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.
My 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.
After three weeks of rebroadcasts since outside producers can’t go in to the Public Radio Tulsa studios, I’ve been able to put together some basic gear to produce the show from my home office. With a little insulation from a pillow fort around my mic to deaden the reverb in the room and blankets over the windows to help cut out ambient noises, it came out sounding great! On this week’s new program you’ll hear music from these artists pictured here and more. I’ll start off the show by paying tribute to Afro-Funk pioneer Manu Dibango, who sadly passed away from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 86. He left behind an incredible body of work spanning nearly 60 years. He’ll be dearly missed. Check out this live version of his big hit “Soul Makossa,” recorded in Nairobi in 2013.
I’ll also celebrate the centenary of Ravi Shankar’s birth – he would have been 100 on April 7th. Shankar died in 2012 at the age of 92, and he also created an eclectic body of work that brought Indian classical music to listeners all around the world. In honor of this anniversary, his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones and the Shankar family had put together a series of celebratory concerts, with the first one taking place in London on April 7th – which unfortunately had to be cancelled because of the stay at home situation amidst the COVID-19 crisis. With the concert on hold, Anoushka asked many of her father’s students from around the globe to record their parts for the tune “Sandhya Raga” to share with the world. It was all put together in this wonderful video.
On this week’s program, I’ll play a live recording of “Sandhya Raga” performed by Ravi Shankar and a large ensemble that comes from his 1989 album ‘Inside the Kremlin.’
I’m glad to be able to get back to producing new shows. I hope you’re all doing well wherever you are. Stay home, stay healthy. Listen to music!
Dear Listeners: as the COVID-19 crisis escalates here in the United States, I will be rebroadcasting some past programs over the next few weeks since I’m not able to go in to the studios of Public Radio Tulsa to produce new shows. Tulsa is not under full shelter in place orders – yet – but business as usual is strictly limited, which includes the University of Tulsa campus where the PRT studios are located. I have rebroadcasts prepared for the next three weeks (starting with this weekend, March 28-29) and it seems likely I’ll have to air more past that time. (I don’t have the capability to produce programs from home at this time.)
The program you’ll hear this weekend on Spokane Public Radio and Public Radio Tulsa originally aired on November 3, 2019; it features music from some really wonderful albums that had been released in 2019. Listeners in Spokane will not have heard this show yet, since SPR only picked up the The Rhythm Atlas at the beginning of 2020. Go the Listen page here on the website to find details about when, where, and how you can hear the show.
I hope you’ll find some joy and comfort in this music. Without having planned it, there’s one song on this playlist that I think speaks beautifully and powerfully to this moment we are living through together: “The Lost Words Blessing.” It comes from the album ‘The Lost Words: Spell Songs.’ As the website for the album says:
The Lost Words: Spell Songs is a musical companion piece to The Lost Words: A Spell Book, the acclaimed work by authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, responding to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary [in the U.K.] which grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their characterful glory.
Recognising the great musical potential within the pages of The Lost Words book, with its poetic rhythms, imagined birdsong and resonating watercolours, Folk by the Oak Festival eagerly commissioned Spell Songs. They invited eight remarkable musicians whose music engages deeply with landscape and nature, to respond to the creatures, art and language of The Lost Words. Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Kerry Andrew, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux sing nature back to life through the power of music, poetry, art and magic.
Take a few minutes to listen to this truly beautiful song and see the artists who made it in the video they released. (The full lyrics are included if you go directly to YouTube to watch it.) Here is the last stanza of the song:
“Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home…”
May you all be well…take care of yourselves and take care of each other.
My friends at OK Roots Music have announced some of the fantastic acts who will be performing at their 7th Annual Global Bash. Headlining the free event on Guthrie Green in downtown Tulsa on Saturday, April 11 is Keb’ Mo’, who recently won the Best Americana Album Grammy for his album ‘Oklahoma.’ Also appearing earlier that same evening is Lakou Mizik, a Haitian roots music group that I’ve played on the radio show many times. Their newest album ‘HaitiaNola’ is fantastic. Head over to the OK Roots Music website for all the details of this always fun festival.
You can read more about the inspiration behind and the making of the ‘Oklahoma’ album on Keb’ Mo’s homepage. (Scroll down to the Bio / About Keb’ Mo’ section.) He mentions how a visit to Oklahoma and later a songwriting session with Tulsa native and now Nashville resident Dara Tucker helped propel the album’s creation. This should be a very special performance! Here’s the video of the title track “Oklahoma.”
And I can’t wait to hear the soulful energy and positive vibrations of Lakou Mizik – a band that was formed in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. As their website says, “Lakou Mizik is a powerhouse collective of Haitian musicians united in a mission to use the healing spirit of music to communicate a message of pride, strength, and hope for their country.” Their second album – ‘HaitiaNola’ – is a wonderful celebration of the shared cultural roots of Haiti and New Orleans. It was released by Cumbancha in October 2019. Check out this 4-minute video about the making of this album:
It’s going to be a great time at the 7th Annual Global Bash!
The first set of the program that will air this weekend is inspired by Bob Boilen and NPR’s All Songs Considered in honor of the 20th anniversary of this “music show for your computer.” I’ve discovered a wide variety of fantastic music through All Songs Considered over the years, and I’ve always loved how they feature many artists and musical styles from around the world. In fact, the very first piece that Bob played on the show back in January of 2000 was a beautiful tune by renowned multi-instrumentalist and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, from Argentina. You’ll hear that tune and a Scottish Gaelic song by Mouth Music that was featured on one of the early episodes of All Songs Considered. (I just happen – not surprisingly?! – to have both of these albums in my CD collection.) In addition to those, I’ll also play music from Korean traditional group Ak Dan Gwang Chil. I just heard them for the first time on one of the most recent All Songs Considered shows covering discoveries at this year’s globalFEST in New York City.
You can listen to Bob Boilen and his co-host Robin Hilton reminisce about the beginnings of ASC on this fun episode of the show that came out on January 7, 2020: What ‘All Songs Considered’ Sounded Like 20 Years Ago. And I’m really pleased to know that when Spokane Public Radio recently picked up The Rhythm Atlas for their Saturday night line up, they also added All Songs Considered and NPR’s Alt.Latino in the time slots right before it. How cool is that?!
I just want to say thanks to Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, and all the other regular guests, hosts, and staffers who make All Songs Considered – and now the whole, expansive NPR Music hub – such a wonderful place to discover and explore music of all kinds. Here’s to 20 more years!
On the program that aired the weekend of January 11 and 12, I played two pieces from the wonderful new compilation ‘Sound Portraits from Bulgaria: A Journey to a Vanished World, 1966 – 1979,’ released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. You can read more about the collection on the Smithsonian Folkways website. This music was recorded by educator and cultural documentarian Martin Koenig during six trips he made to Bulgaria. Here’s more from the press release accompanying the album:
Martin Koenig arrived in Bulgaria in 1966 at age 27 with letters of recommendation from fellow recordist Alan Lomax and anthropologist Margaret Mead, an educator and cultural documentarian determined to study the folk dances of rural communities throughout the country. The work of Lomax and Mead, two legendary cultural preservationists and thinkers, is an apt frame for the work documented in Sound Portraits from Bulgaria in its forthright, yet affectionate, look at the way music and dance impacted the life of rural Bulgarians and what is lost as it disappears. As Koenig writes in his introductory essay, this music and culture “should not be forgotten, as it reveals a dimension of strength and beauty in the human spirit that we, in our longing, may not even know we are missing.”
It’s an impressive album set which includes a 144-page book with detailed notes about the songs and performers as well as many photographs that give you a real sense of what Koenig experienced all around Bulgaria. I’m sure I’ll be playing more from this collection in the future.
Here are some of the albums that will be featured on this weekend’s broadcasts of The Rhythm Atlas. You’ll hear music from Bulgaria, Spain/North Africa, and Mali; Balkan Beats via Denmark, Sani folk music from China, Latin Boogaloo from NYC; and much more.
Go to the Listen page to find out how you can hear the show. I hope you can tune in!
I hadn’t heard of the New York City-based Latin boogaloo revival band Spanglish Fly until I came across their recent Tiny Desk Concert on the NPR Music website last week. I am so glad to have seen that! So glad, in fact, that I’ll be playing one of their songs on The Rhythm Atlas program that will air this weekend. (Go to the Listen menu above to find out how you can hear the radio show.)
As their website says, “Spanglish Fly is part band, part celebration: 12 musicians igniting a party that quickly spreads to the audience. Boogaloo! That mix of Latin and soul/R&B that emerged from the clubs, the street corners, the transistor radios and the pool halls of 1960s Spanish Harlem, “El Barrio.” Inspired by Latin boogaloo, or bugalú, Spanglish Fly plays irresistible grooves that blend Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the fervor, the feeling, and the harmonics of 60s soul.”
I also love what Felix Contreras, host of NPR Music’s Alt.Latino program, had to say about the band on the Tiny Desk concert page: “When the crew that is Spanglish Fly pulled in behind the Tiny Desk, the group’s vibrant version of boogaloo raised the temperature in the NPR Music offices quite a bit. Whether displaying their party spirit or even the slow burn of social consciousness on the song “Los Niños En La Frontera [The Children at the Border],” this band plays from the heart and engages both the mind and body.”
You can watch their performance here to get yourself boogalooing! And tune in to The Rhythm Atlas this weekend to hear Spanglish Fly and more fantastic music from all over the globe.