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Not All Somber Notes

We must learn from history

When pulling together the tracks for this week’s World Music Show (11/3) I usually try to stay away from national news and things. Sometimes some of my themes will touch base on a particular trend or event (like an election).

But with this past week’s killing of 11 senior citizens at the Temple of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, I thought I’d show some solidarity and respect by playing some songs off a powerful CD called “Yiddish Glory: the lost songs of WWII.”

This songs tell stories of resistance that were composed by the Jewish Red Army soldiers, Jewish refugees and victims and survivors of Ukrainian ghettos. The tracks on this CD also mark the first time these songs have been performed in over 70 years. To talk about the present or the future, often times you need to reach into the past. And in this case, this is a past not worth repeating.

We’ll start off with a song called “Purim gifts for Hitler.” This anonymous song was written in 1945 and it compares Hitler with other failed enemies of the Jewish people. The song relies on imagery of Purim, a Jewish Holiday that celebrates the ultimate victory of a king who plotted to kill the Jews. I’ll follow that with “Misha Tears Apart Hitler’s Germany.” This song highlights the uniqueness of Soviet Yiddish wartime culture. And instead of longing and lamenting, it calls for direct violent action. I find the extreme statements of these songs interesting.

In correlation to these two songs will be two tracks from another group of people who are also still be persecuted. On an island near Tanzania, there are group of people who have albinism --which is defined as a person or animal having a congenital absence of pigment in the skin and hair (which are white) and the eyes (which are typically pink). In this case, the group of people who have this condition are treated like animals. They are hunted and killed or banished from their homes. The reason being is that their neighbors think the skin of people with albinism is either magical and will yield special powers, or that their evil and must be killed. It’s tragic and horrific.

The songs from the first release called “Tanzania Albinism Collective,” produced by Ian Brennan (Tinareiwin, Zomba Prison Project) went to the island and recorded the people. In some cases, he brought them instruments and in others he just recorded their solo voices. In all cases, the songs are deeply moving.

So why play songs such as these on the World Music Show? Well, even though I think that music can bring the world closer together and is also a good escape from the day to grind of, well, everything. There are sometimes when I like to play music to heal, to mourn and to celebrate how life keeps plugging forward.

Now, don’t worry the whole show will not be so emotional. I’ll also feature some uplifiting music from The Turbans. This is a band that encompasses everything “world music” aspires to be. It’s a band filled with musicians with roots in Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, Iran, Greece, Spain, and England. They play a mix of everything you’d imagine from those areas--Klezmer, Gypsy and just fun folk and political tunes.

In hour one you’ll also hear a partnering of two distinct bands--if you can call them that. The famous classical Kronos Quartet did an album with the Griot group Trio Da Kali. Griot is the art of passing down stories from generation to generation--usually through song. In the song “Lila Bambo” this history goes back several hundred years. Paired up in this set will also be songs from the late Issa Bagayogo and Vieux Farka Toure.

Also in the first hour will be some twang in the form of what I’m dubbing “Mex-Tex.” Sure, I know I inverted the Tex-Mex saying, but that’s because it seems to fit the stylings of Carrie Rodriguez and Sacred Hearts. She plays of a mix of Mexican ballads and Alt. Country tunes that weave wonderful melodies with a little bit of that Texas twang.

In the same set will be some other fantastic female musicians, including the Sudanese-American Alsarah and the Nubatones, the all-female Latin band Ladama Project and the Irish musician Imelda May, who’ll be a bookend to that twang with her own Alt.Country ballad called “Sixth Sense.”

Hour two will see some more new music from Alex Anwandter (you may have heard him last week). His new CD called “Latinoamericana,” just came out and it’s filled with some amazing beats and songs, such as “Cancion Del Muro,” which I’ll play. And I’ll replay the song “Sugarface” by the London quartet Fjorka because I can’t seem to get enough of it.

They’ll also be a family of tunes from, well, the family Kuti. We’ll hear from Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti and then from their father Fela Kuti.

If you’ve been listening to NPR lately or watching some broadcast news shows such as CBS News, you may have seen a story featuring the two remaining Beastie Boys (Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz). They just published a new book called Beastie Boys Book (with a nod to the late Adam "MCA" Yauch who had started to also work on the book before he died in 2012).

Seeing them reminded me that there are a few songs I can play from them because the Beastie Boys used Dub elements in their music. Dub music takes elements of the bass line or treble and turns them up or down and overlays unique vocals in the songs. One of the creators of Dub is Lee “Scratch” Perry, who did a song with the Beastie Boys. I’ll play their collaboration and a track from Perry too.

Of course they’ll be more songs mixed throughout, but you get the gist of this week’s World Music Show. Tune in Saturday at 8pm to WCVE Music 93.1 & 107.3FM or stream the show via this website. Also come back to the site on Saturday to see live streaming track listings. Follow me on Twitter @wcveworldmusic and on Facebook at The World Music Show on WCVE.