Greetings From L.A.! 'Global Village' Picks Local Favorites Betto Arcos, host of the KPFK world music program, returns with a playlist of Los Angeles musicians who have caught his ear.
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Greetings From L.A.! 'Global Village' Picks Local Favorites

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Greetings From L.A.! 'Global Village' Picks Local Favorites

Greetings From L.A.! 'Global Village' Picks Local Favorites

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And while we had the program out here on the West Coast this week, another thing we wanted to do was give you a good taste of some L.A. music.


CAMBALACHE: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: Our tour guide is a very familiar voice on this program, DJ Betto Arcos. He hosts "Global Village" on KPFK in Los Angeles. Betto, you're in L.A. We're in L.A. It's a treat to chat face-to-face. I can actually watch you react to this music as you listen to it.

BETTO ARCOS: Thank you so much, David. And welcome to L.A.

GREENE: Thank you. The weather is pretty incredible. So you brought us some of your favorite new sounds from your favorite Los Angeles artists. And each one, I understand, really represent a different community and different part of this great city. So who are we listening to right here?

ARCOS: This is a Quintero musicians from East L.A. called Cambalache. Cambalache in Spanish means exchange. In this case, I would say musical exchange. They're playing music from the Veracruz from the Gulf Coast of Mexico. This is music that is a confluence of indigenous, of African and Spanish influences. And you hear it, all of these influences, in this particular piece.

This is a tune called "El Siquisiri," usually a tune that starts the fandango, fandango being like a jam session, the party, the celebration of dance and music.

GREENE: That's - that's fandango - we're all used to it being the website you go to buy movie tickets usually. But that's the real origin of that word.

ARCOS: Yeah.

GREENE: It's like a Mexican party.

ARCOS: It's like a celebration of music and dance.


ARCOS: The musicians gather around a platform called a tarima and the musicians play and the couples dance. They thump their shoes on the tarima and it makes that tapping sound that you can hear in this tune too.

GREENE: And the tarima is...

ARCOS: It's like a wooden platform.

GREENE: A wooden platform.

ARCOS: About six inches high that resonates.

GREENE: Sounds like a lot of fun. All right. That's music from East L.A. Cambalache. And let's go to the next group that you've brought us, and then I think we're going to get into a little more jazz California style here. This is a specific group called Build an Ark, and the song you've picked is "Peace and LOVE!." And we should let everyone know that LOVE is in all capital letters, so there's a lot of love.


BUILD AN ARK: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: And we're listening to the song "Peace and LOVE!" from the group Build an Ark. And, Betto, this is a really young group of jazz musicians from a part of L.A. called Leimert Park?

ARCOS: Leimert Park, yes. This is the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. And in the 1970's, pianist great Horace Tapscott created this sort of space where people could come and play very open, very free jazz. Really, in a sense, Build an Ark, I think of them as sort of the spiritual children of Horace Tapscott. And they create this beautiful open sound that you hear in this particular piece "Peace and LOVE!."


GREENE: We're chatting here with Betto Arcos. He's the host of KPFK's "Global Village" in Los Angeles and listening to some of his favorite music from around the city of Los Angeles. And, Betto, let's move on to the next artist now. She's from Iran, and her name is Mamak Khadem. And the song we're going to hear is called "Rapture."


MAMAK KHADEM: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: So, Betto, an Iranian singer you've chosen. Is that influence big in the L.A. music scene?

ARCOS: This city has the largest concentration of Iranians living outside of Tehran. Sometimes they call this area Tehran-geles.

GREENE: As a nickname.

ARCOS: As a nickname. Yeah. It's really - Mamak Khadem lives in West Los Angeles, which is where most of the Iranian community is based. And she's really steeped in classical Iranian music and also traditional folk music. This particular record and this song is inspired by the paintings and poetry of this great artist named Sohrab Sepehri. And Mamak put music to his poetry in a beautiful rhythm. She uses this hand drum that she plays called daf, which is a Kurdish drum.


KHADEM: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: The voice of Iranian singer Mamak Khadem. And, Betto, we probably have time for one more artist, I think, and the person you've chosen, a pretty big L.A. staple, Ry Cooder. And I understand you're a pretty big fan. What do you like about him?

ARCOS: Well, you know, long before I moved to Los Angeles, the artist that I always associated this part of the world with is Ry Cooder. And in this song called "El Corrido de Jesse James," here is Ry using the perfect vehicle to tell a story about somebody from the 19th century that sort of in a sense begs the question, what would Jesse James do if he were around today with the banking bailout?


ARCOS: So the vehicle is the style of music known as corrido. A corrido is a storytelling song. And the corrido, you have to have essentially two instruments that are really crucial to this style of music, accordion.


ARCOS: And that's Flaco Jimenez there playing accordion, and bajo sexton, which Ry Cooder plays wonderfully.


RY COODER: (Unintelligible) I rush you down the side, my banking brothers. Put that bonus money back where it belongs.

GREENE: I feel like I should be in the bar swinging like a mug of beer back and forth. Why does Ry Cooder just scream L.A. to you more than anyone else?

ARCOS: Because he's able to discern and bring together musical styles like no one else can. In this particular case, not only is he using a corridor, but he also uses a style of brass music that is current today in Los Angeles. If you pop into somebody's car window driving anywhere in South or East L.A., you'll hear people listening to this brass music. And he just thought what a great way to update this style and also sing it bilingually.


COODER: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: That's musician Ry Cooder. And his new album is actually out at the end of this month. If you like what you've heard, you can hear a lot more of these artists from DJ Betto Arcos on his show "Global Village." That's on KPFK in Los Angeles. Betto, this is fun. Thanks for sharing your music with us. And thanks for sharing your city with us.

ARCOS: Thanks, David. My pleasure.


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