With its eclectic range of dance music, M.I.A.'s recent Kala is similar in sound to her breakout debut, yet uses a wider variety of beats and samples. It features collaborations with Diplo, Timbaland and Blaqstarr. Hear an interview and performance from WXPN.
This week, gifted young musicians perform compositions by an America original — William Bolcom, who joins them in a concert of his music. A 17-year-old violinist plays the "Graceful Ghost" rag, a 14-year-old soprano enlivens a cabaret song, and a teen string quartet performs music Bolcom wrote at age 12.
He should be a name everyone knows by now. Instead, troubadour David Dondero returned to NPR having slept the night before in his car. Dondero travels from club to club, singing his well-crafted songs — songs that have his signature lyrics at their core. His lyrics can make you smile with their wit and hurt with their bite, all at the same time. Watch Dondero perform his well-crafted songs at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music offices.
Using the Bon Iver moniker, Justin Vernon became an instant critics' darling upon the release of For Emma, Forever Ago early this year. Vernon's primal falsetto accentuates his stark and simple arrangements in a session on WXPN.
Harmon is an enthralling jazz pianist, a tireless educator and a widely commissioned composer. In both his playing and his compositions, he draws on his love of the outdoors and Native American traditions, which is plainly evident when he performs his own composition, "Taos Pueblo."
Although Julian Koster's choice of musical instrument is unusual, the songs he plays on it are not. Sometimes lonely and sometimes haunting, the songs on The Singing Saw at Christmastime are childlike, comforting, fresh and warm. Hear a session from WXPN.
On Jingle All the Way, Bela Fleck and his band The Flecktones breathe new life into the Christmas canon, approaching classics like "What Child Is This" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" with their distinctive, genre-bending fervor. Hear the session from WXPN.
A venerable and popular country-folk singer, Carpenter recently made a foray into holiday music, releasing an album of traditional and original Christmas music titled Come Darkness, Come Light. She plays holiday tunes in a session from WXPN.
Mary Chapin Carpenter in Studio on World Cafe 12/24/08
One of the biggest traditional bands in Ireland, Dervish took its act to Lissadell House in County Sligo — a favorite spot of W.B. Yeats — to make a special Christmas recording. Piper Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and vocalist Roisin O'Reilly guest star.
Though Haden is best known for his jazz explorations, his latest effort, Rambling Boy, straddles Americana, folk and country. It's a return to his musical roots that brims with nostalgia for his days growing up in the American heartland. Hear a session from WXPN.