World Circuit is the remarkable record label which, with its 1997 hit Buena Vista Social Club, can claim to have made "world music" fashionable. With artists mainly from Africa and Cuba, the label has come to define the genre, as surely as Factory Records captured a period in Manchester's music history and Creation Records copyrighted the post-punk era with the likes of Primal Scream and Oasis.
This double-CD release celebrates its 20th anniversary with a compilation of both landmark and lesser-known recordings, the opening classic being, appropriately, the sultry Buena Vista track "Chan Chan".
Besides the greats such as Mali's Ali Farka Touré and the Latin-flavoured Senegalese group Orchestre Baobab, there are many brilliant, lesser-known musicians on this thoughtfully sequenced record. Dimi Mint Abba, the Mauritanian diva, sings with all the heat and dust of Saharan soul music in a previously unreleased gem, "Song 4". The trance-like sound of the Moroccan master Mustapha Baqbou is mesmeric and the Buena Vista bassist Cachaíto ópez gets a startling dub-style treatment on "Tumbanga".
As with Tony Wilson at Factory and Alan McGee at Creation, there is one maverick figure at the centre of these diverse recordings. Nick Gold started World Circuit as a modest offshoot of a live promotion company, Arts Worldwide. He became a record producer almost by accident, developing close relationships with those who have now become titans of world music. We have him to thank that this isn't a boring "best of" or cynical cash-in. It is a celebration, an eclectic aural experience that brings the world to your ears and touches your heart.