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World music matters

Nick Gold: "I feel privileged and lucky to produce music with these people"

Audio 22:58
Music producer Nick Gold has helped bring some of West Africa and Cuba's greatest artists to light
Music producer Nick Gold has helped bring some of West Africa and Cuba's greatest artists to light ©RFI/Hird

Nick Gold has been at the helm of World Circuit Records for close to three decades. The label has produced some of the best world music around: Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, Cheikh Lô ... and most recently Trio Da Kali and Fatoumata Diawara. The London-based producer has a nose for talent but maintains being allowed to work with such artists makes him the lucky one. 

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In 2018, World Circuit merged with BMG and together they recently released remastered versions of four of their cornerstone albums:  Ali Farka Touré's Savane, Omara Portuondo's Buena Vista Social Club Presents, Radio Tarifa's Rumba Argelina and Guillermo Portabales' El Carretero. 

Gold reflects on three decades of helping to get great music from West Africa and Cuba to western audiences even, as he says, the musicians in question didn't need reminding it could travel!

"Musicians from Cuba and Mali value their own music, they know it's incredibly important. It's not like they need validation from outside."

He also talks to us about the magic of recording Buena Vista Social Club in Egrem studios in Havana in 1996 and driving Oumou Sangaré's pink car on the streets of Bamako.

And he might never have recorded Buena Vista Social Club, the best-selling world music record ever, had it not been for Ali Farka Touré whom he met in London in 1987 when Touré came to record his debut album with World Circuit.

The two men would go on to have a long and fruitful collaboration. Gold "facilitated" the Grammy-award winning Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder in 1994 and which helped establish World Circuit as a big player in the recording business. But Gold says the Mali bluesman also acted as a kind of talent scout (A&R), introducing him to new music from all over West Africa. And, thankfully, Cuba.

"It was because of Ali that I worked with Toumani Djibaté, he introduced us to Oumou Sangaré, to Dimi Mint Abba from Mauritania. And he encouraged me to listen to Cuban music so he was very important as an unofficial A&R man as well. And a real inspiration."

Ali Farka Touré with the ngoni. Born near Timbuktu in the north of Mali, the master bluesman knew the value of his country's music.
Ali Farka Touré with the ngoni. Born near Timbuktu in the north of Mali, the master bluesman knew the value of his country's music. ©Dave Peabody

Listen to what it's like being a leading world music producer and extracts of the great music he's helped get out there in this week's podcast.

Check out World Circuit Records here and follow them on facebook 

World Circuit Records and BMG have released re-masterised versions of 4 of their prized albums
World Circuit Records and BMG have released re-masterised versions of 4 of their prized albums ©World Circuit/BMG

 

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