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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for music. Today, we wanted to do something a little different. What's topping the music charts in the U.S.? That's easy. Rihanna, LMFAO, Adele. But how about what's hot in other parts of the world? A little harder to gauge, and even the international music introduced in the States is often designed to fit our American taste. So we went on a mission to find out what's bumping on radios and playing in iPods in other parts of the world.

We asked two music critics living far away from the Top 40s tunes of our FM dial to tell us what they're listening to.

BEN SIN: Hi. My name is Ben Sin. I'm a features writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. I've been living in Hong Kong for about five years now.

ROSE SKELTON: My name is Rose Skelton. I'm a journalist. I've been living in Senegal for about 10 years. And one of the things I write about is music.

MARTIN: All right. Time for recommendations. Here's Ben in Hong Kong.

SIN: The Hong Kong mainstream music scene, it's almost exclusively pop. And it's the manufactured bubblegum type of pop. So the first song I want to introduce to you guys is a traditional Cantopop song which is a slow ballad. It's by Kay Tse, and it's called "Your Happiness."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR HAPPINESS")

SIN: This is Kay Tse. She's one of the biggest female singers in Hong Kong right now. For this song, Kay is singing about looking at things from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, you should look at it half full.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR HAPPINESS")

SIN: And she has a good voice. That's why she's popular. And she's pretty. And that's a big thing with the Hong Kong music scene. Like, they have to look good. The next one is a song called "The Last Party" by Eason Chen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: Eason Chen is arguably the most popular and biggest Cantopop star for a decade now. And the reason for that is because he's actually good. He can play instruments, and he writes some of his own songs. And that's very rare for Hong Kong Cantopop stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: He's singing about death, and in the music video, a bunch of other celebrities, including Jackie Chan's son, Jaycee. And everybody looks sad at first, and then later, Eason's ghost comes on and basically tells everybody to cheer up and (unintelligible). So I guess the theme of the song is to not look at death as necessarily a sad thing but to celebrate life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: Hong Kong, being an international city, there are a lot of English speakers in Hong Kong. With that being the case, a lot of people are unhappy with the Cantopop. So what's happened is there's a small indie scene, and these indie bands are made up of normal people with day jobs. And they're not famous. They just play music that they consider to be legit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

SIN: We're listening to "Velvet Tiger" by DP. DP is part of the indie scene. And it's two-piece, bass and drums, like The Black Keys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

DP: (Singing) Every day get right down to the wire. It happened just the other day.

SIN: This video, it was actually screened at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, and the song itself, it's really heavy. It's metal. It's rock and roll. It's probably my favorite band in Hong Kong.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

DP: (Singing) We're unafraid. Get out. Bring it out.

MARTIN: That's "Velvet Tiger" by DP, just one of the recommendations from music reviewer Ben Sin in Hong Kong. Now to Senegal, West Africa, and musical tips from writer Rose Skelton.

SKELTON: The first song that I want to play today is by a singer called Viviane N'dour, and the song is called "Fima Tollu."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: Viviane is really the queen of Senegalese pop music. She's as much loved for her music and her songwriting as she is for her outrageous clothing and style. Her stage performances, she has this big orchestra of drummers and guitarists.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: This kind of music is called Mbalax. It's extremely fast. It's a combination of the Wolof traditions, the Wolof people, who are one of the big ethnic groups in Senegal, and then also modern guitars and keyboards. And it's the music that everybody listens to in Senegal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: So the second song I want to play for you is called "Tomorrow," and it's by Daara J Family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

SKELTON: They've always been extremely popular in Senegal since hip-hop came to Senegal in the 1990s. And it's really rap, which is so popular in West Africa, and that very rapid fire rapping which the Wolof language just seems to do so well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

SKELTON: And people really look to rappers like Daara J Family to say what it is that's on their minds. So this song is called "Tomorrow." And what they're saying is if there's something that you should do, you shouldn't wait until tomorrow. You should get up and do it today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

DAARA J FAMILY: (Rapping) Get up early morning. I suggest you wake up rather than wasting your time. Yawning and snoring while time is running. Get up and do something. You'll never make it scrounging. Don't expect to reap credit if you've sown nothing.

SKELTON: Another song that I want to introduce is "Sen Regal," and it's by a young Senegalese singer called Carlou D. He came out of the hip-hop movement of the 1990s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

SKELTON: A lot of what he does is inspired by the Sufi, Muslim chants which you hear in religious gatherings all over the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

SKELTON: He's so dramatic. He's extremely tall. He has these long dreadlocks. He wears this beautiful patchwork, handmade outfits. And when you go to these concerts and you see him singing this song, the whole audience, from really young children to much older people, will all be singing in unison.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

MARTIN: That's the song "Sen Regal" by Carlou D. brought to us by Rose Skelton. She's a journalist in Dakar, Senegal. To listen to that song and more of Ben and Rose's world music picks, go to npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

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