Thursday, November 12, 2009

VOAMusic blog joins VOAWorldMusic!

The Voice of America has a substantial amount of music programming scattered among its various operations. When I launched the VOAWorldMusic blog last year, I also started a separate blog, VOAMusic, that attempted to highlight on a single site, updated regularly, as much of VOA's music programming as possible. That effort was discontinued last summer for a variety of reasons, with the promise of joining the broader role of this blog site--a commitment that I'm now happy to undertake.

Recent VOA music stories:

See Amra Alirejsovic's video report from Washington on a multimedia music project, named Playing for Change, started by music producer Mark Johnson. Johnson explains its purpose, along with a video of various musicians, in the Introduction page of its Website:

"Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world."

The project, whose mission, stated above, is along similar lines to the purpose of this blog, also has a Facebook page, with over 80,000 fans.

VOA's veteran radio and television broadcaster Larry London produced a TV package on Ne-Yo, whose impressive career as an independent music producer highlights include five top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and two #1 albums. Click here for the Ne-Yo's own Web page, which includes samples of his music.

Mary Morningstar's report, voiced by Ed Gursky, on the 43rd annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, took place on 11 November in Nashville, Tennessee, hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. Click here on the CMA Website for a full list of winners. (As I write these lines, ABC news has just closed its evening news broadcast with a profile of Taylor Swift, who Morningstar characterizes as "the night's big winner", with her awards for Video of the Year, Album of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year.)

From Johannesburg, South Africa, VOA's Darren Taylor has produced three in-depth radio pieces, two focusing on the struggles of Africa-based musicians in pursuing careers on a continent known for its economic and political challenges, and the third spotlighting a Johannesburg-based radio DJ who has developed a continental following for her distinctive style of presenting music.

Taylor's first feature is about Petronel Malan, a highly accomplished young pianist whose career has been largely unheralded outside her native continent, despite the fact that her debut CD received three Grammy Award nominations. Taylor notes that "has been a musical icon in South Africa for a long time. A child prodigy, she began playing piano in her home city of Pretoria when she was just four years old. At the age of 10, she debuted with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra."

Taylor's second radio piece features two multiracial South African rock groups, BPJ and Pink Noise, whose common personnel consists of songwriter Evert Snyman, bassist and pianist Paul Vermaak, drummer Bianca Nobanda, and lead guitarist Koos Van Der Wat. The two bands persevere despite a substantial degree of the sort of criticism in the press that follows independent and ground-breaking rock musicians who refuse to conform to any particular stereotype, and have a significant fan base in their native country.

The third feature by Darren Taylor is on Azania Ndoro, a young Johannesburg-based radio DJ whose listenership extends beyond the borders of her nation of South Africa. The university-educated Ndoro, who lived for three years in London doing menial jobs, then returned to Africa to begin her media career in TV, moved on as an assistant producer for FM radio, then further onward to hosting a midnight to 3 am show. As Taylor notes, Ndoro "found herself broadcasting to a sparse assortment of insomniacs, hard-partying night owls and long-distance truck drivers. But the DJ [persisted], and now drives her show, Total Bliss, between the far more respectable hours of 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. every weekday. She has up to a million listeners at a time in South Africa alone, with many more tuning in on the Internet and on satellite radio across the continent."

From Los Angeles, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has produced a radio portrait of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, which grew from its humble origins as part of the four-year-old university in the fledgling city of Los Angeles 1884 to become one of the finest university music programs in the U.S.

And finally, also from Los Angeles, listen to Mike O'Sullivan's background piece on a new CD of classic love songs, "Corky Hale and Friends--I'm Glad There Is You", produced by jazz harpist and pianist Corky Hale, and featuring her own vocals as well as that of actress Sally Kellerman, Tricia Tahara, Brenna Whitaker, Ariana Savalas, (daughter of the late Hollywood actor Telly Savalas), and Freda Payne. Says Hale of her album, which includes such songs as "The More I See You", "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair", and "Where or When": "These are the kind of songs to put on late at night, with someone you love."

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