The curious case of Daara J: Daara J, Senegal’s biggest-selling hip-hop crew, provide a neat illustration of what Alex below (and Marcello in the comments box) are complaining about. We stumbled on Daara J at Glastonbury, playing late on Sunday afternoon to a foolishly small audience in the Dance Tent. I don’t think I saw anyone with more energy and presence all weekend. Led by a big man in white robes, flanked by bare chested dancers (one draped in the Senegal flag) and with a backup DJ playing gleeful pop-dancehall beats, Daara J bounded and shouted tirelessly, high-stepping back and forth across the stage, grinning all the time. Their sympathetic beat magic turned sodden and weary legs into motorised springs and set me up for one of the most riotously hedonistic evenings I’ve had in years. They were marvellous and modern, a sharp reminder of what the soggy fusion-food music on the Jazz/World Stage had been missing all weekend.

So of course as soon as I got home I typed the name into a file-sharer – there was a recent album which a few people had, and I decided to download a few tracks and head to Amazon if I liked them. The result? Extreme disappointment – the lilting lite-hop tunes weren’t bad exactly, in fact they were endearingly hooky, but where was the energy? Where was the dancehall? What had happened?

The difference is pretty plain: the live version of Daara J makes party music. The studio version makes world music. Party music has a function that is pretty much universal. World music has a function which is highly specific: provide musical tour packages for more-or-less discerning Western listeners who are not, let’s face it, generally there to dance. The world music brand performs this function very well – I have piles of Rough Guide and Nascente CDs and even a few Putomayo ones and they are almost always interesting, relaxing, often very beautiful and I wouldn’t like to lose any of them. But they are hardly ever thrilling, hardly ever life-changing, hardly ever inspiring. (Nobody is inspired by ‘world music’ anymore, are they? Byrne and Eno got turned on to African sounds and made two of the best pop albums ever; Adam Ant heard Burundi drumming and made three of the best pop singles ever. That isn’t going to happen to Radio 4 or !!! or McFly.)

The Daara J experience suggests what we’d all already twigged. World music is a brand; brands have an image and values – hence world music the brand includes a filter that (rightly, if the term is to have any marketing use) excludes certain sounds and styles – in other words, in music a successful brand becomes a genre. This filter is internalised – consciously or not – by any act canny enough to get as far as the studio and the major distribution deal.

My solution would be to fight branding with branding. World Music is a success, but the limited terms of its success exclude a lot of music (at a guess I’d say they exclude 90% of music made by under-25s in non-Western countries). Currently anything outside the World Music fence will either not see release or get judged as an inauthentic or inferior version of the ‘real thing’. So a new music brand could be created specifically to market this excluded music – claiming a different kind of authenticity (younger, more urban, cheaper, fresher, disliked by ‘world music’ fans). ‘Street Music’, maybe. Or what Matt Ingrams calls it, ‘Shanty House’ (see his superb 27th June entry, which covers a lot of this territory but I’ve written 90% of a post now so I’m not going to can it. Anyway Baile Funk is exactly what I was thinking about.)