Songs to save the planet

A new CD compilation series aims to combine funky tunes with fundraising for developing countries.
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Are charities and music comfortable bedfellows? For all the good work done by Live 8 and Live Aid, there will always be detractors who question the motives of those involved, or worry about the process of getting the money to those who need it. But, with a sparkling new range of world music CDs that boasts two UK charity heavyweights, compiled by a critically acclaimed label, and sporting 100 per cent recycled packaging, there's no doubt that Th!nk Global is a new compilation series that wears its heart on its sleeve.

World Music Network has been involved with various international charities since its inception. This, general manager Brad Haynes says, is partly due to label boss Phil Stanton's long association with Africa. "He was working as a teacher in Kenya and the Sudan years ago, and built up a strong connection with the place. He also got a chance to see these humanitarian rights organisations working at ground level, and I think he saw the strong connection between music and culture and humanitarian work.

"We've been working with charity organisations from pretty much the beginning of World Music Network and the Rough Guide compilations. We did CDs with VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas], Christian Aid and World Development Movement. And over the last five to six years we've been doing CDs in conjunction with Amnesty International and Oxfam [the two charities involved in this new series]. But we felt that we wanted to step up the partnership and present things in a new way."

Stanton has compiled Th!nk Global's West Africa Unwired CD, which boasts artists such as the Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal, Guinea's Mory Kante, Mali's Toumani Diabate and Niger's dusty desert bluesmen Etran Finitawa. This, in itself, is nothing new. There are numerous African compilations of varying quality in the marketplace, and a great many that World Music Network have themselves put out. Indeed, four of 13 tracks on the West Africa compilation are by artists on their own roster (Mory Kante, Nuru Kane, Daby Balde, Etran Finatawa), but Haynes rebuffs the idea that this is simply repackaging to sell more records.

"It's done in terms of helping these charities get their message out to markets that they aren't already involved with. Royalties from the CDs go to the organisations as well. It's a natural progression to be thinking about these sorts of things with world music. Many of the songs that are being sung by these artists are about things like famine, Aids, and various other problems, both political and social."

It's certainly an ethos that Amnesty spokesman Neil Durkin is happy with. "It's aiming to do three things. Firstly, it wants to raise awareness of human rights issues, and the main thrust of that is through people playing the CD and thinking about the message that Amnesty has got on the CD, and looking at our website. Then there's Oxfam's work on development, which is well known, but people will be coming at it through music, so that's an interesting way in. And then of course the CD cases are 100 per cent recyclable, which is sending out a good message.

"I think that it's really important that the two worlds can be brought together on projects like Th!nk Global."

The other CD being released is Bellydance, compiled by world music aficionado Nili Belkind, who has sequenced the album specifically for dancers. According to Katie Abbott, a spokesperson for Oxfam, it's another in a long line of music-related projects that the organisation has been involved with. "We see music as another way to engage with people, and our involvement ranges from putting on large-scale music events, through to selling CDs in our shops. And this CD is just another example of that programme."

Th!nk Global compilations 'West Africa Unwired' and 'Bellydance' are out on World Music Network on 25 September,