Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Continuing Quest for a Decent World Music Podcast

Responding to the Figurehead's recent post, I felt compelled to hold up the world music end of the podcast beam since that is sort of my beat, here at the Cedar blog. And I am a big podcasthead; probably have 30-40 different ones going on my pod at any given time. (Hey baby, when you've got 160 gigs, why be stingy?)

Unfortunately, I have tried all the world music podcasts I could find a year or two ago and was disappointed. I have stuck with very few of them, and none of them are anywhere near the "Oh goody, a new episode" excitement of say, The Savage Lovecast or Hardcore History. (OK, I cannot tell a lie, I am really a geek and have lots of academic and language podcasts.)

Attempting to be good sport about it all, I revisited some of the podcasts I tried and then dumped to see if there has been any improvement.

For sure quantity, you've got to appreciate Global Hit, the little music segment at the end of The World, the nightly early evening co-production of Public Radio International(PRI) and the BBC. They have to come up with something five days a week, so as you might guess, the results vary. Widely. They can range from interesting background information, such as the piece on Asha Bhosle, the Bollywood vocalist who became a household name outside of India through the popularity of the 1997 Cornershop hit "Brimful of Asha" (see Cornershop blog post down about a week right here) to "fun but I'm not running out to download this song" such as the one on Pistol Valve. Yep, a 10 piece all girl brass band with a fiddle player and turntablist from Japan defintely qualifies as fun.

But a lot of the time I feel like they are just searching around for something weird from some county not known for its music just to, I don't know, cover all the bases or something. We could also say for sure that they don't use the qualifier "World Music that Rocks" like one local record company here does.

Other times, I feel like they really don't do their research. Like the episode Marco Werman did on Shantel . He said something like "to go along with other Balkan acts like Gogol Bordello, Devotchka and Beirut, now here's Shantel," then proceeded to talk about last year's Disco Partizani album. He did not mention Bucovina Club. He did not mention Electric Gypsyland. He did not mention any of the other production and remix work that had made Shantel (Stephan Hantel) a household name among fans of Balkan music. Did he even Google the guy??? (By the way, I would not call any of those three bands he mentioned Balkan music. Just sayin'.)

"Disco Partizani" is a pretty fun song. Look.

Yow, over 2 million hits. Maybe he coulda done a little research? Like neglecting to mention that Shantel was the producer of important recordings of the genre like Mahala Rai Banda's self titled debut. Check out "L'est Sexy." No, we're not in Denver anymore.

Or of Boom Pam's also self titled debut? Hey look, it's "Bum Pam", the Aris San recording from the '60's that Boom Pam named their band after! Proto-Israeli-surf! Cool! (No video here, but great tune to listen to while you finish reading this, eh?)

But here's our Boom Pam, I mean the one that came to the Cedar a couple of summers ago on a sweaty June evening and had old guys in yarmulkes shaking it like at a wedding dance. Never seen tuba playing like that.

But I should quit whining because Marco and co-host Lisa Mullens have turned me on to some fun stuff over the years. Like Dengue Fever. Cheesy, but fun. Love the organ solos. The vid for their tune "Sni Bong" has embedding disabled, but follow the link if you like.

Because of the great variability and sheer volume of podcasts that pile up with a daily show, I don't subscribe to Global Hit. I just check it out on ITunes every once in a while and only download the episodes that interest me.

National Geographic used to have a rather lightweight world music interview podcast, which seems to have gone by the wayside since I dropped it. The world music section of their website, however, is pretty informative in a basic sort of way.

There used to be a decent podcast all about African music, with a very enthusiastic host named George Colinais (sp?) Can't find that one anymore either. Podcasts can be rather fly by night, can't they? I did run across several Irish music podcasts in my travels around ITunes, both for trad and pop. One is by BBC Radio Ulster, so you can follow the BBC link from the podcast featured providers list at ITunes.

Clearly I need to do more research, so watch for that some upcoming Wednesday. Before that though, I've got to weigh in on the Euro World Music Charts Top 100 for 2008 and review some new Polish music I got the other day. Now, though, gotta call it a night.


Anonymous said...

if you like latin music, you should check out the Ritmo Latino podcast. Neil Hohman (sp?), the host, has a very generous definition of "latin", from traditional tropicals like salsa and merengue to latin fusion from NYC, to Brazilian beats like samba or bossa nova, to Fado to flamenco to Rock en Español, to European bands with latin influence. Me gusta!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it can be hit or miss, but it must be tough coming up with five fantastic new artists/stories every week!

Another "world music" option is the show Spin The Globe out of KAOS radio in Olympia, Washington. They just started posting episodes at You don't get the entire show that's posted in their playlists, but it's a great burst of global sounds once a week (the show airs every Friday morning).

Anonymous said...

Do you know about Afropop?