Some of the worlds best music has been created out of great passion and great struggle.
I was listening to Forum on KQED/NPR this morning driving my cat home from the vet and heard about an exciting new show that will air next Monday night at 10pm called “Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders.” I didn’t get to hear the whole report (a cat in a carrier is not a happy cat), but I am very excited about this show.
Producer Marco Werman and international correspondents Alexis Bloom, Arun Rath and Mirissa Neff have created a show that will take viewers on journeys of discovery from the bayous of Louisiana to the backstreets of Havana, from the nightclubs of Paris to desert music festivals in Mali. They’ll interview everyone from Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers to Bollywood singers, violin virtuosos to bluegrass musicians. It’s not just good music they are looking for, but good stories behind the music.
The story I heard this morning on Forum was that of Fela Kuti, the godfather/creator of afrobeat in Nigeria. I was turned onto the music of Fela in the early 2000s when I was in desperate need of something new, something up-tempo, something I could dance to. Fela died in the late 90s of AIDS and struggled his whole life against the militaristic Nigerian government, getting arrested more than 200 times. His sons Femi and Seun now continue his legacy taking this music all over the world.
SPOILER ALERT: In an interview with Seun in Nigeria, Marco Weman witnesses a gun fight in the middle of the street right outside Seun’s house. This is the kind of reporting you can expect from this show. “Sound Tracks” is interested music with a greater purpose.
This show will target music and musicians that embody some kind of intrinsic and transcendent power and purpose. In the show this morning Wermer told the story of a Haitian hymn that witnesses have reported hearing all over Port-au-Prince since the earthquake last week. What is its significance? There was also the mention of Al-Qaeda targeting musicians and music stores when they move into a certain area. There was also the phenomenon of a soul revival occurring in the UK and Europe, bands like Sharon Jones and Dap Kings are immensely more popular over there than they are in the United States. “Sound Tracks” will use music as a frame to examine politics and culture in a given community.
And what about musicians from the Bay? Marco mentioned San Francisco based band Rupa & the April Fishes. Have you heard of them yet? They appeared in the Stern Grove Festival last summer and are making an impressive name for themselves.
This kind of programming is a music lovers dream. As an ethnomusicologist, I am not just a fan of good and interesting music, but also a fan of the stories and communities that create some of the best music in the world. This is a show to check in on if you are a great lover of music and the heroes that make it.
To learn more about Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders
The show airs at 10pm on Mondays on KQED.