Sometimes I come across some pretty amazing things when I’m culling together tracks for the World Music Show. From musicians who have unique stories or have invented new ways to deliver their messages to well loved musicians who have decided to dip their guitar picks into the vast well of World Music.
It’s the latter of these thoughts that brings me some joy for this week’s show (9/1). The artist in question was a staple of folk music for much of the 1970s. He, along with musicians such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Baez, Nick Drake and the like, were a mainstay of 70s FM radio. But then things changed.
And like many musicians of that era, tastes changed, people found other sounds on the radio dial. But in his case, he found religion, in his case he became a Muslim. And through that, he created some controversies in the dialogue he was expressing. This led him to be renounced as an artist in some circles--and shunned completely in others. This musician almost completely left music behind--he stopped producing songs for the masses and concentrated on talking about his love of his religion.
But time as a funny way of healing past wounds. And over time he slowly came back to whatever mainstream was left, whoever would listen again to his powerful voice, which has now grown a bit deeper, a bit more somber.
All this leads me to finally say who this is. I’m talking about the artist Cat Stevens. I grew up listening to Cat Stevens--from the 8-tracks we played in my Mom’s dirty brown Chevy Malibu, to the cassette tapes I still have to the best of collection CDs I still play, Stevens has always been a part of my life. Stevens, who has for years gone by Yusuf Islam has been “back” for a few years now, playing shows, singing some of his old hits and now he’s out with a new album.
This venture, called “Tell “em I’m Gone,” is filled with the sounds of R & B Islam grew up with in London. But, the twist is that on his new songs and covers, he has enlisted the help of some well-known people and he’s incorporated some unique “World” beats (which is why I can play him). He also enlisted the help of legendary producer Rick Rubin, who’s career of late seems to be that of a Quentin Taratino type producer. By that I mean he’s gotten musicians who many may have thought washed up or past their prime, to go back to their original sounds (i.e. Neil Diamond, on two great CDs in which he had Diamond pick up a guitar again and ditch the big band); to those like Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, who Rubin was able to bring out something deeply personal in their sound that hasn’t been heard before.
On “Gone,” Islam gets the help of the desert blues band Tinariwen too, who provide some backing vocals and even handclaps. Plus, the guitar sounds on songs such as “ I Was Raised in Babylon” and the cover of “You Are My Sunshine,” (which is what I’ll be playing this week), have the same sweeping sounds that you’d hear on Tinariwen’s “Tasseli,” album.
I’m just happy as a clam to get to play some tracks from this really great new CD by Yusuf Islam. And even though I’m only playing one track on this show, all this space I’ve given to this means you will like it too.
Of course I’ve got many other great music lined up this week too. We’ll hear a chunk of new Reggae music from some “new-to-me” bands such as: For Peace Band (who are the only Reggae band from Guam getting a world stage); Iya Terra and a new song from Collie Buddz.
More “new-to-me” music will come from a band out of D.C. called Black Masala. Black Masala explode with some big band sounds from Romany, Serbia and even from South Asia. In addition we’ll also check out another song from The Blue Dahlia. Led by Dahlia Dumont, who recently returned from several years in France, she was struggling with a new baby, her father’s serious illness, and nursing school. On walks through her Brooklyn neighborhood, she always happened by this club that had global sounds emanating from it.
The music she heard at night inspired her as did the people she met at the club. “I decided to get some songs down as a demo,” she recalls. Her fellow regulars joined in, and a band was born.
These are just the tips of the musical iceberg. I’ll also spin tracks from these artists: Bombino, Leni Stern, Dirtwire (who have the Tuvan Throat singer Ondar with them), Gotan Project (doing some electronic Tango music), the Spanish artist Bebe laying down some gritty Rock n’ Roll, and some electronic music from France’s We Are Enfant Terrible and Japan’s answer to Bob Dylan Matsuki Ayumu.
Not to be missed or dissed will be a chunk of Afrobeat music from Kokolo No 1; Angelique Kidjo, Talking Heads and David Byrne and Brian Eno--and it’s all connected too.
It’ll be another fun show this Saturday night. Tune into the World Music Show starting at 8pm on WCVE Music, 93,1 & 107.3FM. Or you can stream the show via this website, where you can also get track listings. Follow the fun on Twitter @wcveworldmusic and on Facebook at The World Music Show on WCVE.