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.

In a busy New York subway station, a man serenades passersby with a beat-up guitar. A few of them look up from their BlackBerrys and toss a little change in his guitar case. It's a scene that plays out in subways and streets around the world.

(press photo) official website

Kate hosts Dar Williams at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction, Vermont.

Few 20th century thinkers predicted the 21st century era of social media and the Internet better than Marshall McLuhan. Beginning in the 1960s, the Toronto-based philosopher and scholar began to theorize about how television and radio were changing society, creating what he termed the "global village."

From its start in the late '90s, Zieti faced tough odds. Arranging gigs in Abidjan, Ivory Coast was a high-risk, do-it-yourself affair for the band. And that was before the country underwent a military coup, a rigged election and a brush with civil war. Zemelewa was recorded by 15 musicians in four studios on two continents. For all that, you can sense the band's solidarity, as if merely making this record was an act of resistance.

Tanlines: Grown-Up Problems, With A Beat

Mar 19, 2012

Four years since they first began making music together, the Brooklyn-based duo Tanlines is finally releasing an album: Mixed Emotions, out tomorrow. The band is Eric Emm, who sings and plays guitar, and Jesse Cohen, who plays drums, keyboards and an assortment of electronic instruments. Cohen is also the chattier of the two.

"We use a lot of different drum kits that are in a computer," Cohen explains. "We also play a lot of stuff live, and a lot of time you can't really tell which is real and which is fake. That's sort of a thing that we like to play with."

Monadnock Chorus

Mar 17, 2012
Todd Bookman, NHPR

The Monadnock Chorus has been sharing song and creating community for more than 50 years. Phyllis Scott joined the chorus in 1972.

PHYLLIS: Wherever I have lived I’ve felt the need to be singing. It’s just very fulfilling to me, it’s a wonderful way to make friends and it’s just part of me that’s all.

The SXSW music convention takes over Austin, Texas, for five days each March. This year, NPR Music's Ann Powers is in Austin trying to catch as much of the action as she can. At South By Southwest's midpoint, Powers spoke to Morning Edition's Renee Montagne about the highlights so far (including that awesome Springsteen keynote, which you can listen to in its entirety), and what she's looking forward to seeing over the festival's second half.

If you think Rebecca Black of "Friday" fame has had a tough run with web users, imagine being in the band Nickelback, the rockers the web loves to hate.

Vijay Iyer: The Physical Experience of Rhythm

Mar 15, 2012

Listen to music from jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, and you'll hear rhythms that pulse and shift, intricate patterns of notes, a wide range of references. There are lots of examples on his trio's new album, Accelerando.

Iyer, the son of Indian immigrants, started on violin at age three. He later taught himself how to play the piano — learning through improvisation, something he never did on the violin.

Photo by Nan Palmero via Flickr Creative Commons

Austin’s South by Southwest festival has turned over from movies and technology to music before drawing to a close this weekend. The annual event is a magnet for filmmakers, movie stars, internet execs, musical heavyweights, would-be rock stars and enough techies, coders and developers to give it the nickname of summer camp for geeks. Adam Jones is a kind of media-mashing guy himself.

More than a decade ago, an album came out recorded mostly on cassette in a house, never released on a major label — and until last month it had been out of print for almost that long. When Noel Gallagher of Oasis heard it, he declared it "amazing," and The Guardian called it "the best album The Beatles never recorded."

This year's Winter Song playlist concludes with music that carried one woman though a difficult season that would change her life.

Robert Sherman — one half of the songwriting team behind Disney movies and major hit musicals — has died. He was 86. The Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, wrote some of the most enduring Disney songs of all time. Their output was astounding: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Aristocats.

John Lasseter, of Pixar and Disney, once said, "You cannot forget a Sherman brothers song for your life."

K'Naan: A Song 'More Beautiful Than Silence'

Mar 6, 2012

The last time Morning Edition spoke with K'naan, he had just gone back to his native Somalia for the first time in 20 years to highlight the effects of the famine there.

Ever since The Rising in 2002 — and arguably since 1984's Born in the U.S.A.Bruce Springsteen releases have functioned as State of the Union addresses as much as pop LPs. Wrecking Ball does, too, beginning with its Occupy-era lead single "We Take Care of Our Own," an anthemic bit of wishful thinking which, like "Born in the U.S.A.," seems easy to misinterpret by 180 degrees if you don't pay attention to the verses between the chorus.

Suzanne Ciani's start in music was traditional enough. She was classically trained, majored in music at Wellesley College, and got a fellowship to study composition at UC Berkeley. But when she arrived there in the mid-1960s, just in time to witness the student protests that consumed the Bay Area during that decade, her focus shifted.

Monty Alexander: Jazz Piano Via Jamaican Pop

Mar 1, 2012

The sound of one of this year's Grammy-nominated reggae albums, Harlem-Kingston Express Live, may seem perplexing at first. But don't let the blend of swing and dub confuse you: That's just the unique sound of pianist Monty Alexander.

Alexander's music has variously been described as bebop, calypso and reggae. But after 50 years in music and more than 70 albums, he's earned the right to call his music simply his own.

Alexander grew up in Jamaica playing the piano and the accordion, and he was versed in the up-and-coming popular music of the island.

Kitty Eisele is supervising senior editor at NPR's Morning Edition. In this essay she remembers Monkees band member Davy Jones, who died Wednesday at age 66.

This is embarrassing to write, but years ago when my first crush erupted, I asked my dad to write a love note on my behalf to Davy Jones.

Music In Political Campaigns 101

Feb 29, 2012

It's true that you can still get by in rock 'n' roll on the strength of a unique voice. But it helps if said voice has something interesting to work with.

On the first three records by Heartless Bastards, that wasn't always the case. The Mountain, from 2008, had some terrific songs about a breakup, and a few that got bogged down in a rut. But on the band's latest release, Arrow, every song has a powerful, almost magnetic melody.

While we at StateImpact like to talk about trends and broad-brush movements in business and economics, occasionally it’s helpful to zoom-in and look at individual cases of business success.

Photo: NHPR

Fiddler Jordan Tirell-Wysocki and guitarist Matt Jensen join Kate in-studio on the Folk Show.

Tirell-Wysocki, a Canterbury fiddler who studied under Dudley Laufman and Carolyn Parrot will be appearing at the NHAMA (New Hampshire Acoustic Music Association) Spring Fling this Sunday, March 4 at the TupeloMusic Hall in Londonderry.


This week, weekends on All Things Considered begins a new series called "Why Music Matters": stories from fans, in their own words, about how music has changed their lives. In this first installment, Seattle resident Nathan Hotchkiss reflects on a sheltered childhood.

"My parents were very religious," he says. "I was limited to listening only to Christian music and classical. My father would stay away a lot, and my mother would be wrapped up in her own turmoil, and it would spill over onto me."

When some of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop are clamoring to be on a jazz record, you know you're dealing with a special kind of jazz musician.

Just about three years after he violently assaulted her, R&B singer Chris Brown is back with pop star Rihanna — musically, at least. On Monday night, each released a new version of a previously released song. Both remixes feature the other party, and both are causing quite the stir.

Before the rise of Def Jam as hip-hop's definitive record label, there was Profile, which helped shepherd in some of the genre's early shifts in sound and style. A new two-CD anthology, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology, chronicles the label's 15-year history and legacy.