NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the World. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We jiggy, jam, cry and fall in love to music. A melancholy guitar solo, words about war and survival, or a ginga(ph) beat reminding us to shake it. Music illustrates our lives in song, and just a snatch of a well-remembered tune can snap our memories back to specific times and places.
Not so long ago, most people discovered the songs of their lives here, on the radio, in the record store on Main Street or on a jukebox at the diner or in the jukebox just outside of town. The world has changed. Where do you find the music that sets your toes tapping, the tunes that you sing to yourself in the shower? What DJ sets the agenda where you live? What Web site? What magazine?
Today, just for one day, we ask our listeners in the United States to put the phone down. We want to hear from those of you in our worldwide audience. Where do you find the music that sets your toes tapping?
And let's give us a call, 202-513-2008. Again that's 1-202-513-2008. Call us, and we'll call you back. You can also e-mail us. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can get into the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org/talk.
We begin with Adrian Washika. He's a DJ with 98.4 FM Capital Radio in Nairobi, Kenya, and joins us from his home in Nairobi. Good evening to you, and nice to have you on Talk of the World.
Mr. ADRIAN WASHIKA (DJ, Nairobi, Kenya): Hi. Good evening, and greetings from Kenya.
CONAN: And here's a popular hit that's likely airing on your station, Nairobi musician Jua Cali.
(Soundbite of song, "Ngeli Ya Genge")
Mr. JUA CALI (Musician): (Singing in foreign language).
CONAN: A flavor of Kenyan dance music. That's Jua Cali. The song is called "Ngeli Ya Genge." You pick - where did you find that tune? Where did you first hear it?
Mr. WASHIKA: Ah, well I first heard it on the radio, and I called Jua Cali up, and he actually had a copy for me waiting. And so yeah, that's how we kind of got to get the album and started playing the song on the radio. And we received quite a tremendous amount of requests and stuff. So he's doing pretty well with that.
CONAN: And when you play music on the radio, do you get a list of the songs you're supposed to play from management? Do you pick them yourself?
Mr. WASHIKA: No, basically we have a producer who recites the different kind of shows which headlines different kind of music, from urban to jazz. And so they do the research and they incorporate, you know, feedback from listeners, and that helps them to put together music that goes out on air.
CONAN: And do you have any American music on your station?
Mr. WASHIKA: Oh yeah. We have quite a bit because we're (unintelligible) an urban station. So we play a lot of hip-hop and R&B and jazz and neo-soul and stuff like that, as well.
CONAN: And does that come to you from the - I guess we're calling it the international music-marketing machine? Or do you hear that around on the radio, too?
Mr. WASHIKA: Oh yeah. Yeah, we get the broadcast like top songs that come through, the CDs, the broadcast CDs that they send to us on a weekly basis that include all the top hits around the world, and all the older album hits.
CONAN: And what's the balance between the locally produced material and sort of that international material?
Mr. WASHIKA: Well, it kind of also depends on the show because every night we have - every weeknight we have a show that plays a lot of local music, local urban music like Jua Cali, and which kind of gets a lot of the young people because that's kind of the kind of music they like listening to. So it all depends on different shows.
We have a neo-soul show that plays a lot of neo-soul, soul show in the afternoons that plays a lot of '80s music.
CONAN: A lot of '80s. Well, what's the number one tune you would say right now in Nairobi?
Mr. WASHIKA: Right now, say, there's a tune by a Tanzanian artist called AY, which I just picked up about two weeks ago. It's called "Laio(ph)," and it's really big, and I really - personally, it's one of my favorites right now.
CONAN: Okay, well we wish it and you the best of luck. Thanks very much for being with us today.
Mr. WASHIKA: Thank you very much for your time.
CONAN: Okay. We want to ask those of you listening worldwide, not in our American audience but worldwide, to give us a call and tell us how you find the music that, well, illustrates your life.
Our phone number is 1-202-513-2008. Again that's 1-202-513-2008 or you can send us your message by e-mail. The address is email@example.com.
And joining us now is Banning Eyre, senior editor for afropop.org, and he joins us today from the studios of member-station WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut. Nice to talk with you again, Banning.
Mr. BANNING EYRE (Senior Editor, afropop.org): Yeah, nice to be here, Neal, thanks.
CONAN: And what is this international marketing machine that we're talking about? These are American companies or international companies that market to, well, places in Nairobi and Singapore and everywhere else around the world?
Mr. EYRE: Well you know, it's so interesting. It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. I imagine for - what was it, Adrian in Nairobi?
Mr. EYRE: Yeah, I mean, Adrian's receiving, you said CDs of tunes that have basically been selected by what you're calling the international marketing machine. Now, I'm not exactly sure how all that goes on because I'm kind of on this mirror-image position of being in America, trying to introduce Americans to music from all around the world.
And we have a much more sort of makeshift and improvised version of that kind of machine that effectively filters all the music coming from various places around the world, you know, to bring to people like NPR listeners.
And I don't - I suspect that if you were to compare those two machines, and I'm not sure I have enough information to really do that, you'd find that they work by very different principles. You know, the kind of music that's going to - American music that's going to work in the market in Nairobi, there are certain criteria, and those have been sort of arrived at over time.
Some of it depends on how much money there is behind those artists to push them into that high-profile position. Some of it depends on knowledge of what kind of music a listener in Nairobi is apt to respond to. And you know, all of this has been developed over years, and it's I think a pretty smooth-running machine by this point.
CONAN: Well, it's interesting. I suppose there's also a problem with categorization. In this country, if we want to listen to the music of Jua Cali, if we can find it, we know where to go. We go to the world-music bin. If we're in Nairobi, and we want to find American - categorization, is there a mirror image of that, too?
Mr. EYRE: Yeah, well for one thing, I don't think you'd have much luck finding Jua Cali in any bin in America because that's - the vast majority of really popular artists in Africa right now, younger artists, newer artists, simply have no easy route or even, in many cases, any even remote possibility of penetrating to record stores in America.
You can find them through routes on the Internet, and you know, there are increasingly sort of roundabout methods of getting to that kind of music, but it's very difficult.
The artists, the African artists who you will find in record stores and African music bins or world music bins around this country are a pretty select few. They've had to clear a lot of gauntlets. And it was easier to do that some years ago when there were a lot of record companies that were really interested in releasing that music in America.
These days, there are fewer and fewer. And that selection process is sort of breaking down, I would say, actually. And really it's much harder now for a young artist like Jua Cali to penetrate this market.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get some listeners in on the conversation. Again, we're asking our American audience to put the phone down today. We want to hear from callers worldwide, 1-202-513-2008. Where do you find your music? And let's talk with Srikanth, and Srikanth is with us from India.
SRIKANTH (Caller): That's right. Hi, Neal.
SRIKANTH: Well, my name is Srikanth, S-R-I-K-A-N-T-H, and where do I listen to my music these days? I usually listen to it on my radio show. I present a weekly, four-hour radio show in Tamil, for a local radio station.
CONAN: And the language you're in is Tamil? That's down in the southeastern corner of India?
SRIKANTH: That's right, that's right, Tamil. And I love the kind of music - I'm really excited to be on NPR.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: We're excited to have you, Sri.
SRIKANTH: Thank you. I'm really thrilled. I mean, I've been listening to NPR for a long time, and you know? So you know, like the thing I listen to is basically, I like, you know, basically, you know, for me I would love to live in the '60s, you know.
CONAN: And why in the '60s?
SRIKANTH: I don't know, (unintelligible), I consider. No Internet, no 1,500 television channels, you know?
CONAN: A more innocent age? I don't think anybody who was living through them at the time would have ever said that, but in any case, where do you find the music that you play on your radio show?
SRIKANTH: Basically these days, there are no LP records, you know, and the good old days are gone, you know. These days, I mean, I have my computer, and basically I'm a blind person, so a person sits next to me. I do the talking and singing. I sing on my shows, also. And the person who's sitting next to me usually plays the songs from the computer. It's usually from the computer. Some of the songs I want, I don't have them on the computer, you know?
CONAN: Well, you play them off the computer. That's the medium, but where do you find them in the first place?
SRIKANTH: Well, it's all been stored. You know, the day I walked into the radio station, they said they have all the songs on the computer.
CONAN: Good lord, well Srikanth, thank you very much, and good luck with the radio show.
SRIKANTH: Thank you. You know, by the way, it's a Tamil radio show, my show.
SRIKANTH: And do you know the - can you guess the name of the show?
CONAN: What's the name of the show?
SRIKANTH: It's a four-hour radio show, and it's called "Bridge on the River Kwai."
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Okay. Srikanth, thank you very much. If we're in that part of the world, we'll be sure to tune in.
SRIKANTH: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. That speaks to another major influence. Banning Eyre, we just have a few seconds left, but you know, sure Hollywood used to be a big influence on world music, music around the world. Today, Bollywood.
Mr. EYRE: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's a real phenomenon, of course, and in the wake of the whole "Slumdog Millionaire" phenomenon, we're very much mindful of this. I mean, this is a massive industry, you know, and you know, we're sort of discovering it a little bit lately. Most of the rest of the world has been tuning into music from Bollywood films for years.
I mean, I remember being surprised a decade ago, hearing from singers in Mali and in East Africa, saying that one of their biggest influences was Bollywood film music. And you just thought, wait a minute, I didn't expect that. But yeah, we're catching up now.
CONAN: We're trying our hand at Top 40 music radio today. That's the Top 40 in Africa and Europe and South America. Where do you find music in your country, the stuff that sets your toes tapping, the tunes you hum to yourself in the shower? Call us on 1-202-513-2008 or drop us an e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the World from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Today, the global jukebox. We're talking music with our worldwide audience. Who are the hot artists where you live? If you are in Europe, this might sound familiar. She tops the charts in Switzerland, Ukraine, Belgium and throughout the EU. It's Lady Gaga with "Poker Face."
(Soundbite of song, "Poker Face")
STEFANI GERMANOTTA (Singer): (Singing) I wanna hold 'em like they do in Texas Plays, fold 'em, let 'em, me, raise it, baby stay with me. Love and intuition play the cards, the spades to start, and after he's been hooked, I'll play the one that's on his heart…
CONAN: Lady Gaga is the stage name of Stefani Germanotta. She's originally from Yonkers in New York. You can hear more number one hits from around the world and tell us what's popular at your home country today. That's at nprmusic.org, and we hope to hear from those of you in our worldwide audience.
Our listeners overseas, where do you find the music that sets your toe tapping, the tunes you sing to yourself in the shower? What DJ sets the agenda where you live? What Web site? What magazine? Call us on 1-202-513-2008. Again, that's 1-202-513-2008. Call us, we'll call you back. You can also get into the conversation on our Web site at npr.org/talk.
Banning Eyre is still with us. He reviews music at afropop.org and on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from time to time. And Banning Eyre, as we talk about this machine, I guess, there are lots of little machines that make this up all over the world. How much of these days is local and how much gets drowned out by that international marketing?
Mr. EYRE: Well, it's really complicated. It depends where you are, of course. You know, I mean from here, from our side in America, you know, international music has long crept into the mix from the mambo craze of the '30s to Brazilian bossa nova.
You know, Paul Simon has been responsible for bringing Andean flute music and South African music and "Graceland" and all of that. And in the wake of that, there has been this whole development of all these little, you know, record labels, concert series, radio programs.
The radio program associated with our Web site, Afropop Worldwide, brought a lot of African music to public-radio listeners. And it's created all these sort of niches of people who become fanatically interested in one particular thing. And when something sells, then that encourages a record label to go look for other artists that might sort of match that profile.
But when you go to other places, like some of the places where our callers are calling from, the world looks very different. You know, most of these artists, they have to start out by appealing to a local audience. And sometimes the rules of what is going to appeal to that local audience are very different.
For example, in the whole wake of "Graceland" in the years that we've been doing Afropop, people have really liked natural bands with real drums, horns, guitars, not so much keyboards, acoustic music. These are the things that have actually been the most successful as, quote, world music marketed in America and to a large degree in Europe.
CONAN: Any idea why?
Mr. EYRE: Well, I think that there's a - it just represented a very appealing alternative to increasingly technological music. And by and large, we're talking about pretty adventurous listeners here, listeners who are looking for something new, something different.
And while that same thing was happening, in a lot of developing countries, this exciting new technology of computers and keyboards was arriving. And an almost completely opposite kind of aesthetic was growing up, and you know, very highly produced music with electronic drums and lots of keyboard layering and getting away from that sort of naturalistic, acoustic band kind of sound was happening.
So there's been this kind of funny mismatch over the last sort of 15, 20 years.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Ira(ph). Ira's with us from Yang-jo(ph) in China.
IRA (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Ira.
IRA: Thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead please.
IRA: So I was just calling to let you guys know, this weekend is the Midi Festival. They're billing it as the Woodstock of China.
IRA: Yeah, it's Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
CONAN: And where's that going to be held?
IRA: It's in Zhenjiang, which is just up the river from Shanghai.
CONAN: And how many millions do they expect?
IRA: I don't know if there's any estimate yet, but it's usually been held in Beijing, but they canceled it last year because of the Tibetan problems and the Olympic torch problems. So they moved it this year down to Shanghai area.
CONAN: And are you planning to attend the Chinese Woodstock?
IRA: Oh definitely, definitely.
CONAN: What kind of music will you likely hear there?
IRA: Oh, I'm looking forward to seeing Cui Jian, which he's like the godfather of Chinese rock 'n' roll. And he's playing tomorrow night, and Saturday night, the Stills from Canada are playing, and on Sunday, Blind Sight from Holland and Miserable Faith from China. I haven't heard of them, but you know, I'm interested to see some new acts that I haven't heard of before.
IRA: Well, it sounds like it's going to be a great time. The only piece of advice I can give you is to stay away from the brown acid.
(Soundbite of laughter)
IRA: Thanks. I will.
CONAN: That's Ira calling us. I'm not sure that he's originally from China, but he's calling us to tell us about the scene there in China. Banning Eyre, places like China and India obviously have such huge internal markets. They are much more insulated, you would think, from these outside influences like the United States.
Mr. EYRE: Well, they may be. I mean, I haven't been to China, but I mean, the fact that there's a Canadian band playing there, I'm sure they're not totally insulated. I'm sure that there's a lot that gets filtered out.
It's really about filtering. You know, America just generates such a massive, such a powerful cultural signal, whether we're talking about films or popular music, other things, but just looking at popular music, we generate so much. But the further you go, and each place you go, you see a different kind of reflection of America depending on what really gets filtered out.
You know, if you go to Africa and you ask people, like, what American music they like, depending on their age, they're going to talk about Otis Redding, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Madonna, as you get more recent. But you know, I imagine if you go to China, the list might be a bit different.
And it's - and there's a parallel with films, too. You know, action films are big, as opposed to... You're not going to hear Cajun music or Zydeco or rootsy blues, except if you go to Mali, where that list will have John Lee Hooker on it because they feel this historical connection to American blues because so many of the West African slaves went to that part of the U.S. And they feel this intuitive connection with that music, which has a historical explanation.
So sometimes there are things like that, and other times, it's just inexplicable taste, just some mysterious factor.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Patrick(ph), Patrick with us from Kinshasa in the Congo.
PATRICK (Caller): Yes, good morning. I happen to be in Kinshasa, in the Congo, but I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm originally from Kinshasa, but I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I wanted to make some comments because we have a show in Cincinnati which plays strictly African music. If you don't mind, I can mention the show.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
PATRICK: It's African Village Buka. It's aired - can I mention the frequency, as well?
CONAN: If you keep it quick.
PATRICK: Okay, it's 88.3 FM, every Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. So what we do, we've been playing African music for the past 10 years in Cincinnati. And some of the comments your good guest has been mentioning, I would have to say that some of them are outdated, especially for Africa.
For example, today, if you go to Africa, yes, America has influenced Africa in certain ways, but it's not the times of Michael Jackson and Madonna. You would be surprised. They're very, very updated as far as who's Jay-Z, Beyonce and so forth. But the thing that I find in the American culture, the American people are very encapsulated, which means that the music industry in America keeps them in a bubble in such a way that they cannot know what's going on outside of the world.
You also have to understand that African music really heavily influences American music. I'll give you example, reggaeton, which comes from Latin America. Today, most of the beats today include reggaeton, whether it's Jay-Z or Beyonce or anybody else out there. And that's the same thing with music coming from Africa.
But what happens is, I'll give you an example. Many African musicians, why are they not in the big list? Because the standards, like for example afro-beat or world music, those standards do not really, are not really good enough for the different type of music Africans are producing today. And so because of lack of category, they just all throw them into one category. And people here, when they hear it on the CD from a friend, they cannot Google it because it's in the wrong category.
CONAN: Banning, I know that's something that interests you.
Mr. EYRE: Well no, that's - he's absolutely right. And yes, I certainly agree that nowadays, there are so many more technological channels, and I think people in a place like Kinshasa have a much broader knowledge of American music than they would have 30 years ago.
CONAN: And than Americans have of music from the Congo.
Mr. EYRE: Yeah, but as far as coming back, he is absolutely right. It's really under-recognized, all the Africaness in the popular music that we listen to. And - but you know what - and it's hard. There are so many thing that make it hard for - that is really, really electrifying audiences in big cities in Africa, for example. Doesn't really mask the aesthetic of the so-called world music kind of aesthetic that's grown up in America. So it's a little bit harder.
I mean, the big names that broke through in the '80s and '90s, Youssou N'Dour, Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita, you know, going back a little further, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, many, many names. But they sort of - the flow has slowed down a lot. We don't know who the big names are in Kinshasa right now and in Nairobi because, well, it's complicated. There are a lot of reasons but part of it is because of this diversion aesthetic in the markets. Would you agree with that?
PATRICK: Here is what I have to say about that. The names are known amongst African and African music fanatic. (unintelligible), Salif Keita is still in the game, so is Angelique Kidjo, so is Youssou N'Dour.
But here's the problem. Many African musicians, because of lack of money, when they produce an album they - what they do is they sell the album for maybe 100,000 or 200,000, much less than what it is valued at. They sell it to a promoter and any sales after that goes straight to the promoter. So, big companies, the big label companies are not able to pick up - like Virgin Records used to do.
And because of that, and because piracy is so big in Africa and, unfortunately, even in America for African music, this method of selling the album way before it even goes in the market by a single person or two or three different people for less than 500,000, is really killing the market.
And these African musicians, even after they are still big, their families cannot even reap what they sow because once the album has been sold, that's it. So, they constantly come up with so many different albums, but it doesn't come back to their families and they don't reap anything after that.
CONAN: Patrick, thanks very much for the call. We wish you luck when you get back to Cincinnati.
PATRICK: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.
CONAN: It's Talk Of The World today. We're trying to hear about music and the music business around the world. Our phone number is 1-202-513-2008. We want to hear from our listeners worldwide today.
You're listening to TALK OF THE WORLD from NPR NEWS.
CONAN: At the turn of the 1980s, a musical genre called acid jazz developed in the U.K. that combined the sounds of experimental jazz, funk, dance, and hip-hop. At the center of the acid jazz movement emerged a British band called Incognito. Three decades and 13 albums later, Incognito's music continues to gain popularity in the United States and around the world.
(Soundbite of song "Happy People")
CONAN: Incognito's "Happy People," from their 2008 release "Tales From the Beach." That album reached the number one slot for iTunes play in Italy last year, topping the likes of Madonna and Coldplay.
Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick is the founder, composer, guitarist, and producer of Incognito. And he joins us fresh off the tour bus back in his home at Stoke, Newington in north London, in England. And Bluey, thanks so much for being on the program with us today.
Mr. JEAN-PAUL "BLUEY" MAUNICK (Founder, Incognito Band): Glad to be with you.
CONAN: And there are great similarities between the top 10 albums in the U.S. and the top 10 albums in the U.K., indeed across Europe. In your career, is that common? Is it likely that we're hearing the same music in London today as we are in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles?
Mr. MAUNICK: Oh, very much so, very much so. The DJs are constantly traveling, you know, across the pond, and it's not a far journey. It's so quick to get there. You know, it's like our backyard. I think it's easier for me to get to New York than it is for me to get up to Manchester.
Mr. MAUNICK: Yeah.
CONAN: So, does that make it difficult for anybody outside that world to break in?
Mr. MAUNICK: Well, the radio is not the same. Radio has changed. The radio in the U.K. is - has still got a lot of smaller, pirate kind of radio stations going on. Where in America, it's kind of a more national kind of a flavor.
Mr. MAUNICK: You know, so we tend to get slightly different kind of radio. But the main radio stations play the same kind of tunes, yeah.
CONAN: And this is not necessarily where people are going to go to hear new music?
Mr. MAUNICK: No. It's not at all. If they go online or, you know, there's still very much a live music culture over here in Europe. And that's where Incognito survives, in Europe and Asia. The live music culture is very, very strong. There's lot of venues and people still go out and see bands.
CONAN: Yeah. But to attract them to your venues, presumably they'd like to know your name ahead of time.
Mr. MAUNICK: Of course, of course. And if you - I wouldn't want to be establishing myself now in this day and age. I'm like fortunate enough that we came out 30 years ago and I had the big break in the mid '90s. Things are much more difficult for any band in the world right now. I talk to musicians about it. Everybody, musicians from all over the world reach out to me as if I have some kind of answer because they can see that we are still connecting with people all over the world.
But had it not been our success in the mid '90s, it would be very, very, very difficult. And the only outlet would be the Internet.
CONAN: The only outlet would be the Internet these days?
Mr. MAUNICK: Yeah.
CONAN: And it's just as expensive to record material for the Internet as it is for an album?
Mr. MAUNICK: Well, that's the big - the major problem we're all facing because I still make records the old-fashioned way. I'm still going to a studio and spend 100,000 pounds, that's like $200,000 to make an album, which the sales can't even be compared. You know that because you've been talking about it on air and you know how things are. But…
Mr. MAUNICK: So - but if you want to make this kind of music, if you want to make a music with a 15, 16, 20-piece band, with brass sections, percussions, various guests vocalists. And if you want to make music that is coming from your heart and it's from that direction - some people are making music from the heart, but they can make it - they're making from the bedroom, you know, because it suits their type of writing and their type of sound.
These people are benefiting but - because it only takes, you know, a few dollars to make a record once they have the equipment. But it's not the same for bands trying to make albums and trying to record it in a quality way and make big sounding records.
CONAN: We're talking about which hit songs get airplay around the world and why. Where do you find the top songs where you live? What DJ sets the agenda, what Web site, what magazine? Give us a call. That's 1-202-513-2008. Again, 1-202-513-2008. Or send us an email: email@example.com.
Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE WORLD from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE WORLD from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. You want to know what song is number one when it comes to worldwide airplay and sales? Here it is.
(Soundbite of song "Boom Boom Pow")
WILL.I.AM (Singer, Black Eyed Peas): (Singing) Gotta get-get, gotta get-get, gotta get-get, gotta g-g-g-get-get-get, get-get.
BLACK EYED PEAS (Band): (Singing) Boom, boom, boom, gotta get-get. Boom, boom, boom, gotta get-get. Boom, boom, boom, gotta get-get. Boom, boom, boom, gotta get-get. Boom, boom, boom, now, boom, boom, boom, now, boom, boom, pow, boom, boom. Yo, I got the hit that beat the block.
CONAN: That's Black Eyed Peas, of course, with their chart-topping "Boom, Boom, Pow." Well, we're asking you today where you find the music that you listen to. And we've got some e-mails. This is from Bernard(ph) in Nairobi. Most of the latest music in Kenya in on YouTube. My favorites include the group P-Square with hits like "No One Like You" and "Do Me."
Kenya imports most of the popular music from Tanzania, Jamaica, U.S.A., Nigeria. As long as the people like the beat, they go with it. A lot of music is played on shared public taxis, Matatu, complete with loud sound and video to accompany the tracks.
This is from Masumi(ph) from Chiba-shi. That's just outside of Tokyo. I'm in the U.S. visiting family but I'm from Japan. And here - there, we get most of our music from studios and TV shows that create pop stars. One of our biggest stars in the last decade is Hamasaki Ayumi and we call her Ayu. There are so many new pop stars to keep track of that they're hard to keep track of. A lasting star like Ayu is rare.
And this is from McKenzie(ph). I'm a Namibian and stumbled across deep hop's founding artist Orca Raptalon, and found the only place I could get his music was MySpace and ReverbNation. While his music incorporates just about all world music and is par excellence, his sales to the music are world online from artists' pages. He is global from his armchair. Orca Raptalon is a global icon.
Well, with us today are two other global icons, Banning Eyre, who's a commentator on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED and senior editor at www.afropop.org. And also with us is Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick who's the founder, composer, producer, and guitarist for Incognito, an acid jazz band from the U.K. He's with us by phone from his home in north London.
Join us. The area code is 1-202-513-2008. And let's get another caller on the line. This is David(ph). David calling us from Ontario in Canada.
DAVID (Caller): Hi there, Neal.
CONAN: Hi, David.
DAVID: How are you?
CONAN: Very well, thanks.
DAVID: That's good. Enjoying the program.
DAVID: I work for a mini record label in Canada. And we have trouble getting artists out there because we're kind of bogged down by the American record industry.
CONAN: You live right next to the monster and it sorts of swamps you?
DAVID: Yes. Yeah. We're from Windsor, Ontario. And it's funny, northern - more north into Canada, you get more of a music scene that's more of, like, of Canadian music. And if you go west towards Vancouver, you'll find some more of that.
But where we are, kind of where most Canadians live, you know, between Toronto and Windsor, finding it really hard to get an artist out there. We just went down to Nashville recently for a big music conference down there with our artist Ben Clark(ph) because we, you know, we pretty -we've almost given up on the Canadian system, sad as it is to say.
CONAN: Really? I - there use to be the days that at least, I forgot what the number was, but one-third of the music played on Canadian radio had to be of Canadian origin.
DAVID: And that's still in effect. But…
CONAN: So, lots of Neil Young?
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVID: Yeah. Lots of Neil Young, lots of Alanis Morisette being played on our radio stations and stuff like that. But it's funny, a lot of Canadian artists, too, you know, they might start out here but after a short time they go and they make, you know, they make it big in the States first.
CONAN: So, it's getting difficult, is what you're saying?
DAVID: It is getting difficult. You know, there is places here to get Canadian independent music. There is CBC Radio 3. College Radio has lot of that stuff. But if you want to, you know, make a living making music in Canada, it's a lot harder than it is in the States. You know, population difference and stuff like that.
DAVID: But culturally, you know, a lot of our music, you know, comes from the States. A lot of where - the roots of our music sort of comes from the States, especially in Ontario, so…
CONAN: Well, David, good luck.
DAVID: Oh, thank you very much.
And let's see if we can go now to Poppa(ph). Poppa calling us from Washington, D.C.
Mr. POPPA MOUSSA (Caller; Member, Wageble): Hello?
CONAN: Hi, you're on the air.
Mr. MOUSSA: Yeah. I'm on the air.
CONAN: Yes, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Mr. MUOSSA: Yes. My name is Poppa Moussa and, you know, I'm from a hip-hop band from Senegal called Wageble(ph). Wageble means down from the hood. And we've been like doing hip-hop, like, you know, for 15 years now. And we are one of the biggest hip-hop bands in Senegal.
CONAN: And what are you doing in Washington, D.C.?
Mr. MUOSSA: We're here to tour, actually, to work - we're like touring in U.S. right now. We've been doing a gig, like, in New York lately, last Saturday with artists. And I believe the artist is called (unintelligible) and, with his band called (unintelligible).
CONAN: And do you…
Mr. MUOSSA: We work with - yes?
CONAN: I was just going to ask, are the people who come out to see you, are they from Senegal or West Africa or are they from the States?
Mr. MUOSSA: Yeah. Mostly, these people are from the U.S. because, like, there's a lot of people who is really interested about, you know, hip-hop from Africa and also - hello?
CONAN: Yes. You're on the air.
Mr. MUOSSA: Yeah. I'm sorry. And also, a lot of Sengalese who was from our country and they all like being in…
CONAN: And when you rap, what language do you rap in?
Mr. MUOSSA: Yeah. We rap in Wolof, it's our natural language. But also, we rap in French. So, and then some English. But also, the thing is like, people are so interested about what we're doing because we are not just doing hip-hop but be like, more activist and also talking about, like, problems in Senegal and issues that the community are living there. Because we have like a problem about the politics, about, you know, about leaders who's like, heading the country into, like, in a hole. So we're like, as the youths from the country, we think that we can use our voice to make change.
CONAN: Well, Poppa, we - wish you luck and good luck on the tour.
Mr. MUOSSA: Yeah. We're liking the tour and we're working with "Democracy in Dakar," it's a documentary that we did with Ben Herson and Nomadic Wax from New York City. And we've been, like, you know, touring, doing panels in the university to talk about all these issues in Africa.
CONAN: Thanks very much.
Mr. MUOSSA: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Banning Eyre, that raises a question about, hip-hop is the dominant form of pop music in this country these days. How dominant…
EYRE: In the world.
CONAN: That's what I was going to say, how dominant is it overseas? It's interesting to hear coming back from Senegal.
EYRE: Oh, it's huge. Oh, yeah. No, absolutely. Senegal has a big rap scene and that "Democracy in Dakar" project is fascinating from Nomadic Wax. It's - but it's sort of interesting because the whole hip-hop aesthetic is so powerful to young people everywhere in the world. And, you know, Senegal is one of the strongest examples. They mentioned - earlier, a caller mentioned Tanzania and also that group P-Square that he said was his favorite group from - I can't remember if that was someone calling from Nairobi or e-mailing from Nairobi. That's a Nigerian group. But so, the different hip-hop oriented rapper acts are starting to circulate within Africa.
But the language problem is really pronounced. I mean, because with a lot of the earlier African music that circulated around the world, people weren't so concerned with the words because they were - what they were really getting is the rhythm and the singing and the whole sort of arranging aesthetic. But hip-hop puts such an emphasis on words that language barrier becomes a bigger problem. And this is why it's been really hard for people, groups like Poppa's group, to kind of penetrate the world music scene or just any music scene, the hip-hop scene, in America. And I've been following - this is very interesting. There's one that you played right at the top of the show, K'Naan, who is, as you pointed out, of Somali origin but he was in…
CONAN: And, hang on. And in case people weren't with us. Here's a clip of what he sounds like.
(Soundbite of song "I Come Prepared")
Mr. DAMIAN MARLEY (Singer): (Singing) Set to high. No callin all the revolutionary youths. Dam Marley alongside K'Naan. Gunpowder philosopher what some boy feel like. Peppop huh.
K'NAAN: (Singing) I made the list this year. I'm on a roll. You ain't no East African rock and roll. You don't know what time it is like your clock is old.
You ain't know we all packin' like the block is sold. How could it be…
CONAN: K'Naan, as you put it up, Banning Eyre, from Somalia originally. But that's not a Somalia accent.
EYRE: Well, you know, the thing about K'Naan is he is really a phenomenon because he is an excellent wordsmith. And he - but he really puts forward his African story. He has this whole sort of rhetoric in his songs about, saying, man, you guys think you're tough because you grew up in the ghetto. Man, check this out.
(Soundbite of laughter)
My life in Mogadishu in the war zone, you know? And he really - he just really captures the right attitude and his way with language is excellent. And he brings in interesting African music clips in his music. And, you know, he is doing something that nobody else has really quite succeeded in doing before. And I think it's interesting, it's partly because of the fact that he's in Canada and he has this kind of - he has his foot in various worlds, his feet in various worlds. And he can really kind of not be sort of swallowed up in the problems of being a Somali artist or being a Canadian artist or being, you know, someone trying to break into the hip-hop scene but not really having a masterful control of English.
EYRE: There's a lot. There's a lot you have to have to do what he's doing. And so, I think that he's really one of the most interesting and influential artists coming out of sort of African hip-hop. I don't think he could do what he was doing if he were still based in Africa.
CONAN: Let me ask Bluey Maunick. As you tour the world and play your music in various places, do you run across this hip-hop juggernaut?
Mr. MAUNICK: Massive in France and in French-speaking regions of Africa. Massive, you know? But again, not - they have a totally different territories because of the language barrier. And America is not listening to French hip-hop but French hip-hop is amazing. I mean, it's like, really powerful. And African French hip-hop has got its own twist because, again, you know, it's like hip-hop is story-telling, you know, of where you live and what's going on around you. You know, once it's, you know, one of the reasons why it's not massive here in the U.K., it's big, but it's not massive in the U.K. is because people don't have that, you know, everybody's got a fairly decent life. You know, you can, you know, you don't have that kind of life. You don't see that kind of level of poverty or kind of crime or, you know, something to fight up against.
In a way, we've got a system that kind of, you know, that, you know - if you get sick, you go to hospital, it's free. You know, you need food, you go and sign on and you get money, you know? So it doesn't really have that - and we don't have that kind of heavy barriers going on in this country that there is, you know, in parts of Africa, and even like in Paris, you know? In Paris, it's like, it's a tale of two cities, you know?
Mr. MAUNICK: It's - and that's where hip-hop kind of really thrives is when there is that kind of pressure.
CONAN: We're talking with Bluey Maunick, who is the founder, composer, producer and guitarist for Incognito, the acid jazz band from the U.K. And also with Banning Eyre, senior editor at www.afropop.org.
You're listening to TALK OF THE WORLD from NPR News.
And let's get Tiago(ph) on the line from Miami. I hope I'm pronouncing that name correctly.
TIAGO (Caller): Yes. Hi. How are you?
CONAN: I'm well, thank you. Go ahead, please.
TIAGO: I'm good. Okay, I'm in here visiting Miami. I'm from Brazil, from Sao Paulo. Okay. And I just want to tell you that we listen a lot in Brazil the kind of music is sertaneja. It's like a Brazilian country music, you know? And I like your kind of music. I'm listening to your program every day.
CONAN: Oh, well, thank you very much. When you say Brazilian country music, do you mean it's from people who live in the countryside in Brazil or does it have a lot of pedal steel guitars?
TIAGO: No. I'm sorry. I didn't understand.
CONAN: Is it from, you know, Nashville kind of - what we think of as country music in this country?
TIAGO: No. No. That is - no. This kind of music is from Brazil, in all Brazil and all every states, they listen to this kind of music.
CONAN: That's great. Thanks very much.
Mr. MAUNICK: What he means is that…
TIAGO: Okay. Have a good day.
Mr. MAUNICK: …it's like a folk music from Brazil that's kind of like, you know, it's like the - that's from the regions, that's kind of influenced what's being played on the radio now. And it's like, big, it's massive out there.
CONAN: Oh, let's - thank you, Bluey. Let's go to Thomas(ph) now. Thomas calling us from Berlin in Germany.
THOMAS (Caller): Good evening. Good afternoon, Neal.
CONAN: Good afternoon.
THOMAS: Great program. Yeah. I get my music from all over the place. And, I mean, there's a - we're blessed here in Germany with having a fabulous public radio system that, you know, including right here in - there's an all world music station that is on the air 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, Berlin lost its local world music station earlier this year. But there's a signal that's beamed in out of Cologne in western Germany and they carry world music 24/7, including, I should add, Afropop Worldwide in about two hours that goes on the air from the United States.
EYRE: Very good.
CONAN: And I hope you've already recorded that program, Banning.
EYRE: I hope so, too.
THOMAS: Otherwise, he's going to really have to…
CONAN: Have to hurry, yes.
THOMAS: …the studio. And what's great here is, also, there's just a fabulous live music scene. I mean, I'm a part-time music journalist. You know, there's a club across town that is called the Kulturbrauerei which literally means culture brewery. It's a former - it's located in a former brewery in East Berlin - eastern Berlin. And, for example, in about a week's time, I could go see at the same time in the evening I could see a German quartet that plays with string instruments but is still considered world music, or a Brazilian accordionist named Renato Borghetti. You know, around the other side of town, there's a small club that brings in folk and jazz and world music. Germans really are into live music. And even though without this world music stage that is no longer near here in Berlin, you still see pretty large crowds. And there's just, you know, there's a fabulous selection.
CONAN: And let me just ask, what replaced that station on its bandwidth? What does that station play now?
THOMAS: On bandwidth, well, luckily because it's required to remain a public radio station, it's basically - it's a signal that gets beamed in from Cologne…
CONAN: Oh, I see.
THOMAS: …but that's also a public radio station with this, it's called Funkhaus Europa, which brings in both music, and interestingly enough, here in Germany, I mean, you hear - you don't just hear German, you hear a lot of foreign languages. So they have a Turkish program once a day in Turkish. It's obviously for the large immigrant community. And this way, you know, you get a lot of, sort of the multicultural thing going, where, you know, maybe not - Germans aren't listening to the Turkish program but they're certainly hearing a lot of sort of music from Turkey, say, or from Africa all over the place. And it's just - it's a great melange.
CONAN: Thomas, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
CONAN: Bye-bye. And we need to thank our guests today, Jean-Paul Bluey Maunick of Incognito. And where are you off to next?
Mr. MAUNICK: We're off to the north of England and then Korea, South Korea, Poland, Poznan and Warsaw, in Poland. We're off to Russia and more days in Germany. We do, like the last gentleman said, Germany is very, very, very good for the live scene. So we're there for, like, at least two or three months of the year playing gigs. Holland - yeah. The world is our oyster. And we're certainly taking the chances that's being allowed us through the Internet right now. Our audiences have doubled because of MySpace.
CONAN: Bluey, thanks very much and good luck to you.
Mr. MAUNICK: Thank you.
CONAN: Bluey Maunick of the group Incognito. We need to thank Banning Eyre as well, the senior editor at afropop.org and a commentator, from time to time, on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Better go get that program out, Banning.
EYRE: Thanks very much. Great to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: Banning Eyre joins us from the studios of WNPR, our member station in Hartford, Connecticut.
Two quick e-mails from Francis(ph) in Cincinnati. I'm ashamed of NPR. How can you mention Senegal without acknowledging Akon? What a shame.
And this from Canada from Sickrue(ph). As you air this program, please don't forget to mention the role of musicians as the voice of the people, hence their persecution and imprisonment. A case in point, Teddy Afro, Ethiopia's best known young musician now in jail under trumped up charges of murder. Teddy Afro was speaking truth to power and has made a name for himself and is now an endangered species.
Thanks to everybody who called and e-mailed us today. We heard from far too many of you to get all of your comments on the air. Thanks to our international partners for their help, RTE Choice in Ireland, YLE Mondo in Finland and World Radio Switzerland. Thanks also to our member stations here in the U.S. And thanks to all of you for listening.
This is TALK OF THE WORLD from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.