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How To Be A World Music Star, BBC Four

Like many music fans of my generation, my first introduction to what is known as "world music" came through the twin pillars of radio wisdom that were John Peel and Andy Kershaw.

It was while tuned into Peel's show back in the 1980s I originally stumbled across the exuberant guitar flights of The Bhundu Boys and The Four Brothers. With the wonder of youth, I'd absorb those rhythms as easily as the records the tastemaker lined up on either side - the ominous growl of Napalm Death, the twee jangle of Talulah Gosh, the staccato snap of Bogshed, the melancholy wisdom of Ivor Cutler.

Today a glance at my CD collection reveals umpteen sun and salsa albums bought while on holiday in Cuba, Bollywood soundtracks, township jive from South Africa, Portuguese fado, zydeco from Louisiana, gypsy flamenco from Andalucia. Records made thousands of miles apart sit side by side within inches of shelf space as, unlike the purists, I'm happy to lump everything under that "world music" catch-all banner. It's no more patronising a term than the diverse strands drawn under "jazz", "folk" or "indie".

According to How To Be A World Music Star (BBC Four, Friday, 9pm), the marketing category could have been worse, as the more discerning music fan in the 1980s looked away from the slick electronic escapism of the age in search of something more authentic. Those who cringe over "world music" is spoken should think themselves lucky we're not all down the local record shop flicking through the "tropical" or "ethnic" divisions.

This show didn't provide the BBC's most coherent Friday-night-is-music-doc-night argument, although it did pick up on how passing waves of fashion and taste over the past three decades had favoured certain regions on the map at certain times. It tended to focus on one act for a meaty chunk of screen time before skipping on elsewhere, globetrotting from one thing to the next without suggesting an overlap of different global styles might have appealed simultaneously in any one year.

So we went, like an Andy Kershaw mixtape, from The Bhundu Boys to Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares; from the post-colonial French-speaking Africa of Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita and Baaba Maal to the Qawwali music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; from the Havana streets of Buena Vista Social Club to the Sahara deserts of Tinariwan. If it taught me anything, it's that no two people pronounce "Tinariwan" the same way.

Throughout it, you might have been forgiven for thinking the biggest names in world music were all Westerners - though it's undeniable the breakthrough in record sales does owe a lot, in different ways, to the likes of Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Neneh Cherry, Ry Cooder and a gang of white male producers who brought technology to these rich and colourful musical cultures.

Indeed, the tension between Western ears eager for ancient heritage and young "third world" musicians keen to shrug off their grandparents' sound for something more contemporary was often palpable. But that in itself accounts for part of the dynamic energy and stylistic originality "world music" has brought to a jaded record industry. For a short while, I was transported back to Potterrow Student Union in the mid-80s, when the condensation dripped from the ceiling and The Bhundu Boys brought a little bit of Zimbabwe to the heart of Edinburgh.

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