Courtesy of KAMUTVFM.org

I’m excited to announce that NPR affiliate KAMU Radio from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas has picked up The Rhythm Atlas for broadcast each week! The program airs Thursdays at 3 p.m. (Central time US.) You can hear the show in the Brazos Valley area on KAMU 90.9 FM or via live-stream from the KAMU Radio website – click on the Listen Live link.

KAMU is a dual public television and public radio station licensed to Texas A&M University. KAMU-TV started broadcasting in 1970 and KAMU-FM was launched in 1977. I’m grateful to KAMU for carrying the program, and I’m pleased to have them join with my home station Public Radio Tulsa and longtime carrier Spokane Public Radio in airing the show each week. It’s nice to have this wonderful music reaching more listeners. Thank you!

Some of the albums featured on this week’s Halloween and Día de los Muertos special

On this week’s special radio program, we’ll celebrate the festivals of Halloween and Día de los Muertos . You’ll hear joyful songs in remembrance of loved ones for the Day of the Dead, music connected with the Celtic roots of Halloween, and some simply silly, spooky songs as well. Starting off the playlist is “Calaverita,” a lively dance song by Mexican-American band La Santa Cecilia from their 2015 album ‘Buenaventura.’ Calaveritas are the little sugar skulls you see used as Day of the Dead decorations. The wonderful video for this song features a colorful array of Día de los Muertos festivities. You can watch it on YouTube since it can’t be embedded on this page. Enjoy!

La Santa Cecilia – “Calaverita” video

(And as I was writing this, I learned that La Santa Cecilia have just released a new 8-song album on October 22, 2021. It’s titled ‘Quiero Verte Feliz’ and you can listen to it now. Here’s a link to the video for the title song, which features Lila Downs. I’m sure I’ll be playing songs from this album on upcoming programs!

La Santa Cecilia with Lila Downs – “Quiero Verte Feliz” video

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.