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!

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!

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.