In 1987 the Glastonbury Festival opened its WOMAD stage for the first time to provide a showcase for the kind of acts you might expect to see at the separate World Of Music And Dance festival. Sounds off the Beaten Track is a 52-minute TV documentary about the acts who appeared on the WOMAD stage at Worthy Farm that year, and also about the WOMAD ethos itself, a project inaugurated in 1980 by Peter Gabriel and others to give greater prominence to musicians from all over the world. One of the WOMAD initiators, Mark Kidel, also directed the film, while co-founders Peter Gabriel and Thomas Brooman talk on camera. The film captures the Glastonbury Festival at a time when it was still a relatively small and rather ramshackle affair, closer to its hippy roots, and very different from the sprawling tent city of later years.
The main interest, however, is the music, especially the amount of time given to the Burkina Faso group, Farafina, and to Jon Hassell, whose Flash Of The Spirit collaboration with Farafina was released the following year. This was the first I saw of Hassell on TV, and also the last until he turned up much later as a guest on MTV’s Seal Unplugged session. I remembered the Farafina performance but I’d forgotten that Hassell also talks a little about his Fourth World idea. Among the other featured artists are The Bhundu Boys, Toumani Diabaté, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, The Inspirational Choir, and Najma Akhtar who subsequently appeared on another unplugged (or partly plugged) session with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Jon Hassell had been under the WOMAD umbrella since 1982 via the excellent Music And Rhythm compilation album which included an exclusive live recording of Ba-Benzélé. He was often critical of the “world music” marketing label, seeing it as a convenient way for record companies and music sellers to appear to be supporting musical diversity while placing all the non-Anglophone recordings in a ghetto area away from everything else. He preferred to talk of “worldly music”, an idiom that was of the world, uncloistered, freed from the ghetto; music where the beaten and unbeaten tracks might combine to form a new highway.