world tours 2013

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South Africa

The Sound Opinions World Tour has been to Sweden, Japan, and Mexico. This week, Jim and Greg finally touch down in the African Continent – South Africa to be exact. Their field guide is Andy Davis, editor of the South African music and culture website Mahala. Andy confesses that his first record was The Boss's Born in the U.S.A., but he says he quickly embraced the music of his homeland with a little help from Johnny Clegg and the Queen of Afropop, Brenda Fassie. Davis says what's special about South African music is its "hybridization": the way musicians combine traditional guitars, rhythms, and vocals with synths and global genres like hip-hop. The result is a music scene varied enough to include rap in Afrikaans and Xhosa, South African house, and folk-pop about the apartheid struggle.

To find out what it's like to be a band in South Africa post-apartheid, Jim and Greg speak to rising Cape Town act John Wizards. The two main men behind the band are John Withers, a white South African from Cape Town, and Emmanuel Nazaramba, a black Rwandan. The two men met outside a café in Cape Town, and despite their differing musical backgrounds, John says his tracks and Emmanuel's vocals clicked right away

Here's our South Africa playlist on Spotify.

Go to episode 405
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Mexico

Fresh from stops in Japan andSweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour continues south of the border. Public radio's "The Latin Alternative" co-host Josh Norek is our guide to Mexico's music scene. As Vice President of the Latin alternative music label Nacional Records, Norek's had a chance to work with many of Mexico's pioneering rock acts, from Saul Hernandez's Jaguares, to pop-rock arena act Mana. He's seen the audience for Mexican music in the U.S. grow (as second and third generation Mexican-Americans get in touch with their musical roots), and he's seen it get more experimental. Norek argues that Mexico's musical renaissance really kicked into gear with Café Tacvba in the nineties. Tacvba fused genres like ska, metal, and punk with traditional Mexican regional music. Cafe Tacvba sounded Mexican and were proud of it. More recently, DJ outfits like Nortec Collective and Mexican Institute of Sound have adapted the same approach to techno, merging beats and norte~no samples, for example. Norek says Mexico's music scene continues to develop in spite of formidable challenges; drug-related violence has forced artists in cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana to relocate to Mexico City and L.A.

Jim and Greg round out their Mexican tour stop with a call-in to Sesiones TV host and music journalist Alejandro Franco in Mexico City. Their mission? To find out what Mexican music fans are listening to right now. Franco says that while rockers Zoe are topping the charts, it's Carla Morrisson and Juan Cirerol who are packing Mexico City's hipster clubs. And check out our Mexico playlist on Spotify.

Here are the Mexican artists featured in this episode

Go to episode 396
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Japan

Two months ago, Jim and Greg kicked off the Sound Opinions World Tour with a musical survey of pop powerhouse Sweden. This week, our series on global rock and pop continues with a stop in Japan. Jim and Greg recruit Tokyo-based music journalist and podcaster Daniel Robson to be their guide through the contemporary Japanese music scene. As Daniel explains, it's a scene that's at once similar and very different from that of the Americans and Europeans. Consider this: the Japanese music industry is still profitable, and physical sales still outpace digital. That's in large part to the stranglehold J-pop production companies have on the domestic market. But for every saccharine commercial confection like AKB48, Daniel says there's an underground group sure to thrill indie ears. Mamadrive and Shinsei Kamattechan are just two bands poised for Western success in the tradition of Japanese experimenters like Boris, Melt Banana, Acid Mothers Temple, and The Boredoms. Another point of difference with the West? Japanese musicians are roughly 50% women. Today singers like Shiina Ringo and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu carry on the tradition of eclectic rock and J-pop pioneered by all-women groups from Shonen Knife to Puffy AmiYumi.

Japanese artists featured in this episode:

Go to episode 388
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Sweden

Jim and Greg have always insisted that rock ‘n’ roll belongs to the world. In our new series, the Sound Opinions World Tour, they prove it by zeroing in on countries that've made big contributions to global rock and pop. Their first stop is the largest exporter of music per capita in the world: Sweden. Swedish DJ and public radio host Stefan Wermelin is our guide through the country's musical history. Stefan explains that in the '50s and '60s, Sweden was a pop music backwater. Musicians churned out cut-rate covers of American and English hits. The '60s hippie“Progg”movement injected some originality and artistic ambition into Swedish music, but things didn't really change until ABBA hit it big with "Waterloo." According to Stefan, ABBA set the template for Swedish success. The band created big hits by co-opting the best bits of global pop music and stitching them together with meticulous production. That tradition of pastiche continues today with Swedish producers like Max Martin, the man behind a hundred-and-one Billboard Top Ten hits (Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" among them). But today, Sweden's also experiencing an indie renaissance in genres as varied as death metal, dance music, and Americana. Decades after ABBA, artists like The Knife, Lykke Li, Robyn, Opeth, and First Aid Kit are staging a second Swedish invasion.

Go to episode 379