About the Blog:

Michal Shapiro

Every week Michal Shapiro reports on concerts, festivals and interviews with musicians, both international and local. Check out World Music for the latest on the video blog!

interMuse World Music Blog

More music and culture from around the world on Michal Shapiro's InterMuse blog

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Women of the World

We're showing two of my favorite blocks this week, Songbirds (#50) and Ladies, Sublime and Ridiculous (#62). They all feature women as either the central singers, or as the focus of the video. It is amazing how much strength runs through both blocks. The Nordic lands weigh in with Groupa and Garmarna, each with straight-as-an-arrow vocals, and both sets contain entries from Eleftheria Arvanitaki: "The Bodies and the Knives" is a searing look at the perils of relationships, while "Dynata" asserts the power of the Female. Even Yungchen Lhamo's ethereal vocals cannot disguise her core of assurance - she might be praying to her teachers, but she is still the woman who trekked over the Himalayas to freedom. Our longer offerings keep this motif flowing: watching Mariza and the story of Fado we feel the passion of a diva's commitment to her music, and in Vanaja (on Cinemondo this week) we are witness to the things in life that give a woman an iron will.

 
 

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Cultural Focus on China

The controversial Olympics in Beijing are about to launch, and it's no coincidence that Link TV has rolled out several eye (and ear) opening  programs for this week. China is an endlessly fascinating subject, and our programming department has chosen some compelling stuff for you. Mosuo Song Journey is a loving look at a remote part of China that is trying to adapt to an influx of tourism. The area is known for its matriarchal culture and its passionate songs, but "progress" is taking its toll. For a look to the past, Yang Ban Xi resurrects the Maoist years with some pure propaganda that took the form of highly entertaining musicals. Moving from music into the movies, we present an encore presentation from our first season of Cinemondo, with a harrowing tale of betrayal in Beijing in the film Stolen Life – a recent Tribeca Film Festival winner for Best Narrative Feature. And while I'm touting our cultural programming, don't forget our series Chinese Restaurants which is a tasty look at how Chinese culture survives in diaspora, through the lens of one of its most well known aspects: food.

 
 

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My Raison d'Etre

I am a bit of a proselytizer for world music. I remember a several years ago someone telling me rather smugly "I would NEVER listen to music that isn't in English!" and thinking "and you aren't ashamed?"  I rather love listening to songs in other languages-- it's like one kind of music on top of another…a musical sundae. With all the different kinds of music there is out there, why not be open to it all -- the whole smorgasbord! (You may have guessed that I'm a foodie, too.) This brings me to a documentary we are showing this week. It's called Jupiter's Dance and in it Jupiter, Kinshasa's ever optimistic entrepreneur says time and again that the musical riches of Congo could be its economic goldmine. And the variety and sweetness of what is there is indeed compelling, from rhythms that get your hips shaking to harmonies that seduce your ears. I recommend Jupiter's Dance to you, and hope it gives you a craving for Congolese music that compels you to buy some. And maybe next time a friend comes by whose tastes are totally mainstream, you'll can slip them an exotic musical hors d'oevre and create another convert!

 
 

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A Concert To Remember

A few years ago I was invited to attend a musical awards ceremony for the World Culture Open. It was held at Avery Fischer Hall in Lincoln Center, but what drew me there was the roster of artists that were to perform. I already knew some of them, like Misia the fado singer from Portugal, the Rustavi Choir from Georgia, and of course, Youssou N'Dour, from Senegal.  But I found myself stunned by other artists I was not as familiar with. The oud duet of Yair Dalal from Israel and Nasser Musa from Palestine was riveting. Omar Farouk Tekbilek from Turkey was ecstatic, singing Sufi poetry; so much so that the elderly Jewish couple sitting next to me said "Oh, our cantor would LOVE this!" But what  probably blew me away the most was the opening performance - a troupe of Korean women who played an array of drums in perfect unison. Gorgeously attired, they did not seem to even break a sweat as they executed complex rhythms and demanding choreography. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that the entire concert had been videotaped and was available for Link TV. And it's playing this week. Check it out!

 
 

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After Cinemondo, See a Special Collection of World Music Videos

We had some time to fill between the end of Blind Shaft this week's Cinemondo offering, and the next program. I love this sort of challenge; it's a programmer's delight to sequence videos that relate to a theme.  So after Blind Shaft's dark tale of greed you can settle back for a sampling of videos about our relationship to money: Aterciopelados' sarcastic Don Dinero makes fun of our obsession with the stuff. Control Machete delivers a cautionary tale about gambling, and Bisso Na Bisso gives us a whimsical - yes, it's possible -look at corruption. Taiwan's Kou Chou Ching rap about the perils of runaway capitalism in China, and we close with a sweet song about generosity, from Davy Sicard. Hey, we couldn't leave you depressed, could we?

 

And if you're having trouble making out this lyrics of this week's video premiere, Hard Times of Old England Retold, we've got them here for you:

 

Hard Times of Old England Retold

 

For 5 generations my family have farmed
By hoofs and by tractor by hoe and by hand
But that won't stave off the bank's last demand
Singing all the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

Time was I could sell what I grew at the shop,
Then Tesco turned up all of that had to stop
Now I can't make a living out of my crop
Singing all the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

More and more of our village gets sold every day
To folks from the city who're happy to pay
For a holiday cottage to stay empty all day
Singing all the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

The countryside alliance expects I suppose
My support when they march down
To bloody Blair's nose
But they said not a word when our post office closed
Singing all the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

The hedgerows my grandfather tended are gone
And with it the Lapwing and the Cornquake's sad song
I fear I'll be carrying on before long
Singing all the hard times of old England,
In old England very hard times.

And now to conclude and to finish my song
Let’s hope that these hard times they will not last long
And I may soon have occasion to alter my song and sing
All the Good Times of Old England
In Old England very good times.

 
 

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