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Listening to the other

World music is a huge global business, but in musical terms it doesn't actually exist. For the authentic vibe, listen to the tinkle of money changing hands

By Ivan Hewett   March 2001

world music is an oddity. It is a multi-million- dollar global business, whose stars are becoming as well known in Britain as our home-grown ones. It has its own fanzines, reference books and experts. And yet in a fundamental sense it does not exist. Although there are many “world music” performers, there are no performers of world music; there are only performers of Algerian rai, Genoese tra-la-lero, Peruvian chica or whatever. This reflects the fact that world music is not a musical category, but a commercial one. Its birth can be precisely dated to July 1987, when 11 independent record…

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