The Music Plays On — Real World Records

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June 21 is not only the one-hundredth day of my The Music Plays On articles but, more importantly, it’s World Music Day, or Fête de la musique. Today is a day that celebrates music and music-making around the world. Originally conceived by Maurice Fleuret in France in 1982, it now includes more than 120 countries. While I was music director of the New Hampshire Music Festival, we were the cornerstone organization that brought Fête de la musique to New Hampshire for the first time by launching Make Music Plymouth! on June 21, 2014.

Real World Records was created in 1989 by Peter Gabriel and WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), a festival also created by Peter Gabriel, and this label has helped make available music from around the world unlike any other. Before the dawn of the internet, it was initiatives like Real World Records that helped reveal the world’s incredible wealth and variety of music. But what makes it unique is that it also pairs artists from completely disparate backgrounds to create partnerships and out of this frisson, record something that is completely new and unique.

I remember very clearly the first release on Real World Records. It was the summer of 1989 and Martin Scorsese’s film, The Last Temptation of Christ had been released the year prior to much scandal and pearl clutching. The soundtrack had been composed by Peter Gabriel. He reflects on this soundtrack —

He also writes, “In my research for Passion, many people mentioned the wonderful resources of the National Sound Archive and in particular introduced me to Lucy Duran, who both understood what I was hoping to achieve and made lots of great suggestions. Scorsese had asked for a new type of score that was neither ancient nor modern, that was not a pastiche but had clear references to the region, traditions and atmospheres, but was in itself a living thing.”

So many artists were introduced to Western audiences with the release of this soundtrack — Youssou N’Dour, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal — it won the Grammy Award for best soundtrack and is one of the greatest soundtracks ever conceived.

Gabriel and Real World Records would help to showcase these unique artists even more with the release of Passion Sources, also in 1989.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who I’ve written about in a previous article, had perhaps the most worldwide exposure because of his Real World Records recordings, and it’s important to once again share his unique gifts with his first recording on this label, Shahen Shah (the first track of both Passion Sources and Shahen Shah are the same).

In the thirty one years since Real World Records’ inception, there are simply too many indispensable records to list. However, here are a few from throughout the years that I cannot live without.

Written by

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic

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