Results for South Africa
This week's World Tour takes Jim and Greg to South Africa. But first, they've got a layover in Mali. Christopher Kirkley is the founder of the SahelSounds record label, where he's been releasing recordings of Malian "cell phone music." Jim and Greg ask Christopher about the recent arrival of legal digital music services in West Africa. Can streaming services like iRoking, Deezer, and The Kleek gain a foothold with African music fans? Kirkley says low income in West Africa make paid streaming subscriptions a non-starter. And besides, he points out, West Africans already have a thriving music-sharing network: they're swapping digital music on their phones. Check out some of the Malian cell phone music Christopher has collected.Go to episode 405
A glance at the numbers coming out of the traditional music industry institutions don't paint a pretty picture. But, as Jim and Greg explain, for everyone outside the major labels and distributors, 2008 hasn't actually been such a bad year. Apple is reporting a 34% increase in sales. This includes iTunes downloads as well as players and accessories, but compare these stats with the 20% dip the record companies are reporting, and you get even more proof that the old model needs tweaking.
There's another surprising news item coming out of the digital music realm. If you had asked Jim and Greg years ago to bet on what artist would dominate digital music sales today, they would never have guessed Journey. The power balladeers' 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin" just became top selling catalog track in iTunes history with over 2 million downloads. How did this song eclipse heavy hitters like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Greg attributes the song's late blooming success to 3 things: its association with the Chicago White Sox, its use in the Sopranos' finale, and its use during Kanye West's most recent tour. Jim would prefer to never have to hear from Journey again, but Greg will defend the song's catchiness, particularly that unforgettable keyboard riff.
In sadder news, South African singer Miriam Makeba died last week at the age of 76. Greg says that Makeba is to South Africa what Edith Piaf, Mahalia Jackson and Celia Cruz are to their home countries. Her passion for South Africa and for all of the continent mirrored her voice and her music, and in the case of her recording contract, jeopardized it. Makeba is best remembered through the conviction you can hear in songs, so Jim and Greg play the updated version of "Pata Pata" from her 2000 album Homeland.Go to episode 155
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
After stops in countries like South Africa, Japan, and Sweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour is trekking on. Jim and Greg hop over to Cuba, inspired by the historic changes in U.S.-Cuban relations announced recently by President Obama. Their guide to Cuba's influential rhythms is Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Ned tells us that Cuba has been alive with music ever since the sixteenth century. Drawing upon its unique ethnic history, Cuba developed a polyrhythmic style quite different from what emerged in North America. Innovative artists like Arsenio Rodríguez brought Cuban dance music into maturity during World War II. The unshakeable rhythms of the mambo, rumba, and cha-cha-chá filtered into the United States, particularly in the world of jazz – Dizzy Gillespie's collaborations with Chano Pozo changed music forever. Rock ‘n’ roll and the blues also adopted Afro-Cuban flavors. Even after Cuba's isolation following the 1959 revolution, the music never stopped, according to Ned. Nueva trova, for example, a movement led by singer-songwriters like Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, began to fuse revolutionary politics and idealism with traditional song forms. Cuban rhythms also provided the basis for the global salsa phenomenon of the '70s. Today music in Cuba thrives in both traditional genres and in modern ones like reggaeton. Though he's not personally a fan of the hit 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album, Ned was happy to see North Americans reengage with Cuban artists. With the political changes underway, he expects to see an even more exciting cultural exchange between Cuban musicians and the rest of the world.Go to episode 482