Can Music Be a Weapon?
Sure, that's a provacative headline. And like any good lead-in, I'll stretch out that thought like a good teaser line should be. Because on this week's World Music Show (9/22), we will attempt to answer that question (or at least give the background to its meaning) as well as discuss some of the finer points of World Beat.
But first, some "must hears" from the first of two hours. I always like to start a show with something strong, a bang, if you will. And there is no better beats to do this with than the with the beats from Timbalada music. Timbalada music began in the Bahia region of Brazil in the imagination of virtuoso percussionist Carlinhos Brown (who, coincidentally took the name "Brown," from one of his American Soul idols, James Brown). Brown was able to fuse the rhythms of Afro-American music with those of Afro-Caribbean music to create a unique, purely Brazilian sound, that's heavy on percussion.
And becuase it's so fun to hear some rockus, upbeat music--especially from Brazil, I'll keep that Latin rhythm going for just a little bit longer. From Columbia, we'll hear from the band Aterciopelados, and from the Brazilian band Bid. Plus, as a bonus, we'll hear a Brazilian cover of a Joni Mitchell tune covered by one of that continent's biggest icons--Caetano Veloso, who covers the song "Dreamland." And, to throw a small wrench into said Latin theme, I'll continue a mini-Joni set with her song "The Magdalene Laundries," done tonight by Joni along with The Chieftains. That combination gives the song a nice twist. Mixed in this chunk of music too, will be a song by a band of Brazilian Ex-pats, known as Forro in the Dark, as well as a song by a trio who goes by the name Brazilian Girls, though, there's only one female in the band, and only one Brazilian.
What could be a better transition from Brazilian music than a song by a master of the slide guitar? The slide guitar, known as an instrument that came to shine from the islands of Hawaii, gets some stellar treatment from Indian master slide guitarist Debashish Battacharya. He has something he calls a "trifecta of guitars," that he has built on his own. This artist, by the way, was a listener request--so I'm happy to play it.
To close out the first hour, I'll play a couple of songs from the Playing for Change organization, whose soul purpose is to bring the world closer through music. They cull together dozens of musicians from around the globe and have them cover a song. It's truly amazing. Check out the link I provided.
Now, to finally answer that senstational headline of "Can Music Be a Weapon?" Well, that thought or idiom was used by one of the late Afrobeat founders, Fela Kuti (the other being his drummer Tony Allen). During his rise to fame, in his native Nigeria, Kuti knew that music was a way to get the people he was singing to connected and more importantly, impowered, to the atrocities that were happening becuase of the Nigerian government. So, in Kuti's mind, yes, Music can be (and was) used as a weapon.
Kuti created a whole movement around Afrobeat, which incorporated all the sounds you could think of: R & B, Soul, African tribal music, funk and so much more. We'll hear a track from a CD that highlights some Afrobeat Revival music from Tony Allen, as well from Kokoto. From there, we'll make an easy transition to Juju music, from King Sunny Ade, off his CD actually titled "Juju Music."
And, to move on after that, we'll hear a style of music called Highlife. Highlife, which was created in Ghana, back in the 1940s, but pushed more to the forefront in the 1970s, thanks to its mixture of rock, soul and traditional Ghana music. It's a story of "when old meets new," with Highlife. And if that weren't enough, we'll highlight another form of African music called Congotronics. Founded in the suburbs of Kinshasha, the music features heavily-distorted sounds generated by a "Do-it-Yourself," amplification of the instruments, along with megaphones made by hand, along with percussion instruments built from old car parts.
To round out this week's show will be a few surprises (including a few new tracks from Jimmy Cliff--ok, that was a spoiler, but I wanted you to know), along with a few songs from some Japanese artists that you may or not have heard of, like Matsuki Ayumu and Pizzacato Five. Hopefully, the sounds you're reading about will make you want to tune in. If you do, and like it, then let me know.
The World Music Show aires every Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. on 88.9FM WCVE Public Radio or online via this website.