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Tuesday, 26 January 2010
A Voyage Through The World Of Music...
Now Playing: the sounds of joy and anticipation...
Topic: grammys2010

In this new year and new decade, world music is finding a new audience.  Transglobal connections are being made through social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace as cultural differences are shared, harmonic similarities are discovered, and new sounds emerge from the exchange.  An upcoming television series seems poised to tap into this vibrant energy, presenting the sights and sounds of international locales in an intimate and entertaining fashion.

Music Voyager follows producer and ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar on a fantastic journey around the world, crossing paths with musicians from a dazzling array of genres and ethnicities.   As the series producer, Farook Singh, pointed out, “Music doesn't exist without tapestry around it and the influences behind it.”  Singh is part of Tantra World Wide, a production company creating content for various media platforms.  Unlike other production houses, Tantra is in the fortunate position of owning 100% of their properties.  “We've never been told to go out and do something we have no interest in doing,” adds Singh with an understated sense of pride.

If you’re going to work on something, it may as well be a labor of love, and the passion of this project is more than evident.  “This show took two years to develop,” Singh explained.  “You get to see the country through the eyes of an artist, but it’s got that VH1 edge to it.”  To listen to him talk about what he’s witnessed while filming this series is to hear someone continually falling in love with music.  From India to Jamaica to the United States, another Indian pop star, another dancehall reggae phenomenon, another percussion collective is revealed.  And Singh acknowledges the fact that such musical revelations occur in foreign lands as well when it comes to American music.  “Wherever I go, they ask ‘What about America?’  And what they know of America is Jerry Springer, Britney Spears, but there’s so much more.”  

To that end, Music Voyager has dedicated three episodes to a handful of this year’s GRAMMY® nominees, including banjo player Béla Fleck, singer-songwriter India.Arie, accordion/fiddle player Cedric Watson, and producer Tricky Stewart.  The phrase around The Recording Academy® campfire this year is “We’re All Fans,” and they have been intent on tearing down the walls between artist and fan.  Through a steady stream of content including Flickr photos, Twitter and Facebook updates, and YouTube clips, it’s clear that Music Voyager is right on board with the “We’re All Fans” campaign.

“Our mantra is to put the power of the broadcast into the hands of the fans, which is long in coming,” Singh concluded.  “I'm sick of content being pushed to the market.  Social media and the market were involved in the support of this show.”  Indeed, the questions and comments of fans have steered the production of the series, validating Tantra’s ability to tell the artist’s story while bringing the fans into the creative process.  Be sure to check your PBS listings for the premiere of Music Voyager in February 2010.



Music Voyager sizzler from Farook Singh on Vimeo.

Posted by macedonia at 5:40 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 26 January 2010 5:42 PM EST
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Thursday, 14 January 2010
GRAMMY World Music Nominee: Femi Kuti
Now Playing: still deep in thought....
Topic: grammys2010

Femi Kuti was born the son of Nigeria’s favorite son, Afrobeat creator Fela Kuti, a man who was dubbed “The Black President” long before Barack Obama ran for and won the United States Presidency.  Fela left behind big shoes to fill, but it is clear that Femi carries this music in his flesh, bones, and spirit.  As bandleader for his troupe Positive Force, he walks in the path that his father created with the Afrobeat sound while still commanding respect as his own musician and songwriter.  He remains entrenched in the everyday struggle of his people, pondering the contradictions of Nigeria’s independence while so many within his own city live in poverty.  The Nigerian authorities have not taken kindly to Femi’s messages in song and actions in the street.  Such has resulted in the closing of the New Africa Shrine (Femi’s creative space in tribute to his father, which was captured for posterity on the Live At The Shrine DVD).  Even in the midst of these setbacks, Femi’s spirit remains defiant.  It is this resilience that bursts through on Day By Day, nominated for a GRAMMY® for Best Contemporary World Music Album.  This nomination marks Femi’s second within this category.  It would be cool to see him take this home for Nigeria…

Posted by macedonia at 1:44 AM EST
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considering the possibilities...
Now Playing: deep in thought about so many things...
Topic: grammys2010

earlier this month, the good people at The Recording Academy asked us community bloggers to write up a wrap-up piece about our respective genres, so here's what i came up with for mine...

Considering The Possibilities...

It’s less than a month until the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards and the World Music Field is wide open with possibilities. Walking away with a GRAMMY would be an honor for any of the nominees, and the more their respective albums are examined, the harder it becomes to pick a potential winner. For Best Contemporary World Music Album, each of the nominees are so impressive that you don’t want to see anyone go home empty-handed. Be it the stirring songstress Oumou Sangare or husband and wife duo Amadou & Mariam, they have both done Mali proud. Cuba has presented a gift to the world in pianist Omar Sosa, whose latest album was largely inspired by the slave trade, particularly the Middle Passage. An arguable favorite could be Béla Fleck, certainly no stranger to the GRAMMY Awards, having won several in the past. However, don’t rule out Femi Kuti, Nigeria’s favorite son next to his father, Fela. Receiving his second GRAMMY nomination (the first being for his album Fight To Win), this could be the year for Femi to take it home.

In some ways, it’s more difficult to single out a shoo-in for Best Traditional World Music Album. Between the hypnotic kora of Mamadou Diabate, the rhythmic aesthetics of Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, and the shared traditions of African and South American peoples expressed through John Santos Y El Folklórico Kindembo’s work, it’s easy for one’s allegiances to be torn. The choice becomes even tougher once you consider Irish music lovingly handled by Liz Carroll & John Doyle, or the interplay between Indian and Iraqi musical themes from Rahim Alhaj and Amjad Ali Khan. While it might sound cliché, world music wins simply by having such artists being recognized. Even at a time when global tensions are on the rise, music always rises above it all to celebrate differences while recognizing similarities. It could be said that this year’s World Music nominees represent that beautifully.

Posted by macedonia at 1:36 AM EST
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Friday, 18 December 2009
GRAMMY World Music Nominee: Mamadou Diabate
Now Playing: the sounds of kora playing dancing in my head...
Topic: grammys2010

For some people, tradition is something to break away from.  For the people of Mali, tradition is essential to the survival of heritage.  Nowhere is this more apparent than among the family of griots.  To be a griot (or jeli in West African terminology) is not something you learn, but a privilege you are born into.  They are the bards of their homeland, the entertainers, the historians.  They are the ones who protect and pass down the oral tradition.  It is a lineage that reaches back at least seven centuries and with it comes the kora, a harp-like instrument with the sonic familiarity of a Spanish guitar.  It is one thing to see someone play a six-string fretless bass with skill.  It is quite another to take command of 21 strings with only the index finger and thumb of both hands.

Mamadou Diabate is a member of this grand tradition.  As his playing certainly indicates, he was born to be a jeli.  Holding fast to the skills passed down by his father, Douga Mansa features Diabate at the top of his craft, a masterful kora player.  As wonderful as it is to listen to him perform with his ensemble, his solo recordings are outstanding.  Between the speed of his runs and the fluid nature of his technique, it’s hard to believe that this is all coming from one person.  The song that I keep returning to from the album is “Bi Allah La Ke.”  Diabate works from a central theme and is free to go where the moment takes him, always keeping the main melody close by no matter far off those lightning fast riffs take him.  For further evidence of why the GRAMMY® nod for Best Traditional World Music Album is well deserved, take a look at the grand griot doing what he does best...

bi.allalahke from Mamadou Diabate on Vimeo.

Posted by macedonia at 3:22 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 19 December 2009 11:27 AM EST
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Tuesday, 15 December 2009
47 days and counting...
Now Playing: excitement in the mind and the belly...
Topic: grammys2010

The new and improved GRAMMY.com premiered today and it's a pretty slick-looking site.  Blogs are representin' big time and it's wild to see my first piece posted up there with the other community bloggers and cats like Shepard Fairey in the mix.  Incredible.  

So if you haven't guessed yet, The Recording Academy® is really working this We're All Fans angle, as evidenced by the social media share aspects of the new GRAMMY site.  The 30-second TV spot in anticipation of the January 31st ceremonies has been making the rounds.  Highlights from the nominations concert can more than likely be found on the GRAMMYs YouTube Channel.

And as for myself, diving deeper into the music of the world.  Coming up next time:  Mamadou Diabate...

Posted by macedonia at 2:00 AM EST
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Thursday, 10 December 2009
GRAMMY World Music Nominee: Amadou & Mariam
Now Playing: dorian concept - seek when is her
Topic: grammys2010

It’s about that time we start getting to know each of the world music nominees for the 52nd Annual GRAMMY® Awards.  Since Mali has the greatest representation this year within the world music field, let’s kick things off with a husband and wife duo that’s up for Best Contemporary World Music Album:  Amadou & Mariam.

For almost 30 years now, Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia have been recording and performing together.  Ever since fate allowed them to cross paths at the Institute for Young Blind People in Bamako (Mali’s capital city), their journey through life and music has been a magical one.  Singing in French, English, and their own West African dialect, their sound is rooted in Malian blues and folk interwoven with rock and reggae motifs.  The end result is engaging Afro-pop that has won them critical acclaim from all over the globe.  It was their 2003 album Dimanche a Bamako that introduced them to the world outside of Mali and some consider their latest album, the GRAMMY nominated Welcome To Mali, as their finest to date.

To listen to one of their recordings or to see one of their live performances is to witness the strength of their bond as an unbreakable musical scale, Mariam’s voice and Amadou’s guitar echoing each other’s joy and sadness.   In addition to being great artists, they have also been appointed as Ambassadors for Culture (Art) to the Zeitz Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the Earth’s ecosphere through various international and social projects.  Tying into this environmental cause, Amadou and Mariam appeared in an all-star cover version of Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning” as part of a global climate justice campaign.  As if all that weren’t enough, they will also perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway on December 11 to honor this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, President Barack Obama.

Here’s the video for “Masiteladi,” one of three singles from their Welcome To Mali album.


Amadou & Mariam | MySpace Music Videos


Amadou & Mariam online:  Official Website ||| MySpace page

Posted by macedonia at 11:01 PM EST
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Friday, 4 December 2009
it's a worldwide thing (and the nominees are...)
Now Playing: august darnell, sleep deprivation, and my own mind racing...
Topic: grammys2010

Maybe I’m wrong, but something tells me that the rest of the world doesn’t refer to what they do as “world music.”  That term is a distinctly American one, part of that curiously Western phenomenon of attempting to brand what you cram to understand.  Over the several decades that the phrase has been in existence, world music has been defined a number of different ways.  Some observe it as traditional folk music from various parts of the globe while others have used the genre as a wide net in which to capture all non-Western musical styles.  At best it’s a term which recognizes the instrumentation, vocal phrasing, and rich culture of localized musicianship worldwide (even if you're not always sure of what exactly you're listening to or what to call it).  At worst it’s categorical purgatory, that place where you drop off sounds birthed from an exceptionally talented player from another part of the earth simply because you don’t have the time (or the patience) to get to know it on its own terms.

Call me crazy, but I think world music deserves better.  Nestled within that middle-aged tag cloud are sonic droplets from an extremely diverse harmonic climate.  There are traditional and modern takes on rhythms, melodies and dialects from countless ethnic backgrounds.  For those of us who are plugged in and logged on to the Internet and various social networking sites, the idea of the “global village” is our everyday existence.  And for those of us who are fans of music, seeking out sounds from another part of the world has never been easier.  It would stand to reason that if music is the universal language that we claim it to be, then that which falls underneath the world music umbrella ought not be so foreign to us stateside.  Considering the amount of love that American artists receive overseas and knowing that love isn’t always reciprocated in support of hometown heroes from distant lands, perhaps examining the 52nd Annual GRAMMY® Awards Nominees for world music will help remedy that.

Within the category of Best Traditional World Music Album (Vocal or Instrumental), the diversity immediately becomes apparent.  Mamadou Diabate (a highly revered kora player from Mali, West Africa) has been nominated for Douga Mansa while Liz Carroll and John Doyle bring a kick to Celtic folk music with fiercely engaging performances on Double Play.  Conversations in traditional Middle Eastern and Indian instrumentation are explored by Rahim Alhaj and Amjad Ali Khan on their Ancient Sounds album.  Rounding out the nominees are two recordings predominantly focused on the drum:  the Afro-Cuban influenced La Guerra No from John Santos Y El Folklórico Kindembo and the Taiwanese percussion of the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group’s Drum Music Land.  

As for the category of Best Contemporary World Music Album (Vocal or Instrumental), there is some serious competition.  American banjo player and nine-time GRAMMY Award winner Béla Fleck is in the running with Throw Down Your Heart: Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3 - Africa Sessions.  Speaking of Africa, Nigeria’s own Femi Kuti has been nominated for his Day By Day full-length while the joyous Afro-pop stylings of Amadou and Miriam will be recognized for their album, Welcome To Mali.  Cuban pianist Omar Sosa is rightfully within great company due to his mesmerizing release, Across The Divide: A Tale of Rhythm & Ancestry.  Last but certainly not least, the alluring vocals of Oumou Sangare (another Malian artist) are the driving force behind her latest album, Seya.

Mali has a strong showing within the world music field across the board and one might think they have it on lock, but the overall talent here is technically amazing and downright awe-inspiring.  It is my hope to shine the spotlight on each of these artists in future posts between now and January 31st, 2010 when the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place.  You can follow the GRAMMYs on Twitter and Facebook and there’s even a Twitter link for all the community bloggers as well.  After sampling a little bit from each of the world music nominees this year, I am extremely excited to be a part of this project and to learn more about music that I wouldn’t know otherwise.  As I've been saying recently on my podcast, the more you listen to, the more you'll find.

Music is a worldwide thing:  keep diggin'...

Posted by macedonia at 2:02 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 4 December 2009 2:04 AM EST
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Tuesday, 1 December 2009
one of the fans...
Now Playing: v/a - beat battle at the rooms of red bull - the afterthought
Topic: grammys2010


So it's official:  I am one of the community bloggers for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards.  In some ways I'm taking it in stride and in others, I'm bouncing off the walls a little bit.  What's funny is that I almost talked myself out of it.  As the badge above suggests, I'll be covering the World Music category, a field that has two different album categories:  traditional and contemporary.  I honestly didn't know if I had what it took to go in on this like I thought it should be done and as I was explaining my reasons for why I thought I shouldn't do it, I ended up laying out the perfect reason for why I should.  Life's funny like that.

Then again, it was around this time last year that I found myself in a conference room at work during my lunch break, pitching a podcast idea called "grammys on shuffle" over the phone to one of the marketing managers at The Recording Academy. I never saw myself as much of a pitch man until that day.  Interesting how the things that you're passionate about can get you into that zone.  And if you're anything like me, music gets you in that zone. And seeing as how I love coming across new music or something that I never heard before, blogging for the World Music category offers that ability to get to know something new and different...and be able to see and hear harmonies and melodies through another country's perspective and experiences.

So there's a Grammy nominations concert taking place on Wednesday, December 2nd at 9PM on CBS.  That's the jump-off, more or less.  The theme this year is "We're All Fans."  A number of the bloggers will be on Twitter that night posting tweets live, so you can find us all here.  The actual ceremonies commence on Sunday, January 31, 2010.  Any and all Grammy happy haps you need to know can be found at grammy.com.

So while I'm involved in a different way than podcasting last year, I'm very happy to be writing on the regular again.  This time around should prove to be quite interesting...

Posted by macedonia at 1:35 AM EST
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