Levon Helm, Drummer And Singer In The Band, Dies

Apr 20, 2012

So Percussion, a New York-based quartet, brings an epic approach to the backbeat. 

We speak with members Adam Silwinski and Eric Beach in advance of their show at The Hop at Dartmouth College. 


Anoushka Shankar: A Sitar Player In Andalusia

Apr 19, 2012

Anoushka Shankar is the daughter and protege of the renowned Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who is credited with introducing Indian classical music to Western audiences. Now, Anoushka Shankar carries on this tradition in more ways than one. On her new album, Traveller, she goes back in time to make the connections between India and Spain.

Tupac Shakur was killed more than 15 years ago — three years before the first Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival was held. But thanks to a trick of light, he's probably the single most talked about musician who performed at this year's version of the festival.

Saxophonist Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns has died. Love, who had Alzheimer's disease, died on April 12 at his home in Memphis. He was 70 years old.

And now...from you.

Apr 16, 2012
Photo by Rebecca Lavoie

One listener wants to know how we choose music for segments. Another wants to brag about her nine year-old's fiddlehead business. 

We take on more of your feedback, and get your burning questions answered. 

Spiritualized: The Man Who Fell To Earth

Apr 16, 2012

In 2001, a German nature magazine sent a crew to observe the eruption of Mount Etna, the volcano on the eastern coast of Sicily. The report they filed began with this line: "We got as close as we could for safety to the center of the eruption, and set up our equipment and our cameras. Then a man in a silver spacesuit marched up to where we were — and kept on walking."

Amnon Weinstein first encountered a violin from the Holocaust 50 years ago. He was a young violin maker in Israel, and a customer brought him an old instrument in terrible condition and wanted it restored.

The customer had played on the violin on the way to the gas chamber, but he survived because the Germans needed him for their death camp orchestra. He hadn't played on it since.

"So I opened the violin, and there inside there [were] ashes," Weinstein says.

Imagine an era when mainstream music wasn't filled with synthesizers. When electronic music wasn't a force propelling everything from pop and hip-hop to music from the underground. There was a time when this world existed. Then Kraftwerk emerged, and the world we knew changed.

On Friday morning a hearing scheduled in the criminal copyright case of Megaupload may have implications for all kinds of companies that sell storage space in the cloud — storage space used for anything from music files to family photos, research data to movie collections. The hearing will focus on what happens when the federal government blocks access to allegedly illegal files along with clearly legal ones.

Carole King has an armful of Grammy Awards and countless Top 10 hits, both under her own name and as a songwriter for artists from Little Eva to the Monkees to Aretha Franklin.

Her solo album Tapestry spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts, becoming one of the biggest-selling records of all time. King managed to fit in all those hits by starting very, very young. She tells NPR's Renee Montagne that she was just 15 when she and some classmates formed a doo-wop group called the Co-Sines.

M. Ward: Sounds Of A Different Time And Place

Apr 10, 2012

M. Ward's music inspires a sense of wonder — it recalls many sounds from a different time and place.

"I get most of my inspiration from older records and older production styles," Ward says, "and that ends up rearing its head in the records that I make. One of the great things about music is that it has the capability of time travel — you smell a certain smell in the room and it takes you back to your childhood. I feel like music is able to do that, and it happens to me all the time."

It's never been easy to make a living as a musician. But there was always a dream: to become a star on the strength of your talent and your music. The Internet is a rude sandman, however, and today that dream is a lot more convoluted.

No longer can a would-be rock star follow the once-accepted checklist: (1) sign with a big label, (2) get a hit, (3) buy mansions and cars. The number of ways a musician can make money is now varied. The question, for many musicians still trying to make a go of it in the industry, is whether those many sources can add up to something sustainable.

During the course of his career, singer-songwriter Adam Cohen says he has twisted himself into creating commercially successful music — but not this record, not this song. "What Other Guy," from his third album Like A Man, didn't seem likely to generate mainstream popularity. And yet it did, more than any other song he has ever recorded.

The son of iconic singer Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen says his latest record is a celebration and demonstration of his father's influence on his music.

Idan Raichel is one of Israel's top-selling pop musicians. Vieux Farka Toure is a virtuoso guitarist from Mali. The two met by chance in a German airport, and when Toure played a concert in Tel Aviv, Raichel sat in. He enjoyed himself so much that he invited Toure and two other musicians to come to a studio the next day and jam. The music they created is now an album called The Tel Aviv Session.

With Love is singer Rosie Thomas' first full-length album in four years, and she's experienced many ups and downs in that time. One of the downs was an injury: Her thyroid broke, causing her to take a hiatus from music.

Since they made their debut in 1971, it's been rare for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to not have a show on Broadway. But now they're ramping it up, with the opening of Evita following fast on the heels of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"It's actually just a coincidence as far as I can tell, because the two shows came from totally different sources," Rice says. "And by sheer chance, they've arrived within two or three weeks of each other on Broadway, which is fun!"

Right now, Dan Auerbach is living a rock-star moment, with his hard-hitting blues-rock duo The Black Keys selling out arenas all over the country. Lots of people want him on their records. So what does he do? He seeks out the 71-year-old Dr.

In his 1995 autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, Dr. John writes about his tumultuous music career, a decades-long heroin addiction and the time he spent in prison on a drug-possession charge. The book is candid in a way that most of his music is not — until now. On his new album, Locked Down, Dr. John takes a more personal approach.

Photo by Beast of Traal via Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1:

Users, Unite!

This is the one union that will kick you out if you pass a drug test. Jesse McKinley wrote about the evolution and demands of the San Francisco drug users union for The New York Time.

New York Times Article  

Part 2:

The Cow Clause

Sometimes a family resemblance is so strong, you don’t even need eyes to see it.

Adam Cohen is the son of the famed Canadian musician, poet, and ladies’ man Leonard Cohen. After three solo albums, one release from his band Low Millions, and a four-year hiatus from music, Adam has returned with a new album, and a new appreciation for the family legacy.  The album Like a Man makes its U.S. release on April 3rd.

Today, Morning Edition begins a series of stories profiling the six new inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a diverse bunch, including two acts that originated in 1960s London: The Small Faces and Donovan.

By now, you may have heard of Bombino, his album, Agadez was a hot seller on i-tunes and named one of NPR’s 50 favorite albums of 2011. Bombino, whose given name is Omara Moctar, is a guitarist from the Tuareg tribe, African nomads who have been persecuted by the government of Niger, especially, who reportedly fought for Gaddafi in Libya and are now considered rebels by the government of Mali, but their real fidelity is to eking out their lives in the desert

Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. It's part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.

Baloji: Finding A Home In His Music

Mar 27, 2012

Rapper Baloji was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised in Belgium. He's built a reputation for incorporating Congolese music into his mix, though he mostly raps in French, his deep voice full of cocky brashness. You can catch his vibe without translation, but it's worth reading the liner notes to get his messages, as well. Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium, but also the tragic, bloody history of his homeland on his second album, Kinshasa Succursale.