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How to be a World Music Star

How to be a World Music Star; The A-Z of World Music

Fri Aug 23, 9-10.30pm & 10.30pm-12midnight, BBC4

By Phil Harrison
The dissolving effects of the internet on continents, genres and even temporality means that the term ‘world music’ is surely all but redundant now. But as recently as the ’80s, it was a hotly contested area raising issues relating to race, colonialism, first world cultural complacency and economic exploitation.

For our money, the documentary ‘How to be a World Music Star’ doesn’t engage significantly enough with these areas, instead opting for an episodic ramble through a selective history of the form. The story is told largely through the eyes of world music’s white Western advocates including Joe Boyd and inevitably, Andy Kershaw. Still, it contains plenty of good yarns, lovely archive footage and of course, epic music ranging from the Bhundu Boys to Tinarawen.

‘The A to Z of World Music’ is surprisingly, slightly more satisfying. It’s essentially a list show, but accepts its self-imposed limitations and concentrates on delivering a well-chosen selection of complete performances interspersed with archive interviews.

It’s worth watching for many reasons, not least Sally James’s hilariously patronising interview with King Sunny Adé, the unspoken subtext of which seems to be Sally’s mild surprise at learning Nigerians have electricity, let alone a thriving music industry. A fine use of the BBC’s presumably overflowing archives and a fine use of your Friday evening too.

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