Big Blue Ball

Various Artists

Released 26 July 2008

  1. Whole Thing (Original Mix)
  2. Habibe
  3. Shadow
  4. Altus Silva
  5. Exit Through You
  6. Everything Comes From You
  7. Burn You Up, Burn You Down
  8. Forest
  9. Rivers
  10. Jijy
  11. Big Blue Ball

Various Artists

Liner notes

Almost eighteen years in the making, Big Blue Ball grew from three extraordinary Recording Weeks at Real World Studios in the summers of 1991, 1992 and 1995. The project’s originators and curators were Real World founder Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger of World Party and The Waterboys.

A huge number of artists came to the village of Box in Wiltshire to take part in these Recording Weeks, and contributed to writing the songs, making the music, and being part of that powerful sense of community that made the Recording Weeks so creative and so fruitful. The focus was as much on writing together as playing together, and the final tracks stand as an extraordinary testament to the common elements that bind so many different forms of music and music making together. Though not everyone who was there is present on the finished album, each artist’s input was invaluable to the spirit of the enterprise.

Arona N'Diaye Rose, Ayub Ogada, engineer Carlton Blake and Peter Gabriel during Real World Recording Week 1991.

“One week in the middle of summer this craziness exploded in our Real World Studios. We had this week of invited guests, people from all around the world, fed by music and a 24 hour café. It was a giant playpen, a bring your own studio party. There’d be a studio set up on the lawn, in the garage, in someone’s bedroom as well as the seven rooms we had available. We were curators of sorts of all this living mass. We had poets and songwriters there, people would come in and scribble things down, they’d hook up in the café. It was like a dating agency, then they’d disappear into the darkness and make noises – and we’d be there to record it.”

Peter Gabriel, producer and performer

Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger on the making of Big Blue Ball


  • For some 20 years, Peter Gabriel has lived and worked in a refurbished mill outside the English city of Bath. The mill houses his Real World studios, and at three points during the 1990s, Gabriel invited musicians from all over the globe to what can only be described as a world music camp. For a week, musicians would live and eat and play together, and some unexpected, and unexpectedly good collaborations ensued. Big Blue Ball is a collection of some of those performances, from a motley crew that touched on the traditions of Madagascar, Central Africa, the Near East, American Gospel, indie rock, and of course, Peter Gabriel's own brand of global pop. WNYC (USA)
  • A mere 16 years in the making, Peter Gabriel's "Big Blue Ball" has finally been judged suitable for release by the artist. It's the end result of a lengthy world music party that brought talents from more than 20 countries to Gabriel's Real World Studios. Gabriel sings lead on several tracks, trading licks with Karl Wallinger, Joseph Arthur and the Holmes Brothers, but mostly keeping the ball in his court. Other notable contributions include a sparking, Afro-flamenco pairing of vocalist Papa Wemba with guitarist Juan Martin and the lovely, techno-folk-Celtic merger of Deep Forest, Arthur and Iarla Ó Lionáird. Philadelphia Evening News (USA)
  • During the 1990’s, musicians from around the world gathered for recording weeks at Real World studios. On this volume, 18 years in the mixing, Peter Gabriel sings on several tracks: “Whole Thing” is wonderful…Real World fellow-travellers are represented: Papa Wemba and Juan Martin mix rumba and flamenco; Sinead O’Connor delivers an earnest hymn, and Natacha Atlas sings with Natacha Atlas sings with Hossam Ramzy’s Egyptian orchestra. The Financial Times (UK)
  • Notables include Natacha Atlas, American vocal wonders The Holmes Brothers and African legend Papa Wemba. The result is a cross-cultural blend –arty Western rock, Eastern textures and African funk – with moments of brilliance…. The Daily Mirror (UK)



Produced by Peter Gabriel, Stephen Hague and Karl Wallinger.

Featuring collaborations between Justin Adams, Joseph Arthur, Natacha Atlas, Francis Bebey, Ronan Browne, Juan Martin, Billy Cobham, Richard Evans, Alexis Faku, Tim Finn, Peter Gabriel, Joji Hirota, Manu Katché, James McNally, Wendy Melvoin, Levon Minassian, Eric Mouquet, Sevara Nazarkhan, Arona N’diaye, Sinead O’Connor, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Hossam Ramzy, Vernon Reid, Rossy, Michel Sanchez, Marta Sebestyen, Neil Sparkes, The Holmes Brothers, Karl Wallinger, Papa Wemba, Andy White, Jah Wobble, Guo Yue and Hukwe Zawose.

Original recordings produced by Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger except ‘altus silva’ by Eric Mouquet and Michel Sanchez

Mixed by Tchad Blake except ‘Habibe’ by Stephen Hague and ‘Everything Comes From You’ by Richard Chappell

Recorded at Real World Studios, Box, Wiltshire, UK between 1991 and 2007. Engineers David Bottrill, Richard Chappell, Richard Evans, Ben Findlay, Paul Grady, Marco Migliari, Alex Swift

Mastered by Tony Cousins at Metropolis Mastering, London.

A Real World Design by Marc Bessant. 3D by Alan Tabrett. Photography by York Tillyer, Pete Williams, Andrew Catlin. Sleeve notes by Tim Cumming

Further Listening

  • A Week In The Real World – Part 1

    Various Artists

    Released 05 June 1992

    In August 1991 Real World Studios opened its doors to over 75 artists from 20 countries for a unique recording project. This album is the first of two volumes containing fascinating musical encounters between established and lesser-known artists from across the world at Real World Recording Week.
  • A Week Or Two In The Real World

    Various Artists

    Released 03 July 1994

    This album is the second of two volumes of music culled from the legendary Real World Recording Weeks of 1991 and 1992. It features fascinating musical encounters between established and lesser-known artists from across the world.

Further Reading

10 Years of Big Blue Ball: the sound of the world playing together

On its 10th anniversary, we look back on the global music collaboration project which came from 18 y...

The Real World Recording Week

Music journalist Johnny Black chronicles the famous Real World Recording Week 1991.

Big Blue Ball: Track by Track

Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger, and engineer Richard Chappell talk us through the songs.

Stephen Hague on bringing Big Blue Ball to the finishing line

The New Order producer faced the mammoth task of sifting through years of recording sessions.