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The Guardian's List of 50 Key Events in the History of World, Folk Music Includes Several Ties to Nonesuch

Guardian: 50 Key Events in the History of World, Folk Music (2011)

The Guardian and Observer have published their list of the 50 key events in the history of world and folk music. On a list that also includes Pete Seeger's refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Bob Dylan's 1961 visit to Woody Guthrie, the release of Paul Simon's Graceland, and the popularization of the term "world music," there are four events that also have a direct link to the history of Nonesuch Records, events involving Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Youssou N'Dour, and Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, and one that would later impact Kronos Quartet.

Coming in at Number 29 on the list is the imprisonment of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil at the hands of Brazil's repressive regime on December 27, 1968. The Guardian's Robin Denselow describes the year as one "of political upheaval in Brazil, with a soundtrack provided by a new musical movement, tropicalia, headed by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso." The two were imprisoned and later exiled for three years. Veloso and Gil would mark the 25th anniversary of the movement with the release of Tropicália 2.


A decade and a continent away, at Number 37, is the 1979 formation of Youssou N'Dour's Étoile de Dakar in Dakar, Senegal. "Étoile became the dominant force in Senegalese music," writes the Guardian's Caspar Llewellyn Smith, "spurring the creation of the fusion sound of mbalax; when they split, Youssou went on to become a truly global star."


In between those two events, and yet another continent apart, is, at Number 34, the 1975 recording of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. It would take more than a decade before this recording of voices from the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir would be released in the United States on Nonesuch in 1987 and lead to a Grammy-winning follow-up volume. "The casually forthright female vocals, haunting glissandos and dissonant harmonies struck a chord with millions," writes the Guardian's John Lewis.


Still one more decade and hence, coming in at Number 47 on the list, is March 1996, when Ry Cooder joined the recording sessions that would become the best-selling Buena Vista Social Club album, "the album," says the Guardian's Neil Spencer, "that collapsed the cold war wall between Cuba and the west," the project that "conquered the planet."

Spencer explains: "Cooder's bluesy and Hawaiian licks helped give antique hits such as Chan Chan fresh legs, but central to the album's appeal was its evocation of pre-revolutionary Cuba, a world of faded ballrooms and 1950s cars."


Number 24 on the list would impact Nonesuch artists Kronos Quartet several decades after the initial event: the first collaboration of vocalist Asha Bhosle and composer RD Burman in 1966, on the film Teesri Manzil. The two would later marry and go on to create a legendary body of work "that revolutionised Hindi film music," says the Guardian's John Lewis. "Burman introduced elements of funk, jazz and garage rock into his sound, while Asha's voice—sexy and slightly cheeky—provided Bollywood with a daringly risqué element."

Nearly four decades after the couple's first professional pairing, Nonesuch would release You've Stolen My Heart, featuring Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle performing the music of RD Burman. The Independent said of the album: “Burman's extraordinary music sparkles and soars, aided by multifarious, multicultural collaborators and instruments.”


You can read the Guardian and Observer's complete list of 50 key events in the history of world and folk music at


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