The Byrne Factor
Before I get to the art and music of David Byrne, who is part of a mini-retrospective on this week's (11/12) World Music Show, I want to highlight a few of the artists I'll be featuring in the first hour of the show. Let's cut through some of the musicians you may have heard before on the show--though, their placement in this random order should not diminish their significance any less.
So, with that, you'll hear some great music from artists like Ethiopian Gigi who had a ton of help from people like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock on her self-titled CD. And, you'll hear a really great tune from the outfit known as Afrocubism, which are a group of Cuban musicians who were supposed to be part of The Buena Vista Social Club. I say supposed to be because before they were ready to leave their country, they were detained and they never got to be a part of the BVSC. Luckily, years later, these talented musicians were able to record a very spectacular album.
One highlight of the first hour will be some new music from Malaysian singer, songwriter and ukelele player Zee Avi. Her second album "Ghostbird" recently came out with much critical praise--and well deserved praise, too. Her voice is smooth, rich and utterly sweet sounding. It's like she's a classic singer in the vein of Ella Fitzgerald but with a more contemporary feel. A few years ago, she sent her friend a sort of singing telegram on YouTube. After posting a few songs on YouTube and MySpace, Avi was discovered by Patrick Keeler of the rock group The Raconteurs. Keeler, in turn, forwarded the songs to the manager of The White Stripes and The Shins. Within a month, Avi signed a deal with Brushfire Records, the label partially owned by singer Jack Johnson. Since then, she's been touring and singing all over the world. One of her signature songs is a cover of Morrissey's "First of the Gang." She even did a Tiny Desk concert for NPR.
The entire second hour is dedicated to the music of David Byrne. Since his days with the The Talking Heads through his vast solo career, Byrne has infused his songs with all sorts of World Music themes--in fact one of his albums "Rei Momo" featured songs entirely dedicated to different Latin styles of music.
But first some highlights from David Byrne's life. He has worked with various media including film, photography, opera, and non-fiction. He has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Byrne was born in Dumbarton, Scotland, and has lived in Ontario, Canada. But, he grew up in Arbutus, Maryland from the time he was 8 or 9 years old. Even before high school, Byrne already knew how to play the guitar, accordion, and violin. And, like other singers who have a unique voice, Byrne was rejected from his middle school’s choir because they claimed he was "off-key and too withdrawn." And Byrne is left handed but plays guitar right handed.
Byrne has released more than a dozen solo albums and has donated music to several songs for the AIDS relief project known as the "Red Hot..." series. He's worked with people such as Brian Eno and even the late Tejano singer Selena. His love of World Music, which began at an early age by scouring record bins, morphed into the his own record label called Luaka Bop. The record label has been going strong for more than 20 years.
Byrne also is a profilic writer--one book in particular is a great read. It's called "The Bicycle Diaries," and it's about his thoughts and observations he sees when he brings his bike to various places while on tour.
There is so much background information about Byrne that I think it's best if you just check out the show and listen to the songs I've selected. In fact, there's so much great music with Byrne, that I could have done a two-hour retrospective, instead of just one. The World Music Show airs Saturday nights at from 10:00 p.m. to Midnight. You can follow a live-streaming Tweet-fest by following me on Twitter at: @wcveworldmusic. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this or other shows, so leave a comment below.