Is anyone else seeking out the fine CDs in the World Music Library (King Record Company of Japan) series? Friends and I have been buying these CDs for a while now, as they appear. Tower stocks a few in all bay area locations, and so does Amoeba.
Almost all the CDs are over an hour, with a lot over 70 minutes. They are uniformly of excellent sound quality. This is in part due to their willingness to fly entire groups and soloists to their studio in Tokyo (most notably an entire Turkish marching band- each instrument of which is represented by 9 players). But the location recordings of Thai, Vietnamese, and other material are also flawless. Each CD has a map of the world, pointing out where the music included is from.
There are something like 70 CDs in the series thus far. I do not have even half. Overall, there's little risk in buying them. The only one I've been disappointed with so far is the Nigerian Beat/Twins Seven Seven- but not for its production values. Prices range from $12.99 to $15.99 around San Francisco.
On the down side, there is rarely much information, at least in English, about the players, and photos are usually of the instruments.
Some of my favorite CDs in the series:
But try any of them- Sundanese Classical Music, Music of Iraq, Music of Myanmar, etc. You won't be sorry.
- Turkish Military Band Music of Ottoman Empire must be heard. Very wacky stuff.
- Jegog of Negara This is giant bamboo gamelan music. Two of the three pieces end in "mebarung", or two orchestras battling it out. Amazing bass lines here, too.
- Music of Northeast Thailand It's on now. The khaen reed instrument solo that opens this CD is likely to be of great interest to any fan of forceful free jazz.
- Festive Drums of Kerala I have avoided most of the Indian material on this series because so much is available from other sources with a less ethnographic perspective. But this is an amazing disc. These guys rock. Sometimes sounds like stuff I thought possible only on a drum machine.
- String Instruments of Vietnam Don tron and other fine instruments, recorded at Hanoi University.
- Mongolian Morin Khuur/Chi Bulico You don't know it, but you need more than one Mongolian music CD. The Morin Khuur is described on the cover as being carved from the "skull of a house" but they mean it's a string instrument adorned with a wooden horse head.
- Mongolian Epic Song: Zhangar Vocal music that is relatively soothing and unlike any you've heard.