Music

As a part of our Sense of Place, South Africa trip, we traveled to Cape Town and recorded the band Freshlyground on their home turf.

The group is led by the energetic and powerful singer Zolani Mahola, and includes members from Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as South Africa, where Mahola grew up. Mahola talked about what it was like for her to realize how Apartheid impacted her father's life as well as her own, and shared the funny reason she got kicked out of a ska band before joining Freshlyground.

For this Sense Of Place session, we spent some time in South Africa with guitarist and songwriter Johnny Clegg. The visionary musician was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three years ago, and spent the latter part of 2017 on a world tour he called "The Final Journey." It was a productive three months that also included a new solo album, King of Time. But rather than feature that new material, Clegg performed four of his most beloved songs from yesteryear.

Any artist who's in it for the long haul is bound to weather changes and collect experiences over time. And when enough history builds up behind them, they may feel the irresistible tug of nostalgia and find ways to revisit the past — with songs idealizing the "old home place," albums of time-tested standards, lavishly packaged reissues or anniversary tours. Those reflections on the bygone days tend to be reverent affairs.

But for Wade Bowen, conjuring the musical melting pot of a youth and young adulthood spent in Texas has yielded the most wild-eyed work of his career.

When it comes down to it, language is the heart of rap. That's why rappers in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, insist their city is the heart of Chinese rap. The language of Chengdu, Sichuanese, is an emotive, drawling dialect of Mandarin — so wildly different from its rigid-sounding mother tongue that visitors from other parts of China have a hard time understanding it. Its twang fits the rhythms of a song like "Leshan Doufu," by rapper TSP, like a glove.

Why Do Our Brains Remember So Much Music?

Jan 31, 2018

It’s probably happened to you: You’re driving down the highway, listening to music, and suddenly a song comes on that you haven’t heard in years. But without thinking, you can remember every single word.

This happened to Ashlie Stevens (@AshlieD_Stevens) of WFPL, which led her to wonder: How much music can our brains actually hold?

Lee Ann Womack could choose to sing anything in the world. She could sing the periodic table or the label on a can of baked beans or an essay about the various ways paint dries and it would sound thrilling.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What's Your Swan Song?

Jan 30, 2018

If you've ever considered your own mortality and just how, exactly, you'll take your final bow, there's a good chance you've picked a song you want played at your funeral. From Frank Sinatra's "My Way" to Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" — or "Yakety Sax," the song my uncle chose to have played when his casket was wheeled out of the room – your final song, your swan song, can leave a lasting impression on those you leave behind. It's like a mission statement for the life you lived and how you want to be remembered.

Pages