25 Years of Real World Records

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rw25

Real World 25 (3 CD retrospective set, 28 page booklet containing the story of 25 Years of Real World Records, and a collection of Real World Tales with contributions from musicians, producers, designer and managers),  Real World Records

edited from afropop.org:

Real World Records turns 25 this year. That any record label dedicated to global sounds has survived this long is impressive; many others have gone by the wayside or changed course.  Real World 25, a threeCD compilation drawing from the label’s more than 200 releases, offers an expansive tour of this history with music ranging from Thomas Mapfumo,  Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hukwe Zawose, Remmy Ongala. Papa Wemba, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

Looking at Real World’s African releases, a number of things stand out—starting with the label’s trademark diversity. Real World shepherded Congolese vocal star Papa Wemba through his most successful experimental phase, when he wrestled to become an artist in his own right, unconstrained by the fierce conformity of Congolese pop.

Aside from Remmy Ongala, Real World brought to light acts that few of us might ever have heard about otherwise. I’m thinking of the northern Mozambique folk-pop band Eyuphuro, or Kenya’s idiosyncratic maestro Ayub Ogada, the transfixing sonic textures of Tanzania’s Hukwe Zawose and family, or Somalia’s legendary (at least in Somalia) singer Maryam Mursal, all of whom produced classic, enduring releases for Real World.

The label has also released works by recognized African icons, including Thomas Mapfumo, the Lion of Zimbabwe. Real World’s 2006 Mapfumo release Rise Up may be the most important album of the singer’s years in exile from Zimbabwe. “What an extraordinary artist,” says Jones. “Talk about people of political significance, artists who are worldchanging—Thomas Mapfumo is exactly that.” Of course, political impact is not a requirement for Real World either—just a nice plus. And Mapfumo certainly passes the passion test.

Looking back on 25 years, Real World’s veteran director Amanda Jones sees vividly how the landscape has changed. Back then, international music releases mostly came from what she calls “library labels” like Ocora and Le Chant du Monde in France, or Lyrichord and Nonesuch Explorer in the U.S., all of which tended to focus on traditions. The idea of specializing in contemporary international music was just dawning, especially in the U.S.

Today, with the Internet and YouTube, Jones sees “a great democratizing of access to the music.” But these developments have raised a new set of problems for aspiring global artists—namely, distinguishing yourself amid a vast ocean of offerings.

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