With 'So Much Trouble In The World,' Music Calms Theater Director

As Center Stage's artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah has brought British talent and style to Baltimore. For Tell Me More's series 'In Your Ear,' he shares the music that soothes him.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We'd like to end today with a regular feature we call In Your Ear. That's where we invite some of our guests to tell us about some of the top songs on their playlist. Today we hear from a Brit in Baltimore. Award-winning playwright and actor, Kwame Kwei-Armah, is the artistic director of Baltimore Centerstage Theater. When we caught up with him to talk about making a life, and making art across the pond, he also shared the music that helps him relax from the rigors of the transatlantic life.

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH: My name is Kwame Kwei-Armah and in my ear, right now, is Bob Marley's "So Much Trouble In The World."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO MUCH TROUBLE IN THE WORLD")

BOB MARLEY: (Singing) So much trouble in the world. So much trouble in the world. Bless my eyes this morning. The sun is on the rise once again. The way earthly things are going, anything can happen.

KWEI-ARMAH: There's something about "So Much Trouble In The World." There's something about the melancholy that's deep in its DNA. There's something about the yearning to heal the world. There's something in even the chord structure that just allows me to feel challenged and warm and inspired. It's just one of my favorite Bob Marley songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO MUCH TROUBLE IN THE WORLD")

MARLEY: (Singing) So much trouble in the world. So much trouble in the world. All you got to do, give a little, give a little. One more time, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

KWEI-ARMAH: Robert Glasper Experiment, "Afro Blue."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFRO BLUE")

ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT: (Singing) Shades of delight, cocoa hue, rich as a night, afro blue.

KWEI-ARMAH: And I love Robert Glasper because he's, like, old-school jazz and new-school Jazz and tomorrow's jazz and R&B and it's just - it's modern day Miles Davis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFRO BLUE")

GLASPER EXPERIMENT: (Singing) Oh, baby, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILLING ME SOFTLY")

ROBERTA FLACK: (Singing) Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words. Killing me softly with his song, killing me softly with his song. Telling my whole life with his words, killing me softly with his song.

KWEI-ARMAH: In my ear, Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." I'm listening to that because Roberta's voice is just simply magnificent. And it calms me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILLING ME SOFTLY")

FLACK: (Singing) I heard he sang a good song. I heard he had a style. And so I came to see him to listen for a while. And there he was, this young boy, a stranger to my eyes. Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song. Killing me softly with his song, telling my whole life with his words, killing me softly with his song.

MARTIN: That was theater director Kwame Kwei-Armah, telling us what's playing in his ear. To hear our previous conversation with him, head over to npr.org, click on the programs tab and go to TELL ME MORE.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILLING ME SOFTLY")

FLACK: (Singing) Killing me softly with his song, killing me softly with his song, telling my whole life with his words...

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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