Have You Heard? – (6) The Worldwide sound of Gilles Peterson

I like a lot of different kinds of music. It can confuse people – how can you possibly like Metallica and, I dunno, Joni Mitchell?  How can you reconcile  Bruce Springsteen with Underworld? The Clash with Alicia Keys? Kate Bush with The Pixies? Burning Spear with Budgie? Ed Sheeran with Far East Movement (two of my 2011 favourites – see my list). Oasis with Blur (90s battle reference!). Random choices for illustration.  The answer is, very easily, I just love music, all kinds of music.

And one of the types of music I love most is hard to categorise. It’s a whole potpourri of sounds: jazz-dance-soul-world-funk-reggae-rap-electronica, all mixed up, feeding off each other, but all distinguished by having the groove.

The DJ Gilles Peterson, for me, captures this music on the radio better than anyone else.  He has been doing so for many, many years. I admire his passion, his knowledge, his joy in sharing what he knows with all of us. At the moment he has a show on BBC Radio 1 in midweek at 2am. Not exactly mainstream.  But with the i-player you can listen to it when you want. Every time I listen I hear so many songs which cry out, download me! And often I do.

I think all these sounds really began to come together in the eighties and nineties.  That was the era when barriers truly began to break down, when technology allowed artists to borrow from wherever they wanted, when listeners were exposed to more sounds than ever before.  The nineties in particular saw new fusions.  Jazz and rap made perfect partners – the likes of Guru, from Gang Starr, Stetasonic and Dream Warriors to the fore.  The accelerated beats of rave and jungle collided with reggae and jazz.  The compilation series “Rebirth of Cool”, which continued for eight volumes, I think, encapsulated this fusion better than anything for me.  I’d buy each new volume eagerly anticipating the discoveries I would make. They would always lead me on to new sounds, new fusions.  There were many other examples, and you could guarantee that Gilles Peterson was in there somewhere. As well as his radio shows, he has brought out so many brilliant CD compilations over the years: the “Worldwide” series, ventures into Brazil, journeys back to sixties jazz in London, the “Brownswood Bubblers” in recent times. An amazing mix of sounds, full of soul, sometimes spaced out, always on the beat.

So I’ve come to think of the genre – if it isn’t too varied to be a genre – as the Worldwide sound, the Gilles Peterson sound. Here are just a few of the tracks I’ve loved in recent times, which I’ve discovered in one way or another through the good offices of Gilles Peterson.

(A warning: a friend at work a few years ago who was mostly into country rock described this kind of music as “jazz w – – k”. The average metallist might think so too.  But I love it all, and the worldwide groove has probably been on my stereo, and now the iMac and iPod, more than anything).

The first here is a jazzy rap tune called “PJ’s” featuring Raekwon.  I love that mid tempo rap groove, and that Morricone sound effect that breaks out from time to time.

This next one is  a Brazilian groove called “Meninho” by Patricia Marx, which is just made for dancing. I’ve got it on a “Gilles Peterson in Brazil” compilation.

I first came across Joy Orbison on an NME Radar on-line selection, but this track, called “Wet Look”, is very much a Gilles Peterson thing too. Avant-electro.

Roots Manuva is maybe the greatest British rapper.  Here, on “Again and Again”, he mixes up the sound with a serious reggae beat.  This one actually has a proper video.  Is it cricket?

This one is space music, pure ambience. “Space Hammock” by Carlos y Gaby. That is all I know. But it infiltrates and engulfs you.

And just to show the roots of this worldwide groove, here’s a jazz-funky thing from Roy Ayers, seventies style.  “We Live In Brooklyn Baby”.  How cool is that title? Worldwide music is also, in many ways, New York music.

Just the tip of the coolest iceberg.  Check out Gilles on the i-player for more every week.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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