courtesy of BelaFleck.com

On the radio program airing this weekend, I’ll feature artists nominated for Best Album in the Global Music, Regional Roots, and a couple of other categories of the upcoming 2021 Grammy Awards. One of those albums is Throw Down Your Heart: The Complete Africa Sessions – “a new comprehensive film and music set documenting Béla Fleck’s transcontinental exploration of the banjo’s roots,” which was originally released in 2008. This greatly expanded box set – released by Craft Recordings in the beautiful package pictured above – is nominated in the Best Historical Album category. I’ve never seen the documentary film, but I have heard the music featured in the film and love being able to hear more tracks that were not released on the original album. (I’ll be watching the film soon.) I’m playing pieces that feature Béla Fleck performing with musicians Oumou Sangaré and Toumani Diabaté on one track and with ngoni players Bassekou Kouyate and Harouna Samake on another.

The radio program Here & Now recently featured an excellent story about the reissued album – Béla Fleck’s Journey To Find Truth In Origins Of The Banjo – which features conversations with Bassekou Kouyate and Béla Fleck.

And I did not know this until looking at Béla Fleck’s YouTube page just now: he has the full-length version of the ‘Throw Down Your Heart’ film posted on there! The video is from a live-streamed event that aired on the YouTube page on December 11, 2020. It features Béla introducing the film, the film itself, and then a long segment of Béla in conversation with the film’s director, Sascha Paladino. I’m posting the video below, but I have no idea how long it will stay up there on his page for viewing. (Note that the intro doesn’t start until after 6 minutes into the video since it was a live-streamed event.) Watch it as soon as you can! I know I will…

I’ve dreamed about traveling to Glasgow for the annual two week-long Celtic Connections music festival for a long time, and hope that can happen some time in the future. But I am happy to be able to experience this year’s festival from the comfort of my living room, albeit under the unfortunate circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re not familiar with the festival, here’s what they say about it on their website:

“Glasgow’s annual folk, roots and world music festival, Celtic Connections celebrates Celtic music and its connections to cultures across the globe.

From 15 January – 2 February 2021, due to the ongoing global pandemic, the festival will be delivered digitally for the very first time. Over 100 musicians will be streamed onto screens around the world for 19 days of exclusive concerts, workshops, and free events.”

https://www.celticconnections.com/about-celtic-connections/

On this weekend’s radio program, I’ll be playing three groups who will be performing at the festival: Christ Stout & Catriona McKay, Sian, and Shooglenifty. (Go to the Listen page in the main menu above for details on where and when to tune in to the show.)

Despite not having live audiences, Celtic Connections is still presenting a vast array of Celtic and other artists from around the world from January 15 to February 2, and it’s all online for viewing with the purchase of a Festival Pass or by purchasing individual concerts. You can book tickets through this How To Book page on their website. You can also find out what performances are taking place each day on the festival Calendar page. Performances are available for viewing at any time for one week after they premiere on the website.

I bought a full Festival Pass and watched the 90-minute Opening Night Celebration last night. It was full of brilliant performances by the Celtic Connections 2021 Big Band, Duncan Chisholm with Scottish Ensemble, Ímar, Fiona Hunter, Kinnaris Quintet, Le Vent du Nord, and special guests Karine Polwart, Sona Jobarteh, Xabier Diaz e Adufeiras de Salitre, and Elephant Sessions (along with some other surprise guests I know I’m missing!) Some of the performances were recorded in the usual festival venues in Glasgow while others were recorded from wherever the musicians are located. All of them had fantastic sound and visual production and gave you the feeling of being in the room with the musicians. I’m really looking forward to what’s in store over the next two weeks.

Watch this highlight video of Celtic Connections 2020 for a taste of what the festival has to offer. Seeing the joyous crowds in these scenes makes me miss going to live concerts even more. Here’s to when we can gather together again safely, friends!

Courtesy of NPR

On this week’s radio program, I’ll feature a set of music that includes three artists who will be performing at this year’s all-online globalFEST: Aditya Prakash Ensemble, Natu Camara, and Vox Sambou. As their website states, “Facing dual challenges of the pandemic, along with hardening of international borders, globalFEST will, for the first time, team with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk concerts to present exclusive video performances by 16 artists via NPR Music’s digital platforms, in a series entitled NPR Music’s Tiny Desk meets globalFEST.”

All of the performances will be presented through NPR Music’s YouTube page – with the premiere taking place on Monday, January 11 at 8 pm (EST U.S.) The series will continue at the same time each night through January 14. Here is the complete lineup:

Courtesy of globalFEST

I’ve never been to globalFEST myself and would love to experience it live some day. It always features a wonderful variety of international artists, many that are new to my ears. I’m glad that fans around the world will have the opportunity to hear and see these artists in performance this year. One the band’s that I’ve played on the show before that I’m most excited to see is Minyo Crusaders – the wild folk-song fusionists from Japan. The whole festival should be highly entertaining!

As the NPR Music press release says, “Over the last two decades, globalFEST has become one of the most dynamic global music platforms in North America, growing from an acclaimed festival/showcase into a catalytic non-profit service organization for curators, artists, and the performing arts field.” You can read the full press release which includes short bios of each performer here: globalFEST Announces 2021 Edition in Collaboration with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk

Here’s a taste of what you might hear from one of the four performers that have played globalFEST in the past, Ukrainian group Dakha Brakha. This is their Tiny Desk performance from 2015.

Happy New Year!

On this week’s program, you’ll hear Part 2 of the Best World Music Albums of 2020. There are so many excellent albums released around the world each year that there’s no way to honor them all. I try to create an eclectic playlist of albums from different regions that represents this broad spectrum of great music. Here are the artists on Part 2 of the Best Albums of 2020 playlist: Danyèl Waro, Sum Alvarinho (from the compilation album ‘Léve Léve: São Tomé & Principe Sounds (70s-80s)’ released by Les Disques Bongo Joe,) Bab L’ Bluz, Džambo Aguševi Orchestra, Siti Muharam, iyatraQuartet, Maria Mazzotta, Matthieu Saglio with Isabel Julve, Hamish Napier, Lido Pimienta with Sexteto Tabala, Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela, and Tamikrest.

You can find full details of how and where to hear the program on the Listen page from the top menu of the website.

Many thanks to all the artists, record labels, live music presenters, and fellow radio presenters who kept bringing music to us under difficult circumstances in 2020. The wonderful music that you created and shared helped bring much needed comfort and joy into our lives.

On this week’s program, I celebrate some of the Best World Music Albums of 2020 as we close out this most unusual and difficult year. I’ll continue this theme with a second helping of favorite albums next week – the first program of 2021. I’ve tried to find a representative mix of music from the multitude of excellent albums that I came across by artists from all around the world this year. This week I’ll feature Moonlight Benjamin, Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience, Ladama, Afel Bocoum, Salif Diarra, Aynur, WuFei & Abigail Washburn, The Rheingans Sisters, Damir Imamović, Trio Tekke, and Antibalas. Tune in next week for the second dozen or so choices!

You can find full details of how and where to hear the program on the Listen page from the top menu of the website.

Many thanks to all the artists, record labels, live music presenters, and fellow radio presenters who kept bringing music to us under difficult circumstances this year. The wonderful music that you created and shared helped bring much needed comfort and joy into our lives.

On this week’s program, we’ll celebrate the season with familiar Christmas carols and songs in fresh musical settings as well as holiday numbers from around the world that you may not have heard before. The playlist is full of festive music by artists from Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Louisiana, Norway, Italy, Ireland, and the Innu people – one of Canada’s indigenous First Nations. I hope you can join me for a cup or two of musical cheer!

¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas to you!

Go to the Listen page for full info on when and where to tune in on your radio dial or links to listen online from your web browser.

P.S. If you’d like to read about my love of Christmas music of all kinds, check out this series of twenty-five pieces I wrote in 2014 for my short-lived music blog, Jukebox Delirium: 25 Days of Christmas Records (start here at Day 1 and go to each following post by clicking the link for the next day at the bottom of the page just above the Comments section.) I have a large collection of Christmas music!

We begin the end of year holiday season with a celebration of Hanukkah music from around the world on the program airing this weekend. You’ll hear some klezmer tunes, songs sung in Ladino from the Sephardic Jewish tradition with roots in Spain, one of Woody Guthrie’s Hanukkah songs, and some festive modern takes on the joyous celebration known as the Festival of Lights.

Also featured throughout the program are some spoken pieces from the wonderful 1987 album ‘Oy Chanukah!’ by the Klezmer Conservatory Band. In these pieces, we hear about Hanukkah traditions and reminiscences of Hanukkah celebrations from the early twentieth century by elders in the Jewish community.

It’s an eclectic mix with a little something for everyone.

Hanukkah Sameach! Happy Hanukkah!

Go to the Listen page for full info on when and where to tune in on your radio dial or online from your web browser.

Courtesy of the Yiddish Glory Project

I’ll be playing a new song from the Yiddish Glory Project on the radio program airing this weekend. Thanks to Dan Rosenberg, executive producer of the project, for sharing the song with me. The song is called “I Am A Typhus Louse” and was found by Anna Shternshis, Professor of Yiddish Studies at the University of Toronto, when she was researching songs about past epidemics. Here’s what they say about the song:

During World War II, typhus became rampant as Jews and other prisoners were victims of forced starvation and horrific living conditions. Typhus, which is spread by lice, killed hundreds of thousands, especially the malnourished with weak immune systems.

Some used music and humour to document these types of experiences. In 1942, L. Vinakur composed this comedic song, “I Am a Typhus Louse,” in a ghetto in Transnistria (a region that is now part of Moldova and Ukraine).

The piece is written from the perspective of a louse that had already ravaged the Jewish population, forced thousands into quarantine and wants to target Nazi soldiers.

The music was composed by violinist, composer and conductor David Beigelman (1887-1945). In 1912, he became the director of the Łódź Yiddish Theatre. In 1940, he was sent to the Łódź ghetto (where he conducted the ghetto’s symphony). In 1944, he was deported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he died the following year just before the end of the Holocaust.

(From the information on the YouTube page for the video of the song, linked below.)

The song is performed by Yiddish Glory & Payadora Tango Ensemble: Psoy Korolenko – Vocals; Rebekah Wolkstein – Violin; Drew Jurecka – Bandoneon, Viola, Violin, Clarinet; Robert Horvath – Piano; Joseph Phillips – Double bass; Drew Jurecka – arranger, engineer, and producer; Dan Rosenberg – Executive producer.

Here’s the video for the song, which includes English subtitles, featuring Psoy Korolenko and Payadora Tango Ensemble as The Lice. (Full credits for the video available on the YouTube page as well.)

Around the same time that this song was shared with me, I had also heard an enlightening story on NPR about the typhus epidemic that swept through the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland during World War II. It is especially poignant given the current global coronavirus pandemic. You can read that story here: “The Warsaw Ghetto Can Teach The World How To Beat Back An Outbreak.”

I’m glad to hear that there’s more music from the Yiddish Glory Project coming our way in the future!

On the program airing this weekend, I’ll play music in tribute to two reggae greats who passed away recently: Toots Hibbert – founder of Toots & the Maytals – and pioneering dub producer Bunny “Striker” Lee. You’ll also hear from several recent releases: The Zonke Family from Zimbabwe; London-based singer-composer Esbe; A.G.A. Trio with inspiration from Armenia/Georgia/Anatolia (Turkey;) modernized traditional music of Poland by Karolina Cicha; and Sian, a trio of young women vocalists from Scotland.

I also play a piece by my friends in the Tulsa-based Irish traditional band Cairde na Gael, going out to my son Ryan who turns 15 this weekend. It’s a medley of polka tunes that Ryan has played with his violin teacher Jocelyn Rowland Khalaf: “Britches Full of Stitches/Mickey’s Chewing Bubble Gum/John Ryan’s.” Happy birthday, Ryan!

Here’s a video of Karolina Cicha performing the Tatar song “Tipir” live with her bandmates. She’s a singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist who often works with the traditional music of the ethnic minorities of north-eastern Poland. I hadn’t heard her until this new album came out recently. I’m sure I’ll be playing more of her music on the show in the future!

I hope you can tune in to this week’s show. Go to the Listen menu above for details on when and where you can hear it.

Albums featured on the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Special 2020

On the special program airing the weekend of October 10-11, I’ll feature a wide spectrum of music by Native American and First Nations artists from across North America in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 12) here in the United States. You’ll hear: the brilliant poem-songs of Muscogee-Creek artist Joy Harjo; Cree musician Cris Derksen’s modern fusion of classical cello with powwow music; the beautiful voices of Diné singer Louie Gonnie and all-woman northern drum group The Mankillers; traditional powwow drums recorded in Oklahoma; a Cherokee language version of a Christian hymn by the Kingfisher Trio; an atmospheric composition by Mohican multi-instrumentalist Bill Miller; a folk-rock original by Inuk/Inuit musician William Tagoona; singer-songwriter Sharon Burch with a Navajo-language song; and more. I hope you can join me for this special show. 

Go to the Listen page from the main menu to find out when and where you can hear the program on your radio dial in Tulsa and Spokane or streaming live from anywhere on the web.

For more information on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, read this article from Smithsonian Magazine and the National Museum of the American Indian: Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Rethinking How We Celebrate American History

The Smithsonian has also published this excellent guide to ways you can engage with the spirit of Indigenous Peoples’ Day from home this year: Five Ideas for Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020

Another one of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s many projects is the recently published anthology When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through – A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry. The book, which Harjo edited with LeAnne Howe and Jennifer Elise Foerster, collects work from more than 160 poets representing close to 100 native nations from across North America. You can hear Joy Harjo talk about the book with NPR’s Michel Martin in this interview: Anthology of Native Nations Poetry Is A ‘Doorway,’ Says Editor Joy Harjo