World Music: Great Suggestions, please?

Recently I listened to a french BMG cd ("The Voices of this World" in loose translation) that astounded me by the beauty of the tunes.

I'm known as a classical guy, ready to discuss the best performance of Mahler 8, Bach Passions (take yr pick), etc. I also love the blues and jazz. So, you'd say, "mainstream". Lip service to world music.

Now, I *do* know artists such as A. Rodrigues, A.F. Toure, C. Evora, Khaled, Y. N'Dour, and a few of the Buena Vista S. Club artists... But had never before heard names such as: Ladysmith Black Mambazo (w/ P Simon), Radio Tarifa, Bevida, Mammas, Geoffrey Oryema...

Can anyone offer suggestions to a world music "newbie" -- i.e., me?

I'm by no means an expert in this area, but there are a few that I have really come to enjoy. Most of my favorite world music is on the M*A label. I think Todd Garfinkle of M*A really does an outstanding job of capturing the feeling and culture of music around the world. My recommendations would be:
Calamus "the spledour of al andalus"
Paniagua, Eduardo "Danzas Medievales espanolas"
Zarvos, Marcelo "Musical Journey"
Check out the Putamayo label. Almost all of their cd's are decent. Often can listen to these at bookstores such as B&N or Borders. Start with "Islands."
One of the first "world music" artists that I listened to some 15 years was a South American guitarist named Egberto Gismonti. He did several excellent albums which are still available on CD.
Two favorites that have been heavily in the rotation lately (although I too would never claim expertise) would have to include:

Malingo, Tangos Bajos (heralded as the new voice of Argentine tango and widely refered to as the guy who is "putting the whorehouse back in the tango - he's got a new one out, too, that I haven't picked up yet), and

Marisa Monte, A Great Noise (a classically trained Brazilian opera singer turned sexpot diva, she also has a newer one out that I wasn't as impressed with).

Omar Faruk Tekbilek (damn right i had to look that up). 'Whirling' on Celestial harmonies is amazing if you like Dead Can Dance done with more of a middle eastern slant. check out these instruments: ney, baglama, zurna, mijwiz, jura, darbuka, bandir, TAMBOURINE (oooo!) and more. very cool.

Said Charibi 'Holm Bi Fes' is amazing more classically indian.

Shiela Chandra 'abonecronedrone' or maybe her latest (ive never heard it) for beautiful indian influenced vocalization with somewhat of a new age bed underneath it all.

hey, i just realized...i must like indian music! cool.
Abstract7 has already mentioned the M-A Records label, and I agree the label offers some fine music which is also very well recorded. For more info, here's the Web link to their site:

Water Lily Acoustics, owned and operated by Kavi Alexander, also has some fine stuff, with recordings that feature mainly Indian musicians, but two which also feature Ry Cooder ("A Meeting By The River" is probably the best known).
I have two somewhat odd suggestions:

Shakira her first album "pies descalzos" (i think). infectious columbian pop album.not your usual audiophile stuff but great beat ...and you can dance to it.
The other is a reggae star from I believe sierra leone named lucky dube. He has this great melodious voice. best album is prisoner. Again not the usual audiophile cup o' tea.
1.baaba maal 'djaam leelii' essential, gorgeous w. african, blows ali farka toure away
2. nimbus records' 4 cd 'raga guide' is an amazingly good set of Indian music - top notch musicians plus an excellent book. They also have a 3 cd set of hindustani (Indian) vocals (female) which is stunning. If you like the raga guide, go for the vocals too.
3.jvc cd 'gamelan of surakarta'. Forget about Balinese music, Javanese is the best Indonesian gong (gamelan) music, and this is a beautiful disc.
4.jvc cd 'buddhist chant II' (tibetan ritual music). But only when you're ready - this stuff is intense and way out there.
Kotoja on the Putamayo label. Liner notes say "If this music doesn't make you feel good, you must be dead." ... I think they're right.
Many thanks for the suggestions so far. I'm making a hard copy, hoping to hit the stores this W/E. Any more matl is welcome!
Hi Greg: Our CD's are very disorganized right now, but here are a few that I was able to locate.

1. "Georgian Voices", The Rustavi Choir, Elektra/NoneSuch
2. "Robert Burns, the compete songs, Linn Records
3. "Forever Tango, the Eternal Dance", InterAmerica
4. "Bella Ciao, Cansons du peuple en Italle", HMA
5. "Meli Melo", Haitian choral music on Kradel1
6. "Tibetan Trance, Happy China", Prophecy (Tibetan Dance:-)
7. "Last Forever, Trainfare Home", Nonesuch (New Bluegrass)

There is also a French Techno group named "Uman" that is killer and for something fun, the Modern Mandolin Quartet "The Nutcracker Suite" (perfomed on mandolins of course).
"world music" has so many roots that it's almost impossible to limit. a couple of "must-haves" are "juju music" by king sunny ade and "gipsy kings," a euponymous album. i also suggest some robert crumb (of zapp comix, etc); his latest is "world musette" done by les primitifs du futur. -kelly
Anything on the Putumayo label.They all have distinctive brightly painted cover art.They are to world music what Rhino records is to re-issues.If it's bween a Putu and another label GO Putu.At least that's what we do at the record store I work at.