Album choice: Various Artists - Real World 25

Real World 25
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Artist: Various
Genre: World Music
Label: Real World

The Real World label was founded by Peter Gabriel 25 years ago, just a few years after the establishment of the Womad Festival, and two years after the London meeting when the term "World Music" was first mooted by a convention of labels, broadcasters and journos seeking easier record-shop categorisation of their diverse roster of artists.

The record shops may be gone, and many bemoan the ghettoisation of the genre, but Real World has demonstrated the benefits of a collective home for "Local Music from Out There", as Roots magazine terms it. The Real World studios in southwest England provided a rural haven for musicians, many of whom, despite great renown in their home countries and triumphant performances at Womad, struggled to find any sort of recording deal in the West. Cross-cultural collaborations were de rigueur, and the excitement and creative potential arising from the mingling of artists there is palpable in the "Tales from Real World" accounts included here.

The three discs in the celebratory package are divided into significant highlights, buried treasures and the people’s choices, and represent more than 30 countries. The collection begins with the transcendent voice of the late qawwali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Peter Gabriel’s pan-global Passion soundtrack was a significant breakthrough of musical awareness for many. The Blind Boys of Alabama achieved their international recognition with their albums on Real World.

More recent highlights include the Ethio-Dub grooves of Dub Colossus and the remarkable transformation of English folk with the beats and rhythms of The Imagined Village. Among the popular favourites are Sheila Chandra's divine Ever So Lonely, Yungchen Lhamo's breathtaking Happiness is... and the Afro-Celts, with Iarla O'Lionaird and Sinéad O'Connor in full flight on Release.