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World Tour 2nd Stop: Japan

By Tarek Tiba

This week’s musical world tour takes us to the country of Japan. Japan is like a big melting pot when it comes to music. All genres of music seem to flourish and crossover between one another, creating music that is very unique.

Classical and contemporary music are very popular in Japan, and the country is one of the biggest markets for preserving and keeping this music alive. Japan has produced many famous composers, such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has gained worldwide recognition for his film scoring, and Joe Hisaishi, who has also gained popularity for his soundtrack work, composing scores for every Studio Ghibli film except one, The Castle Of Cagliostro. To hear compositions from these artists, listen to Forbidden Colours by Ryuichi Sakamoto or The Legend of Ashitaka by Joe Hisaishi.

Another very popular genre of music in Japan is jazz, which was first introduced to the island sometime in the 1930’s. Like classical music, Japan provides a huge market for jazz music with many recordings by jazz artists are sometimes released exclusively in Japan. Like jazz from other parts of the world, jazz music from Japan can be very diverse in sound and style, sometimes sounding more straightforward, like the bebop or hard bop jazz of the 50’s and 60’s, or more avant garde or experimental sounding. To hear an example of the more straight ahead jazz of Japan, listen to "Edge" by Takuya Kuroda, and to hear an example of more experimental jazz, listen to "Taiko" by Uyama Hiroto.

Also on the playlist are some examples of traditional Japanese music, specifically taiko drum music. Taiko drumming involves the use of huge drums, and was traditionally in the past played mainly at religious ceremonies or during battles to communicate commands across a battlefield. In the 20th century, taiko drum music witnessed a revival in Japan, becoming very popular; with the help of the Japanese government allocating funds for the preservation of Japanese culture, many taiko drum groups were formed. This style of music did not remain exclusive to Japan, and has since become popular in many other parts of the world, such as North America and Europe. To hear the immense sound of the taiko drummers, listen to "The Hunted" by Kodo.

This week's playlist will feature many of the artists above and more. Just like the last playlist, this playlist should be seen as a glimpse into the music of Japan, and a guide for further exploration. Playlists can be found on our WCBN Spotify or Soundcloud account.

 

 

 

 

Above the Static 8 September

Our september newsletter is out! Read it here: Above the Static | 8 September 2017

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Under the Influence: Kendrick Lamar

 

This week, our music review intern Oscar Anderson brings you a playlist built on the music of Kendrick Lamar and the music that foreshadowed and inspired his work.

Every artist on this playlist influenced the next. The last artist on the playlist is under the spotlight. This time, it’s Kendrick Lamar. Ever since the release of his second studio album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, it seems like everybody’s talking about Kendrick Lamar. His next two albums, To Pimp A Butterfly and DAMN were both met with critical acclaim. Kendrick is at the forefront of “conscious” rap; making social commentary that you can still blast at a party. In his own words: “I'm not the next pop star, I'm not the next socially aware rapper/I am a human mothaf***in' being, over dope ass instrumentation/Kendrick Lamar.”

Kendrick cites Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Nas, and Eminem as artists who have influenced him. It’s a winning formula, as they are often considered some of the greatest rappers of all time. Tracking Kendrick’s influences is a good example of the evolution of hip-hop, from the very beginning to today. It all started with early blues; like delta blues artist Son House, and his progeny, blues icon Muddy Waters; and then rock and roll’s beginnings with pioneer Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry’s rock and roll led to the the innovative funk of James Brown and Rick James.

Early rappers were essentially funk artists with rhythmic, spoken lyrics. Monosyllabic rhyme schemes like the ones used by Kurtis Blow paved the way for later rap’s more complex poetic structures, exhibited by Kool Moe Dee and Rakim. Rakim greatly impacted the new wave of rappers emerging in the ‘90s—including those that Kendrick Lamar cites as his greatest influences—and revolutionized the concept of ‘flow’ in hip-hop. Rappers from the ‘90s, like Nas and Tupac, spoke openly about issues surrounding drugs, violence, and poverty that affected them, in contrast to earlier rap’s relatively tame lyrics. Nas’s lyrical imagery of Queens is vivid, and comparable to Kendrick’s descriptions of Compton. Kendrick is often compared to Tupac Shakur, even likening himself to Tupac on occasion. Kendrick’s unique brand of introspective hip-hop feels like a logical progression from Nas and Tupac’s street poetry, and his beats incorporate funk inflected bass riffs that call back to hip hop’s origins.

 

Stay up to Speed with "Above the Static," WCBN's Bi-weekly Newsletter

Suffering from FOMO? Never fear, WCBN is here with our new bi-weekly e-newsletter! We'll let you know all the cool stuff that's been going on down at the studio, plus upcoming events at WCBN and our community. We'll also bring you reviews on new music, baller playlists, and hand-picked song recommendations from the DJs. 

Check out the link to this week's newsletter to learn what our summer interns have been up to, read Tarek's review of the Malian band Tamikrest and listen along to his playlist, and find out what music our DJs really want you to be jamming to this week. 

And don't forget to jump on that mailing list! If you sign up and don't see a confirmation email, check your spam folder. 

 

Remembering Chris Peterson

This week we remember Chris Peterson, one of our brilliant DJ's who passed away in July of 2016. Peterson was a community advisor at WCBN and an English teacher at Skyline High School. He was known for his commitment to bringing world music to Ann Arbor and broadening our listenership's musical horizons. Most notably, he hosted the Latin Hour and the Pan African Heartbeat, as well as occasional freeform from 3 to 6am. We've compiled an archive containing several of his shows. Chris and his contributions to the station are deeply missed.

Please take a minute to listen to any of the audio clips he wanted to share with you.

 

July 28: Interview with Bob McAllen

We are excited to announce that on July 28 at 10AM on our show Right on Radio, DJ Rodney Pate will be airing his interview of Bob McAllen. McAllen recorded a now-obscure 500 pressed folk rock album out of the Lansing area in 1967, with a failed release in 1971. He then vanished, and was presumed dead for nearly 40 years. This is the first time he has ever been contacted and has spoken about the album and his music. Some collectors consider this album a lost folk rock masterpiece, with delightful fingerpicked guitar and tenor voice drenched in reverb. The introspective song writing ranges from deep subjects like the Vietnam war to light love songs about his pet cat, making an album with a dream-like vibe. We hope you can tune in!

World Tour 1st Stop: Mali

Listen along to the styles you’re reading about on our Spotify playlist! (Or on our SoundCloud, depending on song availability)

By Tarek Tiba

Every Monday at WCBN, a group of around 5 people sit in the lobby and listen to snippets of new albums that we’ve received in the last week. My first time sitting in as an intern, specifically a music review intern, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I sat down, Paul the music director here at WCBN walked out from his office with a bunch of CDs, sat down with a CD player at the table and just started going through albums, saying the name of the artist, playing maybe 20 seconds of a song and then moving on to the next one. At the end, we all pick and choose from a pile of albums that has accumulated on the ground. It is through this I was introduced to the band Tamikrest.

Tamikrest is a band originating from the northeastern region of Mali, specifically from the city of Kidal. The members of the band belong to the Tuareg ethnic group, who inhabit a large area of land in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Tuareg people have long faced many hardships, starting with French colonization in the late 19th century to famine in the later years of the 20th century, as well as revolutions and intrusion from outside terrorist groups. In the face of all of these struggles, many Tuareg people have turned to music to spread their message and make aware the difficulties that their people have to face. Ousmane Ag Mossa, one of the founding members of the band, took inspiration from another Tuareg group; Tinariwen. Ag Mossa has said that it was Tinariwen who blazed the path for other Tuareg musicians, and that it is the responsibility of the younger generations to follow along that path. To hear the blues driven sound of these musicians, listen to Erres Hin Atouan by Tamikrest or Imidiwan Win Sahara by Tinariwen.

Listening to this band for the first time, hearing the blues inspired guitar mixed with traditional rhythms and the language of the Tuareg, Tamashek, which Ag Mossa sings in, made me aware of a whole new world of music that I had previously not known of. It also gave me the idea for a musical world tour. An exploration of music from different countries around the world, to be compiled onto a playlist for others to enjoy, and what better place to start than Mali.

Mali is a country rich in history and culture, and the music of Mali represents a manifestation of the cross between traditions of the past and new trends of the present. Almost all the artists on the playlist showcase traditional Malian instruments, and some of them, such as Toumani Diabaté and Ballaké Sissoko, have gained worldwide recognition for their solo work. Both artists play the Kora, an instrument similar to the harp in nature. To hear the beauty of the Kora, played by true masters of the instrument, listen to Si Naani by Toumani Diabaté or Maimouna by Ballaké Sissoko. Malian percussion instruments are also heavily featured on many of the songs, such as the balafon, a type of African marimba, and the calabash, a hollowed-out gourd. Mali has also produced many talented guitarists, such as grammy award winning blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, and Boubacar Traoré, who first gained fame in Mali shortly after the country’s independence from France in 1960, earning the nickname of the “Malian Elvis Presley.” To hear the magnificent guitar playing of two Malian greats, listen to Ruby by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté or Djonkana by Boubacar Traoré.

The playlist features many of the artists talked about above and some more. Most of the songs were found off of albums that were here at WCBN. This playlist should be seen as a glimpse into the music of Mali, and a stepping stone for further exploration, should you find something that piques your interest. Two versions can be found on our WCBN Spotify and Soundcloud accounts.

 

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