to encounter new music with a bit less ignorance. Now and then the format is skipped such as the section on Gypsy music, where national barriers can be as much a hindrance as a help in comprehension.
An insight – not missed by the publishers no doubt – may be that this kind of enterprise is better suited to the web (no space restrictions, easy updates, links to music and so forth). However, there is something unique about print and a book in particular lets you come across stuff that you simply would never have thought to look for and there is something reassuring that the writers chosen to contribute have been noted for their knowledge and interest.
Attempts to accommodate the iPod generation with playlists to download and so forth work well. ‘Funky Vergina’ from Greece anyone? The layout is clear and good too. The one area where it could be seriously improved is in the use of photos (better paper and better choices of photos).
All in all a joy to peruse and a source of serendipitous delight.
(Notice that the image used by Amazon and copied on this review, has the Andy Kershaw quote that has adorned all of its predecessors. The actual book in the shops has a quote from the New York Times).