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…

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.

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

Photo by Youri Lenquette, courtesy of Sacks & Co. / World Circuit Records.

On the program airing this week, we’ll celebrate 50 years of Orchestra Baobab – the beloved band from Senegal that began its career in 1970 as the house band for the newly opened Club Baobab in Dakar. We’ll hear music spanning their entire career as we pay tribute to their enduring legacy as one of Africa’s greatest musical collectives.

If you didn’t already know this, I’ve used Orchestra Baobab’s song “Colette” as the intro theme music for the show since it began in 2017. After a while, I also started using their song “Bikowa” as the outro theme music. (Both of these songs are found on their truly wonderful album, ‘Made in Dakar,’ released in 2007.) I think the band’s brilliant blend of West African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms beautifully exemplifies the kind of music I love to share with listeners, and they’re one of the bands whose music inspired me to create The Rhythm Atlas for Public Radio Tulsa.

Here’s a nice taste of Orchestra Baobab playing live in 2007. Since then, three longtime members have passed away: singer Ndiouga Dieng in 2016, saxophone player Issa Cissoko in 2019, and singer and founding member Balla Sidibe – who passed away in August 2020.

I hope you can tune in to hear this special show. Long Live Orchestra Baobab!

You can hear the program Saturday, October 3 at 7 p.m. (Pacific time US) on KPBX 91.1 FM – streaming online at Spokane Public Radio or on Sunday, October 4 at 6 p.m. (Central time US) on KWGS 89.5 FM – streaming online at Public Radio Tulsa.

Many thanks to Joe Cohen and World Circuit Records for providing some invaluable materials for this program.

Join me this weekend as I celebrate the show’s 3rd birthday with a special playlist of well-known pop, rock, and country songs as covered by artists from all around the world. People told me they so thoroughly enjoyed this same theme from last year’s birthday special, that I thought I’d dig up some more musical treasures for this year’s celebration.

You’ll hear some unexpected and highly entertaining renditions of familiar songs: a Dutch musician singing a Beatles hit in Spanish, a rockin’ Arabic version of a James Brown song, a classic from Black Sabbath reworked into a cumbia number, a mind-blowing psychedelic-prog rock version of “The Sounds of Silence” by a band from Spain, and much more. It’ll be a blast!

Many thanks to all of you listeners who tune in each week! I appreciate the support of the show and I love being able to share this music with you. And an extra special thank you to Public Radio Tulsa for adding me to their broadcast line-up three years ago, and also to Spokane Public Radio for starting to carry the show in 2020.

(Go the Listen page for further details and links to when and where to hear the show, and a link to the archived audio on PRX. My apologies for getting this posted after the program aired on Spokane Public Radio this weekend. You can still tune in to the Public Radio Tulsa broadcast tonight – September 20th, 2020 at 7 pm!)

I’ll be playing a track called “Pontin Pontin” by Cabo Verdean singer Bana on the program airing this weekend. It’s from a wonderful compilation album titled ‘Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!’ Released by Analog Africa in 2016, the album collects music from Cabo Verde that features synthesizers in the mix, mostly recorded from 1977 to 1984 or so. I have the song on a different sampler CD, so while doing some research on the album, I found the following notes (excerpted below) on the Analog Africa Bandcamp page. It’s a fun and fanciful story created by the Analog Africa promotional writers to explain the rise of synthesizers in the music of Cabo Verde in the 1970s and 80s. There is no source verifying whether even the most trivial aspects of this story are factual, except for the statement in the last paragraph about the musicians playing the songs on the album. There was a ship that ran aground on the Cabo Verdean island of Boa Vista in 1968, but it wasn’t carrying synthesizers. It was carrying four bells bound for a church in Brasilia as well as other cargo, and its ruined hull is still there on the beach today. I suspect the story of that ship was possibly used as a jumping off point for the creation of “the mystery behind the cosmic sound of Cabo Verde.”

You can read the full notes that include all of the even more fanciful aspects of this tall tale on the album’s page on Bandcamp. Despite the backstory being fictitious, the music is fantastic and it’s fun to hear how these musicians incorporated electronics into the popular music of Cabo Verde.     

“In the spring of 1968 a cargo ship was preparing to leave the port of Baltimore with an important shipment of musical instruments. Its final destination was Rio De Janeiro, where the EMSE Exhibition (Exposição Mundial Do Son Eletrônico) was going to be held. 

It was the first expo of its kind to take place in the Southern Hemisphere and many of the leading companies in the field of electronic music were involved. Rhodes, Moog, Farfisa, Hammond and Korg, just to name a few, were all eager to present their newest synthesisers and other gadgets to a growing and promising South American market, spearheaded by Brazil and Colombia. 

The ship with the goods set sail on the 20th of March on a calm morning and mysteriously disappeared from the radar on the very same day. 

One can only imagine the surprise of the villagers of Cachaço, on the Sao Nicolau island of Cabo Verde, when a few months later they woke up and found a ship stranded in their fields, in the middle of nowhere, 8 km from any coastline. After consulting with the village elders, the locals had decided to open the containers to see what was inside – however gossip as scintillating as this travels fast and colonial police had already arrived and secured the area. 

Finally, a team of welders arrived to open the containers and the whole village waited impatiently. The atmosphere, which had been filled with joy and excitement, quickly gave way to astonishment. Hundreds of boxes conjured, all containing keyboards and other instruments which they had never seen before: and all useless in an area devoid of electricity. Disappointment was palpable. The goods were temporarily stored in the local church and the women of the village had insisted a solution be found before Sunday mass. 

It is said that charismatic anti-colonial leader Amílcar Cabral had ordered for the instruments to be distributed equally in places that had access to electricity, which placed them mainly in schools. This distribution was best thing that could have happened – keyboards found fertile grounds in the hands of curious children, born with an innate sense of rhythm who picked up the ready-to-use instruments. This in turn facilitated the modernisation of local rhythms such as Mornas, Coladeras and the highly danceable music style called Funaná, which had been banned by the Portuguese colonial rulers until 1975 due to its sensuality!

8 out of the 15 songs presented in this compilation had been recorded with the backing of the band Voz de Cabo Verde, lead by Paulino Vieira, the mastermind behind the creation and promulgation of what is known today as The Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde.”

https://analogafrica.bandcamp.com/album/space-echo-the-mystery-behind-the-cosmic-sound-of-cabo-verde-finally-revealed

Enjoy one of the tracks from the album.

Details about how and when you can tune in to this week’s show are on the Listen page linked in the main menu.