Our cultural traditions are a window into what makes each of us fascinating, one-of-a-kind humans. And a broad-minded exploration into the differences between those traditions can ultimately lead us to discover the things we have in common.
It is with this spirit of discovery that we continue our 21CM Goes Global series. Too frequently, the continent of Africa is viewed through a singular lens – as a homogenous landmass, despite the multiple histories of its 54 countries and 1.2 billion people. This month, we highlight some of Africa’s rich and diverse musical practices with the hope that readers will become inspired to learn even more.
First, Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen joins us in the 21CM studios to discuss the spiritual, otherworldly quality of Ethiopian music – and the way in which Mekonnen’s ensemble, Debo Band, marries that quality with soul, funk and jazz. He also touches on the ways in which we musicians can use our platforms to address the “social emergencies” of our day.
Next, Kristina G. Boerger reflects upon lessons learned while leading 30 American music students on a three-week experience in South Africa to immerse themselves in the study and performance of black South African choral music. Boerger posits that through authentic, “earnest engagement” with musical traditions, “people from strongly separated cultures begin to experience our common humanity.”
Balla Kouyaté, balafon virtuoso, torchbearer of the Djeli tradition and member of Silkroad, delivers a how-to video on the construction, history and performance of this 1,000-year-old cornerstone of the musical tradition of what is now the Republic of Mali. Kouyaté should know: His family are the guardians of what is, reportedly, the first balafon ever made.
Rock star flutist and composer Nathalie Joachim joins us as this month’s POP Picks curator, sharing the artists and initiatives that inspire her own work. Lastly, we kick off 21CM Connect: Book Club for the year with Scott Bradlee’s “Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession into My Dream Gig.”
Thanks for joining the conversation.