This Week’s Theme: Around the World in 29 Songs
As I wrote one year ago in Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 25 – almost every Faux Show includes one of my favorite mini-themes, Let’s Take a Trip Around the World. My fondest memories of my time as a deejay 30+ years ago include discovering music from other countries. From a purely musical perspective, the different instrumentation, rhythms, melodies, and song structures have always fascinated me. In fact, the easiest way to add variety to your musical life is to simply add in music from other countries. This is no different than eating a variety of ethnic foods or watching foreign television and films. The cliché is true – variety is the spice of life. However, now that I have been listening to such a wide variety of music for so long I think I have a deeper understanding of why this topic is so important to me. I have spent half of my life with a partner, Ms. Faux, who believes strongly in the importance of acceptance, inclusion, and understanding of all people. I share this belief and she has only strengthened this in me, not just musically but in all aspects of life. However, the amazing thing about having an open mind about people who are different than oneself is that you discover they really aren’t that different. Ignoring the obvious differences, such as physical appearance, gender and sexual orientation, political and religious viewpoints, and socio-economic status, most people throughout the world deal with the same issues everyday. Simply put, we all share the human condition by way of the emotions that define our lives as human beings. In the context of this commonality, it is no secret that one of the most common connections across humankind is music. I know this is not a new realization – you can devote your life to the academic study of music’s connectedness across people, places, and time. However, it is also common for humans to lose perspective of the world around us and focus solely on our personal struggles. It is difficult to focus externally, especially in times like we are living in today. So for me, music is a way to break back out into the larger world around me and remember that we are all people living in the world together. We are not much different than people from around the world who lived their lives fifty, one hundred, or even one thousand years ago. Through it all, people have turned to music in moments of strength and weakness, joy and sorrow, happiness and anger, rest and work, while alone or with community, and all times in between.
One year later, and my interest in the music of the world has only grown. Since last August, the world has become embroiled in a war between a sovereign nation, Ukraine, and an indefensible aggressor, Russia, with no reasonable end to the conflict in sight. Climate change is irreversibly changing the geo-political landscape, as well as speeding humanity toward destruction. Fascism continues to be on the rise around the world, casting doubt on humanities ability to survive. Through it all, one thing remains constant. People who are struggling turn to music for salvation. This week’s show is curated in honor of those throughout the world, from nations large and small, who continue to add to the incredible variety of music available to anyone willing to drop their prejudices and listen.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show Volume Two, Number Twenty-Nine.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
Last year’s Faux Show of international artists included some of the most populated countries in the world, including China, India, and the United States. This year’s show not only includes only countries that weren’t on last year’s show, but also emphasizes some of the least populated countries. The largest nation, Argentina, comes in at #32 in terms of population, and Andorra and Lichtenstein are smaller than most average cities in the United States. There are very few artists on this week’s show that I knew prior to doing the research, but there are several that I have been listening to a lot since discovering them. In all cases, these artists prove once again that there is great music to be found in all corners of the world.
Countries (2020 UN population estimates), Artists, Songs (year)
Argentina (45,195,774): Astor Piazzolla “Tanguedia III” (1986)
Ukraine (43,733,762): DakhaBrakha “Wo 3-Noa Ayoa” (2014)
Peru (32,971,854): Eva Ayllon “Ironia/Esperare” (1981)
Côte d’Ivoire (26,378,274): Magic System “Poisson d’Avril” (2001)
Mali (20,250,833): Salif Keita “Mandjou” (1978)
Zambia (18,383,955): Chile One Mr. Zambia “Nasangwa Nabengi” (2022)
Guatemala (17,915,568): Ricardo Arjona “Mujeres” (1993)
Syria (17,500,658): Shahd Barmada “La Tloum” (2010)
Netherlands (17,134,872): Ning Kam & Jozef de Beenhouwer “Guadeamus & Meditatio for Violin and Piano Opus 8:1” (2009): Composed by Marinus de Jong
Belgium (11,589,623): Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra “Flanders: De Vlaamse Leeuw” (2013): Composed by Karel Miry
Haiti (11,402,528): Nemours Jean-Baptiste “Aoua Pipip” (circa 1960s?)
Cuba (11,326,616): Arsenio Rodriguez “El Reloj De Pastora” (1946)
Greece (10,423,054): Vangelis “Yegelle Tezeta (My Own Memory)” (1996)
Hungary (9,660,351): Alex Marta “Kedvesem” (2013)
Lebanon (6,825,445): Maya Nasri “Lasmarani” (2005)
Singapore (5,850,342): Stephanie Sun “What I Miss” (2007)
Finland (5,540,720): Armas Järnefelt “Berceuse” (composed 1904)
Scotland (5,454,000): Mogwai “Year 2000 Non-compliant Cardia” (1999)
Moldova (4,033,963): Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers “Trenuleţul” (2022)
Eritrea (3,546,421): Yemane Baria “Swuat” (circa 1970s)
Jamaica (2,961,167): Koffee “x10” (2022)
Trinidad and Tobago (1,399,488): Calypso Rose “Fire In Me Wire” (1990)
Eswatini (1,160,164): Zacks Nkosi “Soso” (mid ’70s?)
Fiji (896,445): Laisa Vulakoro “O Savusavu Lei” (80s/90s)
Cabo Verde (555,987): Codé di Dona “Pa Dan Di Meu” (composed earlier, recorded 1998)
Bahamas (393,244): Ronnie Butler “Crown Calypso” (composed mid-century, recorded 80s/90s?)
Iceland (341,243): Sigur Ros “Staralfur” (1999)
Andorra (77,265): Anonymous “Salvem el Mon” (2007)
Liechtenstein (38,128): Camerata Quartett “Streichquartett No. 2 in F Major, Opus 147:III” (1991, composed late 19th century by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger)
Artist Of The Week: Astor Piazzolla
Astor Piazzolla was the creator of the musical form known as nuevo tango (the new tango). He revolutionized tango, and in so doing also revolutionized the music of Argentina and then the music of the world. His mix of jazz and classical forms with traditional tango music became important both musically and politically, and made him both loved and hated in his home country. A true understanding of the music and influence of Piazzolla requires much more study than I can accomplish in this blog, but I can at least give some background, including some personal examples of the importance of his music in my life.
In order to fully understand the importance of Astor Piazzolla, you must first understand that tango is the national music of Argentina. It was invented at the turn of the 19th century in Buenos Aires, and by the time Piazzolla began performing it was the primary form of music to which people danced and listened. Piazzolla began his career as a young bandoneonist (the bandoneon is a type of concertina and is one of the integral instruments in tango). He played with some of the leading tango orchestras in Argentina through the ’30s and ’40s, but by the end of the decade his vision had expanded beyond the straightforward compositions of standard tango. At this point, he formed his first group, but still maintained a relatively straightforward tango orchestra lineup. By the early ’50s he left for Paris to study classical composition, but his vision of how to transform tango remained and when he returned to Argentina in 1955 he began his new compositional techniques in earnest. He dropped the singer from the orchestra and abandoned any attempt at creating dance music. Using two bandoneons, two violins, double bass, cello, piano, and electric guitar, his new Octeto Buenos Aires group invented nuevo tango. Their sound was a mix of chamber music and jazz and it resounded throughout the country. Not only was this progressive music, but it coincided with a new liberal political movement that was attempting to change the government of Argentina, and this new music became the soundtrack for that change.
One might think that by this time Piazzolla was an Argentinian superstar, but he was actually struggling to support his family. Over the next ten years he lived and performed around the world and developed several different groups. By the mid-60s however, his vision had finally taken hold in Argentina, Europe, and North America and he spent the rest of his life as an icon of tango. He composed hundreds of compositions of varying style and length over the next twenty-five years, toured the world, and was an international superstar until his death in 1992.
Speaking more personally, there are two things I will say about Piazzola’s impact in the Faux household. First, his 1987 album Nuevo Tango: Piazzolla and Gary Burton, was one of the first CDs that Ms. Faux and I purchased together during a trip to our favorite local music store in the late ’90s. It was set up at one of those great recommended by Staff Member listening stations that used to be a great way to learn about new music. We have listened to it now for over twenty years and it is still one of our favorites. Secondly, Faux Jr. is a huge fan of the new progressive band Black Midi, and they have recently stated in interviews that one of their primary influences is the 1986 album Tango: Zero Hour. If you are familiar with the music of Black Midi, this influence may not be obvious, but if you listen to the Piazzolla album you will hear its impact immediately. If you aren’t familiar with the music of Black Midi, then go fix that.
Overall, Astor Piazzolla was one of those once-in-a-lifetime musicians whose vision transformed the music of multiple generations. His combination of traditional tango music with western musical forms has now influenced those same western forms without the artists always knowing his impact. That is the true definition of a musical legacy – the ability to change music so intrinsically that the original influences can no longer be distinguished. It is the reason that music in the 21st century is now an entirely global sound, and Piazzolla was one of a few dozen artists from the mid-20th century who influenced that sound.
To be honest, every song in this week’s show is a highlight, but there are always artists and songs that deserve some extra attention, so I’ll focus on a few that aren’t discussed anywhere else.
Magic System are one of the original bands who began the zouglou music movement in The Ivory Coast in the early ’90s. Zouglou is a type of dance music that was created by young Ivory Coast musicians as a way to sing about life as a youth, with humorous, political, and often life-affirming lyrics. The lyrics are usually a mix of local language and French street slang. Many of the early zouglou bands have had to live and record in exile due to their support of former president Laurent Gbagbo, a controversial political figure who has been both a victim of political corruption and an abuser of his own elected power. No matter the politics of the artists, the end result over the last thirty years is that zouglou has become a prominent form of music in The Ivory Coast, has spawned other genres and dances throughout the country in the 21st century, and continues to be the music most associated with the youth movement.
Ronnie Butler was the Godfather of Bahamian Music. Butler performed calypso and rake ‘n scrape music for over fifty years before his death in 2017. He began his musical career as a teenager and performed in local clubs for decades. His success and popularity grew large enough that ended up as a popular touring artist throughout North America, South America, and Europe. In 2003, he received an MBE from the British government, so I should probably be referring to him as Sir Ronald Butler. Having listened to his music over the last few weeks, and having spent some time listening to local Bahamian groups perform at Bahamian clubs when I was in my twenties, my guess is that Sir Ronald took his MBE in stride and celebrated it with a shot of rum and some dance music. The music of Ronnie Butler is about as close to perfect party music as you’ll ever hear.
Zacks Nkosi was a bandleader, composer and saxophonist from Swaziland, and was part of the original African Jazz movement of the ’50s. In the ’60s he became active in the addition of African artists to the EMI jazz roster and mentored young African artists. These original African jazz composers and bandleaders, including artists such as Nkosi and Jonas Gwangwa, laid the foundation for westernized African music to flourish in the ’70s. Genres established by future African musicians, such as the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the desert blues of Ali Farka Toure, and the mbaqanga of Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens, would not have been possible without these original African jazz pioneers.
Salif Keita is known as The Golden Voice of Africa. He is a Malian singer/songwriter, but only because he went against his upbringing. He was born a member of the Keita royal family, ranking as a Prince in his village of Djoliba. His lineage runs back to Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali empire. However, he was cast out by his family due to his albinism, which allowed him the freedom to pursue his musical talent. He spent his career as a politically active musician, including exile from Mali for much of his life. The song “Mandjou” is one of his most popular. Originally written in support of Seiku Toure, the President of Guinea, by the time it was recorded Toure had became an authoritarian leader and had lost Keita’s support. Even so, this is one of Keita’s signature songs and he performed it for years with different arrangements. Since the release of “Mandjou” in 1978, which led to almost overnight success, Keita has become one of the most honored African musicians, has worked with artists such as Wayne Shorter and Carlos Santana, performed at the internationally televised 1988 Nelson Mandela birthday concert to call for the release of Mandela, and has won a variety of awards including Best World Music 2010 at the prestigious French Awards ceremony Victoires de la musique.
Ricardo Arjona is one of the most successful Latin artists in history. He has sold over eighty million records, charted multiple #1 Latin albums, charted four Billboard Top 200 albums, and has won a Grammy, Latin Grammy, Billboard Latin, Latin Heritage, and dozens of other awards. He is the most successful Guatemalan artist on the pop charts, and is known as The Nocturnal Animal (taken from his album of the same name). Over the last thirty-plus years he has adapted his sound and is a master vocalist of ballads, pop, rock, Cuban, Tejano, Norteno, and a cappella. He is also a talented lyricist and his compositions cover the common topic, love, but also sexuality, violence, racism, and immigration. He is a quintessential Latin artist.
The Dakh Contemporary Arts Center is a theater and music venue in Kyiv. During its almost thirty-year history, the center has developed several dramatic and musical groups, including DakhaBrakha and Dakh Daughters. These artists are now some of the main ambassadors throughout the world for the presentation of Ukrainian music, art, and culture. I first discovered DakhaBrakha while researching this year’s Faux Show about Ukrainian music, and they are still my favorite discovery of this year.
Son cubano was developed in the late 19th century in eastern Cuba. It is a mix of Spanish and African musical forms, incorporating vocal, lyrical, and guitar from Spain and rhythm, call & response structure, and percussive elements from the Bantu culture of Africa. By the 1920s, son music had reached Havana and become the most popular musical style in the country. The orchestral instrumentation evolved through the decades, and by the 1940s was played by larger orchestras with piano and congas featured heavily. It was during this period that Arsenio Rodriguez advanced the form with his orchestra. His increased use of improvised solos, a larger rhythm section, and additional trumpets and pianos gave him his signature sound and was the precursor to new forms developed in the ’50s and ’60s, such as rumba and salsa. Along with Beny More and Roberto Faz, Arsenio Rodriguez was one of the most influential artists in the development of Cuban music during the mid-20th century.
Eva Ayllón is a living legend of Peruvian music. Before she won a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, she held the record for most nominations without winning. Known as The Queen of Lando, she is an icon of musica criolla, a Peruvian folk music influenced by European, African, and Andean music. She has performed for over fifty years and is one of the icons of Peruvian folk music. She is my favorite artist I discovered while researching this week’s show. I know very little about Peru, but I know that their cuisine is fantastic, especially dishes with a Chinese influence, and now I know that their folk music is beautiful.
Calypso Rose is one of the most prolific songwriters in the Caribbean. She has written over one thousand songs and recorded over twenty albums. She is called The Mother of Calypso, and is a female icon of the genre. She was the first female calypso star and has spent her life singing about social issues such as racism and sexism. She became so important in the calypso genre that the renowned Calypso King competition was renamed the Calypso Monarch competition, which she won in 1978. In addition to her musical accomplishments, of which she has won every major award in Caribbean music, she is an activist for children’s rights and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for former child soldiers. She is a living legend.
Starting in 1955, Neymours Jean-Baptiste popularized a form of meringue in Haiti called compas. This has been the primary form of music in the Antilles since the 1950s. Jean-Baptiste, a bandleader, composer, guitarist, and saxophonist, is often called The Father of Compas (or Compas Direct). This music was appropriated by many other musicians and countries of the Antilles and is now known as zouk. Jean-Baptiste’s lyrics were often about positive relationships with women, and his most famous song, “Ti Carole” is still a popular song for performers of the genre.
Code di Dona was a composer and concertina player from Cape Verde. He was the premier musician of a local music called funana, a form developed from earlier styles such as morna and coladeira. Although these musical styles were regional for decades, they have now become more internationally known over the last few decades. His primary profession was as a farmer and flower keeper, but he composed multiple classics of Cape Verdean music at the Cape Verdean National Repertory. His most famous songs incorporate the struggles and history of Cape Verde and are still sung today as nationalist folk songs. He recorded two albums while in his 50s, in 1996 and 1998, and his music is now sung by artists around the world. Since his death he has been recognized by multiple Cape Verdean government officials, including his inclusion on the $1,000 banknote.
Vangelis died on May 17, 2022. He was one of the most successful composers of film scores in the second half of the 20th century, and won the Academy Award for his beloved soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire in 1981. He was a prolific composer and songwriter who created a variety of music, including electronic, ambient, and orchestral. His work in the early ’80s alone included not only Chariots of Fire, but also renowned scores for Blade Runner, Missing, and The Bounty, as well as the music for Carl Sagan’s PBS documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In all, he recorded over forty different albums, soundtracks, scores, and collaborative works, including his influential progressive electronic recordings with his original group Aphrodite’s Child in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He is remembered as one of the greatest film score composers in Hollywood history, with both Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire often recognized as two of the best film scores ever recorded.
Happy Birthday (August 14)
Martin Bulloch is the drummer for post-rock band Mogwai.
Marinus de Jong was an early 20th century Dutch composer with over 190 opus to his name. His most common technique was to use Gregorian chants with 20th century chordal forms.
Armas Järnefelt was a Finnish conductor and composer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His most famous work, “Berceuse,” is an orchestral work that he composed and conducted while working at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.
Karel Miry was one of the first Belgian composers to write operas in Dutch. He composed “De Vlaamse Leeau,” the National Anthem of Flanders. The words to the anthem were written by Hippoliet van Peene in 1847, and Miry composed the music in the late 19th century. The title translates as The Lion of Flanders, and by 1900 the anthem was in use by Flemish militants. In 1973 it was officially proclaimed to be the Flemish National Anthem, and the lyrics and music were finally published in 1985.
Maya Nasri is a Lebanese singer and actress. She got her break in 1998 after winning all three gold medals in the competition Kas El Nojoum on the Lebanese Broadcasting Channel. She recorded four albums in the early 21st century before becoming a star of Egyption television and film.
Shahd Barmada is a Syrian pop singer who launched her career after coming in third on the Arabic television competition show Super Star.
The world would be a better place if music like this charted on the Billboard Top 40.
Chile One Mr. Zambia “Nasangwa Nabengi”
Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers “Trenuleţul”
Facing My Waterloo
These three artists all competed in the Eurovision Song Contest to varying levels of success.
Anonymous was the 2007 contestant for Andorra. Andorra only participated in the contest from 2004-2009. They never made the finals, but post-punk band Anonymous gave the country their best finish, coming in twelfth in the semi-finals.
ByeAlex competed for Hungary and made the finals in 2010. He came in tenth place, one of only five Top 10 placements for the country.
Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers competed in the 2022 contest. Although the judges gave them very few votes, the fan vote showed them to be one of the favorites and they finished in seventh place. The country has only reached the Top 10 in four tries out of seventeen attempts, including their debut attempt which was also performed by the band Zdob şi Zdub.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Vangelis||Dreams of Surf|
|2||Magic System||Poisson d;Avril|
|3||Ronnie Butler||Crown Calypso|
|8||Chile One Mr Zambia||Nasangwa Nabengi|
|10||Zdob si Zdub & Advahov Brothers||Trenuletul|
|12||Anonymous||Salvem el Mon|
|13||Mogwai||Year 2000 Non-Compliant Cardia|
|14||Ning Kam & Jozef de Beenhouwer||Guadeamus & Meditatio for Violin and Piano Opus 8:1|
|16||Astor Piazzolla||Tanguedia III|
|17||DakhaBrakha||Wo 3-noa ayba|
|18||Shahd Barmada||La Tloum|
|19||Stefanie Sun||What I Miss|
|21||Camerata Quartett||Streichquartett No. 2 in F Major, Opus 147:III|
|22||Nemours Jean-Baptiste||Aoua pipip (Spotify=Apran Rinmin)|
|23||Arsenio Rodriguez||El Reloj de Pastora|
|26||Code Di Dona||Pa Dan Di Meu|
|27||Laisa Vulakoro||O Savusavu Lei|
|28||Calypso Rose||Fire In Me Wire|
|29||Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra||Flanders: De Vlaamse Leeuw|