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The Cult of Personality

Ok, the title for this week's World Music Show (8/20), is really a play on words. It's in no way a sly reference to an African American heavy metal band known as Living Colour. The title is merely a reference to an icon in Bolero music that is the crux of existence for a group featured on this week's show.

And that group is the band Miramar, who are made up of members from two local bands. Their new CD is dedicated to the late Puerto Rican Bolero composer Sylvia Rexach, who attained cult status in the 1940s & 50s by carving her own path not normally traveled by women. But more on that later.

Other highlights for the show, include another episode off A Different Spin with Indie-Nova band, Complicated Animals; a dip into French-Django-style music with a famed cartoonist; and a live version of a Michael Jackson song done Latin style. But that, as the saying goes, is just the tip of the iceberg.

 So, let's dig into the band Miramar. If you don't recognize the name yet, then you may know the local bands Bio Ritmo and Quarto Na Bassa. Two members from Ritmo, Rei Alvarez and Marlyesse Simmons and singer Laura Ann Singh form Quarto, recently got together to celebrate the music of the Puerto Rican Bolero composer Sylvia Rexach. In Puerto Rico, Rexach has attained cult status. Born in 1922, she was a self taught pianist and guitarist. A fiercely independent woman, Rexach eschewed the traditional path then available to women, and embraced the lifestyle of San Juan’s bohemia of which she became a central character. She began to compose and write poetry in her teenage years and went on to form the first Puerto Rican all female band, Las Damiselas. She contributed a regular column to El Diario de Puerto Rico, wrote radio skits in which she also acted and was one of the founders of SPACEM, the Puerto Rican Society of Authors and Composers. Like many Boleros, her music was poetic and at time sad. Miramar, the group, aims to capture that poetry through their music. Using a somewhat traditional instrumentation that includes organ, piano, guitar, bass, percussion and an occasional string quartet the group’s arrangements distill the essence of the golden age of boleros while adding touches that reveal the band’s scope and diversity. Off their CD, we'll hear the songs "Alma Adentro" and "Por Siempre."

Mixed into that first set will be a track by the great guitar duo who are Rodrigo y Gabriella. Off their CD called Area 51, which also features back-up sounds from the band CUBA, we'll hear the cut "Ixtapa," which features the sitarist Anoushka Shankar.

 We'll bounce from that Latin genre and head over to Paris, to a night club (at least in my mind). It's in this setting that I picture us hearing this band--Les Primitifs du Futur---playing a mix of Django inspired tunes. What's unique about this band is that one of the part time members is the famed cartoonist R. Crumb. He plays Mandoline. Off their CD called Cocktail d' Amour, here are the songs "Eddie & Lonnie," and "Zoo Blues." This music will move us so much that we'll hang out in this imaginary club for a little while, just sipping espressos and nodding our heads to the music. However, one band in this genre will be a ruse, sort of. The band Pink Martini, who play some really swinging French music (as well as a host of other styles), are actually from Portland, Oregon. We'll hear the song "Sympathique," off their CD of the same name. They've been on tour this summer with the sometimes help from NPR All Things Considered Host, Ari Shapiro. Also in this set too is the song "Tu Es Ma Came," by the multi-talented Carla Bruni---you know, the former model and First Lady of France.

After that trip, we'll head back to the land of Latin music. Perhaps you've heard me play a couple of Latin tributes to Michael Jackson, done by a group of Latin musicians called Unity, which included Jon Secada, Kevin Ceballo and a few others. Well, they took their CD on the road. Off of that, we'll hear their version of "Smooth Criminal," which features the great percussionist Sheila E., who if you didn't know, has played with Prince many times and who's dad is percussionist Pete Escovedo. Then, going back in time a bit, we'll hear a couple of my favorites from the legendary and often overlooked and under appreciated Desi Arnaz. Off a CD collection called Babalu, we'll of course hear the title track, but I also throw in the song "Tico Tico." It would have been so great to see him playing in a nightclub back in his heyday. And mixed into this chunk of music will be the song "Baila me," by the band Gypsy Kings--who are always great to hear once in awhile.

I recently picked up another compilation CD from the Red Hot people (Red Hot + Blue, Riot, Rio). Off of Red Hot + Lisbon, here's the song "Cancao de Engate," by Delfins and To Ricciardi. And to cap off the first hour, I'll play some actual "new" music for you (as opposed to just "new to me" music). From a new CD called Dakar Suite by the musician Leni Stern, we'll hear the song "Fisherman." And from the band Bacao Rhythm Steel Band, we'll hear the song "Laventile Road March," which can be found on their new CD simply called 55."

 For hour two, we'll dive into another rousing edition of my on again/off again segment called A Different Spin, in which I invite musicians, mostly local, but sometimes not, to sit down with me to play and discuss their favorite music. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the duo who are Complicated Animals. They were in town to play my World Music Birthday Bash. Sadly though, they didn't bring any music, since when they travel, they use their phones or IPods to play music. Apparently traveling with CDs is now old school--just don't tell that to my cassette tape collection.

Mixed into the rest of hour will be tracks from local band Afro-Zen Allstars, who were the headliners at the BirthdayBash, as well as a track from Bio Ritmo as well as some other great miscellaneous music from a variety of artists.

 The World Music Show airs Saturday nights form 8-10pm on 88.9FM Richmond Public Radio. You can also follow the show on Twitter @wcveworldmusic and on Facebook by looking for The World Music Show on WCVE. Plus, if you're not a local, you can stream the show via this website.