compiled by Ross Simonini

CD enclosed with the July/August 2008 print issue

  1. Tartit, “Ansari”
  2. Animal Collective, “Winters Love”
  3. Sholi, “Hejrat”
  4. Googoosh, “Makhloogh”
  5. Gang Gang Dance, “Nicoman”
  6. Beat Konducta, “Dancing Girls Theme”
  7. Think Of One, “Antwaarpse Shaâbi”
  8. Aceyalone, “Sound Gun”
  9. Busy Signal, “Knocking At Your Door”
  10. Dirty Projectors, “Finches’ Song At Oceanic Parking Lot”
  11. Ensemble Pirin, “Di-Li-Do”
  12. Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities, “What They Said (Barnburner Mix)”
  13. Mahmoud Ahmed, “Abbay Mado”
  14. High Places, “Golden”
  15. Ya Bounma, “Jing Riang Me Lun”
  16. Lucky Dragons, “Complement Song”

An ethnomusicological wind is blowing through the valley of American music. Of late, hordes of rock and hip-hop musicians—referred to from here on as MABELs (Musicians of American, British, or [Western] European Lineage)—are drawing inspiration from musical traditions by Nigerian, Peruvian, Indonesian, and other non-local musicians—referred to here as ANABELs (Artists Not of American, British, or [Western] European Lineage). (Here it should be noted that our little acronymic friends, MABEL and ANABEL, were born as a way of avoiding broad, inaccurate locutions such as “world music,” “Anglo music,” and other unfortunate “us vs. them” terminology.) Musicians like Beirut create entire styles out of Balkan Gypsy music; singers such as Devendra Banhart sing Spanish lyrics in homage to Tropicália; Radiohead nods to Jorge Ben; Vampire Weekend borrows from reggaeton beats; and producers such as Bill Laswell and Timbaland merge dub and bhangra into otherwise apple-pie rock-pop genres.

Part of this recent amalgamation is, of course, linked to the advent of the Internet. Almost every MABEL on this year’s comp cites YouTube as their treasure trove filled with lo-fidelity clips of obscure musicians playing genres previously known only to intrepid sound scholars. Then there’s all the fantastic podcasts and blogs—e.g., Benn loxo du taccu, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Cool Places, and DJ Diplo’s Mad Decent mixtapes—tended by fervent music fans who travel, collect musical relics, and post their discoveries online for the world to reap.

Additionally, a myriad of small labels have begun to unearth and curate songs from distant, often unreachable provinces. Compilation series such as the Rough Guides, the Secret Museum of Mankind, or Golden Afrique capture the sounds of religious ceremonies or people performing in their living rooms. The Sublime Frequencies radio comps are literally the sound of turning on the radio in, for example, Syria, twisting the dials, and recording the multifarious noises that emerge. (For more on Sublime Frequencies, see our interview with the label’s fearless leader, Alan Bishop.)

This comp explores the many ways that these newly available sounds by ANABELs have seeped into the music of MABELs, both the pop and experimental varieties. Every track by a MABEL contains a prominent nod to an ANABEL—a vocal embellishment, a drum beat, a timbral manipulation of a synthesized didgeridoo. In many cases, the line between genres is blurred so thoroughly that one is forced into terrible acts of taxonomical description, such as southeastern-Laotian-psych-folk. The track descriptions below attempt to avoid such linguistic horrors.

Furthermore, each MABEL on this comp is matched with an ANABEL that functions as its inspirational counterpart. In some cases, the MABELs claim their track to be inspired by a specific song (or a specific part of a specific song) by an ANABEL. In other cases, the MABEL’s influence was more broadly drawn from an ANABEL’s entire body of work, and in a few instances, an ANABEL’s music is actually embedded into the MABEL’s music, either through sampling or real-live performance. In almost every case, both the MABELs and ANABELs remain alive and productive.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Ross Simonini is the interviews editor for the Believer.

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