Thursday, February 18, 2010

Songlines: The ultimate world music magazine

Songlines is without question the world's leading magazine devoted to the field of world music. (See my post last year on the hard-copy demise of Global Rhythm, which I am happy to see is still available online--see note below this entry.) In my recent visit to London, I interviewed Simon Broughton, the editor (and also an editor of The Rough Guide to World Music), and audio excerpts from that interview will be included in a separate entry at some point in the future.

In the meantime, here's an introduction to this extraordinary publication:

An exceptionally colorful large-format glossy magazine, Songlines is published in eight issues a year, and has a circulation of some 20,000. It has just released its 66th issue (photo at left, used with permission), with 96 pages devoted to news items, obituaries, features, columns, performance listings, competitions, reviews, and two CDs, as well as advertising content rich in details not only of CD releases but of a range of performance venues in Great Britain.

The CDs accompanying the 66th issue include, as with every issue, one Songlines-released CD of March's ten "Top of the World Albums" plus five bonus tracks from columnist Gilles Peterson's playlist, as well as a second CD, "World Music from Hungary 2010," sponsored by a consortium of Hungarian music exporters.

Songlines subscriptions are available in both hard-copy and digital format. Their Website includes a virtual sample of their March 2008 collector's item issue #50, which is well worth exploring, both for its content-- including a listing of "50 Great Moments in World Music"(pp. 44-56) and "50 Best Top of the World Albums" (pp. 30-31)--and captivating digital format, with user-friendly page-turning and zoom options, which in their effectiveness helped me to take the first step in beginning to acknowledge the advantages for a periodical of a digital print platform. The aforesaid issue has five tabs: Up Front, Features, Regulars, Reviews, and On the Road.

Aside from the print or digital issues, the Songlines Website includes a range of options to access: news; an extremely detailed, day-by-day gig guide ("gig" being a musician's term for a performance) of programs throughout the U.K.; a description of music-related tours and holidays around the world, sponsored by the magazine, in the Songlines Music Travel Series; a listing of the Songlines Music Awards, established in 2009 "to recognize outstanding talent in world music"; and an Interactive section featuring "a free interactive sampler for each issue of the magazine where you can listen to excerpts from many of the featured albums with direct links for purchasing CDs and artist concert tickets." In addition to a podcast downloadable from i-Tunes (which I was somehow unable to access. . .), content from the magazine is available through Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Stumble Upon, RSS, and an iPhone application.

I hope this serves as a useful introduction to a very useful publication, and that my enthusiasm for the energy and breadth of Songlines is not unwarranted. As already mentioned, I'll be posting audio excerpts next week from an interview in London with editor Sim0n Broughton.

The ads themselves in the current issue (#66) provide a gateway to a broad range of recordings and events in the field of world music. See the next posting, in which I will describe each of the full-page advertising spreads in this issue.

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Addendum to introductory paragraph above: Atypically for Wikipedia, at least in my experience, their entry for Global Rhythm has not been updated. . . . But I'll follow up in a future posting on the state of the now exclusively on-line publication.

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