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An Audio Engineer Hears an Electric, West African Sound
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An Audio Engineer Hears an Electric, West African Sound

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(Soundbite of song, "Music")


And now it's time for our staff song pick of the week. Jazz Fest in New Orleans isn't just about jazz. It's about music from many different genres and places. One of the gems at this year's Jazz Fest was the Congo Square Stage. This is where NEWS & NOTES drive engineer Sherene Strausberg got to hear her pick of the week, "Maimouna" by West African musician Ba Cissoko.

(Soundbite of song, "Maimouna")

Mr. BA CISSOKO (Vocalist, Ba Cissoko): (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

CHIDEYA: Again, that was "Maimouna" by Ba Cissoko, and it's out staff song pick of the week. NEWS & NOTES drive engineer Sherene Strausberg joins me now to tell us why. Sherene, welcome to the other side of the soundboard.

SHERENE STRAUSBERG: Thank you. It's good to be here.

CHIDEYA: It's really cool. So tell me about your trip down to New Orleans.

STRAUSBERG: It was amazing. It was my second trip to New Orleans, first time Jazz Fest. I went there with my boyfriend. He'd been before, but my first Jazz Fest, and definitely not my last after this experience.

(Soundbite of song, "Maimouna")

Mr. CISSOKO: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

CHIDEYA: Who is Ba Cissoko?

STRAUSBERG: He is a West African, Ghanaian musician, and it's him and three other musicians. They're just really great in terms of really using a very ethnic sound but combining it with Western instruments and a Western sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Maimouna")

CHIDEYA: So what do you like so much, specifically? You mentioned the West meets the West. The West of the world meets the West of Africa. How does that play out?

STRAUSBERG: Yeah, they have this native instrument they use. It's called the kora, K-O-R-A, and it's just a phenomenal instrument. I was just enraptured watching him play this instrument. They actually had two of them on stage when I saw them perform. And one of them they hook up with electronic pickups and then the other one they play acoustically, and it's just an amazing instrument.

There is this plucking. There are strumming. There's hitting. It's looks like a big, gigantic drum that they wear on their bodies and they have strings. And they were having a video of Ba Cissoko playing this, and you get to see him moving his hands on each other's strings, which is amazing to watch.

CHIDEYA: So one of his albums is actually called "Electric Griot Land," which references the Electric Lady Land Studios that Jimi Hendrix recorded in.

STRAUSBERG: Yeah, actually. He has been called in many various Web sites and magazines the Jimi Hendrix of Africa. And I mean, I think it's great. Jimi Hendrix is amazing musician, but Ba Cissoko is really wonderful and is in his own class, separate even from Jimi Hendrix.

CHIDEYA: So you are a musician yourself. Do you play any world instruments?

STRAUSBERG: I don't necessarily play. I mean, I'm a pianist, flutist composer, but, I mean, I can play some of the foreign instruments. I've actually got a didgeridoo at home, which I can make a little bit of noise on it, it sounds okay. But I've traveled all over the world, and I just collected instruments from everywhere, and I've had family bring stuff back to me. I've got drums from Cuba, Ireland, Papua New Guinea. I love hearing foreign sounds and different instruments. There's so much out there.

CHIDEYA: Well, Sherene, this was awesome. Thanks for coming into the studio side and telling us about your song, "Maimouna" by Ba Cissoko, from Jazz Fest.

STRAUSBERG: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of song, "Maimouna")

CHIDEYA: Sherene Strausberg is NEWS & NOTES drive engineer.

(Soundbite of song, "Maimouna")

CHIDEYA: And if you are wondering what a drive engineer is, well, we wouldn't be on the air without her, and Sherene is driving the show right now.

That is our show for today. Thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit¬es. To join the conversation, just visit our blog, News & Views. We're talking right now about how to blog, and we want questions from you. Just check out the link at the top of our web page.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, we profile a group of black bikers. We're talking Harley, not Schwinn.

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