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.

Cover of The Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra’s one and only album.

On a recent weekend trip to St. Louis, I was able to stop in at one of my favorite record stores – Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop – and I picked up a couple handfuls of used CDs from a wide variety of international artists. They have a fantastic selection of music from around the world. One of the pieces I’ll play on the program airing this weekend is from a CD in that bunch: the one and only album released in 1981 by The Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra of America and California, a large ensemble that was based in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a wonderful record full of Yiddish, Israeli, Russian, and Romany folk music. I was intrigued when I read in the liner notes that the album was produced and engineered by Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead. (In 1988, it was remastered for CD release by Rykodisc.) 

While doing some research on the group, I came across a wonderful video on Mickey Hart’s YouTube page that gives a nice history of the band and how they came to make the record with him. Spoiler alert: one of the band members was Mickey’s orthopedic surgeon! The 16-minute video features founding band members Gloria and Barry Blum; the story of meeting Mickey starts at the 5:44 mark.  

Gloria and Barry Blum Present: An Oral History of The Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra of California and America, otherwise known as The Traveling Jewish Wedding

I also found this related short video of Mickey Hart talking with his friend ethnomusicologist Fred Lieberman about the making of the Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra album. Lieberman was a long-time faculty member at the University of California at Santa Cruz (my alma mater!) and was instrumental in helping to facilitate the establishment of The Grateful Dead Archive at the university’s McHenry Library. (I’ve been thinking about UC Santa Cruz and some of my Banana Slug friends that still live in the area as the wildfires have devastated parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains this past week. Here’s a place where people can help.)

Both of these videos were produced when Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released their “Mickey Hart Collection” in 2011. 

You can find out more about the Golden Gate Gypsy Orchestra album and read a PDF of the full liner notes with information about the songs and each of the musicians in the band at the Smithsonian Folkways website.

I hope you can tune in to hear their lively music this weekend!

Go to the Listen page in the menu above to find out how you can catch the program on Spokane Public Radio on Saturday nights or Public Radio Tulsa on Sunday nights. 

Online music retailer Bandcamp is once again waiving its share of revenue from all sales today and giving it directly to the artists and labels who use the site to sell their music and merchandise. You can find all the details about this day of support on the Bandcamp website. If you’re looking for a way to directly support musicians whose income has been severely limited during this global health and economic crisis, check it out! This is the fourth time Bandcamp has provided this service since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, and I know that artists and labels have been very grateful for the extra income they’ve received from it. I buy a lot of music from all around the world through Bandcamp, and their Fair Trade Music Policy seems to really benefit musicians and record labels. Many labels and artists are offering special releases today and some are also donating to charitable causes.

And it’s nice to see that Bandcamp’s featured Album of the Day is the new release ‘To Know Without Knowing’ by Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience, put out by Agogo Records in Germany. I played a cut from that record on the radio program a few weeks ago and will be playing another track on the show that will air on the weekend of July 11th-12th. It’s fantastic!

Be sure to make any purchases before the promotion ends at 12 midnight Pacific Time in the US.

The program airing this weekend will feature a set of music in tribute to Mory Kanté, the great vocalist and kora player from Guinea who was one of the early superstars of the world music scene. He died from complications of multiple chronic illnesses on May 22nd at the age of 70. You’ll also hear some vintage Turkish folk-rock from the Uzelli label; new music from Ethio-Jazz giant Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience; brilliant fiddling from English folk violinist Sam Sweeney; a tango-inspired tune from the bandoneon-piano duo of Ben & Winnie, and much more. Go to the Listen page on the website to find out when and where to hear this excellent music from all over the globe.

jmda-for-siteMy Tulsa friends Josh Massad and Dylan Aycock have just released a new self-titled duo album through Dylan’s label, Scissor Tail Records. Dylan writes this about the album on the website:

“These four improvisations were recorded in 2016 in my living room with my longtime friend Joshua Massad. Josh is an Indian classical musician living between Tulsa and India, studying tabla for many years under Zakir Hussain and recently studying sitar. We’ve been trying to capture some moments for the last 6 years and this is the first batch of songs to come out.”

The album consists of four long tracks, and I’ll be playing the opening piece – entitled “One” – on the radio program that will air this weekend. I love the free-flowing interplay between Josh’s sitar and tabla and Dylan’s 12-string guitar playing throughout the whole album. That sound is beautifully complemented by the various percussion instruments, air organ, and synths played by Dylan as well. It’s a wonderfully rich listening experience. I look forward to playing other pieces from this album in the future, and hope they have more recordings in store for us. When we can gather for live music again, I hope we can hear them perform together too.

The album is available in digital formats as well as a limited edition cassette in a case featuring hand letter-pressed art by Dylan.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 28th, I was happy to watch the live listening party and conversation that took place on YouTube with drummer Tony Allen, World Circuit Records producer Nick Gold, and Mabusha Masekela (the nephew and spokesperson for the late Hugh Masekela.) The event took place in celebration of the release of the album ‘Rejoice’ by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela. The two had recorded together in London in 2010, but nothing had been done with the tracks until Nick Gold took up the project again in 2019 and finished it off with some added musicians. ‘Rejoice’ was just released by World Circuit in March. Watching and listening to Tony, Nick, and Mabusha talk from their separate locations about those recording sessions and having fun talking about other musical memories with Hugh Masekela and others was a real joy for me and all the other fans who had joined in around the world. Little did we know it was probably one of the last public events at which Tony Allen appeared. He died suddenly in Paris on April 30th, 2020. It was reported that his death was caused by an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

I was in the process of producing my next radio program this past Thursday when I first heard the news that Tony had died. I was stunned, and saddened. At first, I thought maybe it was related to COVID-19, but he had appeared to be in good health during the online video session on Tuesday. Then I read that his manager, Eric Trosset, reported to a French News Agency that Allen had become suddenly ill on Thursday, was taken to a hospital, and died within a few hours. The next morning I saw the news that it had been an aneurysm.

I had already planned on playing a track from that new ‘Rejoice’ album to start this week’s program, so I had to quickly rework the intro into a memorial for one of the greatest drummers on the planet. (I’ll do a full tribute to Tony Allen on the program that will air on the weekend of May 9-10.)

As one of the co-founders of the Afrobeat sound in the 1960s along with Fela Kuti, Tony Allen’s contribution to music is invaluable. He was rightly described as the heartbeat of the Africa 70 band, for which he was the musical director until he left Fela in 1979. Allen continued making solo records and collaborating with musicians from all around the world, and was still incredibly active at the age of 79. His drumbeat will be dearly missed, but it will endure with us.

Take a few minutes to watch this wonderful video of Tony performing the tune “Wolf Eats Wolf” for his 2017 album ‘The Source.’

There are many tributes and stories about Tony Allen pouring in from places all over the globe. Here are a few highlights:

Tony Allen, Afrobeat’s Foundational Drummer, Has Died At Age 79 – by Anastasia Tsioulcas, music writer for NPR.

Giants of Afrobeat: An Interview with Tony Allen and Orlando Julius – Songlines magazine has reposted this interview conducted by Nigel Williamson from their November 2014 issue.

Tony Allen, legendary drummer and Afrobeat co-founder, dies aged 79 – by Laura Snapes for The Guardian, with reports from Agence France-Presse.

Remembering Tony Allen, Afrobeat originator and Fela Kuti’s drummer – by Tom Schnabel, music writer and educator, former host of Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW – Santa Monica, California.

I’ll try to post links to more in depth obituaries as they appear.

Here’s a longer video of Tony performing his tune “Asiko” live in 2013.