Real World Records, the brainchild of Peter Gabriel, has launched 200 albums since its concept in 1989. What makes the label so rewarding is the breadth of global music it covers. From Pakistani sufi music to Ethiopian dub, Cambodian indie-rock to Mexican ska. To celebrate their achievment Real World are digging into their vaults to re-release some of the classics. The first two to roll out the door will be from the mighty Afro Celt Sound System, here are our top picks:
Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 1: Sound Magic
Sound Magic, was released on 15 July 1996, and was the first fruit of a collaboration between a group of the finest African musicians, their counterparts from the Celtic communities of western Europe and several of Britain’s most respected dance music producers. The album featured three of Ireland’s most respected traditional and folk musicians, sean nós singer Iarla O’Lionaird and Uilleann pipers Davy Spillane and Ronan Browne; Pogue member James McNally on whistle, bodhran and accordion; Kenyan nyatiti player Ayub Ogada; Kauwding Cissokho and Masamba Diop, two members of Baaba Maal’s band; and an all-star ensemble of African and Celtic musicians.
Produced by Simon Emmerson, the Grammy-nominated producer behind Senegalese singer Baaba Maal’s albums Firin In Fouta and Lam Toro (both of which featured contributions from Celtic musicians), Sound Magic is the brainchild of Emmerson and Jamie Reid, the artist responsible for the original Sex Pistols’ record sleeves.
Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 2: Release
After the first record’s six-figure sales, this was the moment that the open-armed collaboration truly became a band, a statement of unity and purpose to prove that Sound Magic was no one-off. At turns driving and pensive, joyful and melancholic, Release offered further confirmation that Celtic stringed instruments and African percussion were the most natural of bedfellows, soaring and swooping as one. And that, for that matter, there was nothing wrong with old-as-the-hills musical traditions being turbo-charged by the latest sounds from the clubs. Sinead O’Connor and Youth are among the special guests.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mustt Mustt
This 1990 classic was the record that turned on many people to the zero-gravity voice of another of Real World’s most emblematic artists – the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Described by Jeff Buckley as “my Elvis”, with Mustt Mustt Nusrat unlocked the door to the beguiling sound of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis.
Sheila Chandra – Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective
Starting off with a reprise of Ever So Lonely, the Top 20 pop hit she had as a teenager with her band Monsoon, Moonsung gathers together the finest moments from the three albums that Anglo-Indian singer Sheila Chandra made for Real World in the 1990s. And this compilation confirms what an under-rated artist she truly is. Singular in vision and open-eared in her musical exploration, Chandra is also in possession of a thing of great wonder – a voice that’s weightless and supremely graceful.
Various Artist’s – Imagined Village
Folk used to be a four-letter word, but The Imagined Village project took it down from the shelves, dusted it off and showed how it should sound in 21st-century, multi-cultural England. Accordingly this record finds evergreen folkies like Martin Carthy, his daughter Eliza and The Copper Family rubbing shoulders with Benjamin Zephaniah and Sheila Chandra. Oh, and some bloke called Paul Weller. Not just a gripping piece of music, these recordings were crucial in helping to define Englishness in our confused and confusing times…
Real World have also been digging into the video vaults and for the first time online you can see the full length documentary ‘A Real World Recorded’ – the story of the 1991 Recording Week featuring Peter Gabriel and a host of international musicians who spent one week working together at Real World Studios in Box, Wiltshire.
Also, watch this rare video from 1999 where Peter Gabriel takes a tour of Real World Studios for the label’s 10th birthday and introduces some of the artists now featured in the Real World Gold series.