In June 2016, Peabody Award-winning media company Afropop Worldwide launches the Afropop Closeups podcast series, bringing poignant and provocative stories from the African planet to listeners. These succinct podcasts, substantially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, feature the voices of curious and talented producers focusing on single topics: Haitian radio stations in New York; a young “born free” rapper’s quest to uplift the social content of South African hip-hop; how musicians are becoming activists in post-conflict Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo, and much more.
Listen to an audio introduction to the first season of Afropop Closeups:
For a sample of a full program, listen to “Fees Must Fall: A Voice of Change in South Africa,” the story of 21-year-old Gigi Lamayne, a singer/rapper who finds herself at the center of her country’s most important debate and social movement in decades: the #FeesMustFall movement.
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For the past 27 years, producers for Public Radio International’s syndicated broadcast Afropop Worldwide have combed the rich music centers of Africa and its many diasporas, yielding far more material than can be accommodated in our weekly one-hour program. Afropop’s Hip Deep series, launched in 2002 with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has provided an especially rich mine of music, stories and insights, much of it —but not all—available in the Hip Deep section of afropop.org. While Afropop Worldwide radio programs, including Hip Deep programs, have been available as podcasts for several years now, the new 20-minute Afropop Closeups series allows producers a chance to dig deeper, focus their lens, explore personal passions, and venture beyond the traditional Afropop format, while preserving the excellence in musical storytelling that has made the program a public radio staple for nearly three decades.
Music interweaves Afropop Closeups narratives, but it is not always the subject. These podcasts build on the central philosophy of the Hip Deep series: Music is encoded history, a reflection of political, spiritual and cultural evolution, and ultimately, the very core of human experience in a complex and fast-changing world. We could not be more proud to give voice to our brilliant and dedicated producers. Their reports and narratives have the power to change the way we hear music and think about culture on our postcolonial globalized planet.
Season One launches June 28, and new episodes will become available on the Afropop Worldwide podcast feed, and in a new section on afropop.org. Here is a summary of the 13 episodes in the season:
Afropop Closeups: Season One
Talking Peace in Mali—In the wake of the 2012-13 political crisis in Mali, the nation is working to repair its celebrated tradition of multiethnic harmony. The promise and pitfalls of this process play out dramatically in a public discussion during the Festival on the Niger in Segou. Artists, music professionals, and public figures weigh in with passion! Produced and hosted by Banning Eyre [Distributed 6/28/2016]
Mabiisi: Accra Sessions—The story of a boundary-breaking collaboration between rapper Art Melody from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and kologo player Stevo Atambire from the north of Ghana. United by common language and cultural traditions, but divided by national borders and colonial heritage, the two artists meet in Accra to find the space between traditional roots music and cutting-edge urban music. Produced by Morgan Greenstreet [Distributed 7/12/2016]
Fees Must Fall: A Voice of Change in South Africa—We meet 21-year-old Gigi Lamayne of South Africa, a singer/rapper who finds herself at the center of her country’s most important debate and social movement in decades: the #FeesMustFall movement. The day she graduated from university, Gigi dropped a protest song about rising education costs that effectively bar the majority of black South Africans from access to higher education: A new cause for a new time. Produced by Simon Rentner and hosted by Sarah Geledi [Distributed 7/26/2016]
Haitian Radio on American Airwaves—On one stretch of Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, there’s a Haitian radio station on every block—Radio Soleil, Radyo Panou, Radio Triomphe—each broadcasting the sounds of Kreyol conversations and konpa music. Haitian immigrants have brought a deep love of radio from their native land, where a strong oral culture, high illiteracy rates, and poor infrastructure have made radio the media of the masses—even in diaspora. Produced and hosted by Ian Coss. [Distributed 8/9/2016]
Grime Wave—Grime, the hard-edged, M.C.-led U.K. dance style that flourished in the early 2000s, seemed long gone. Its best rappers had moved on, and its fans increasingly abandoned hope. But then… something astounding happened: 2016 became grime’s biggest year ever. Produced and hosted by Sam Backer. [Distributed 8/23/2016]
A Conversation with Pedrito Martínez pt. 1—Martínez, the superstar New York-based percussionist and vocalist, talks with Ned Sublette and drum scholar Kenneth Schweitzer about how he got started in sacred and popular music in Havana, Cuba. Produced and hosted by Ned Sublette [Distributed 9/06/2016]
A Conversation with Pedrito Martinez Pt. 2— Pedrito talks about his life as a musician working in the worlds of jazz, pop, and Regla De Ocha ceremonies in New York City. Produced and hosted by Ned Sublette [Distributed 9/13/2016]
Congolese Rumba: Surviving the Pop Apocalypse—A conversation with John Nimis, linguist and scholar of Congolese popular music. Nimis unpacks the lyrics of Congolese pop songs that discuss power, politics and money through the metaphoric language of love. He reveals how Congolese musicians have survived difficult times using libanga, a unique system of shout-outs to rich patrons. Produced and hosted by Morgan Greenstreet [Distributed 9/27/2016]
Mali: Politics Behind the Music—A conversation with Columbia University historian Gregory Mann about Malian politics from the French colonial era to the present. Mann provides fascinating context for musical developments from traditional griot songs to the latest hip-hop. Produced and hosted by Banning Eyre. [Distributed 10/11/2016]
A Beginner’s Guide to Lusophone Atlantic Music—While the musical networks that connect English, French and Spanish-speaking nations together are well known, far less attention is paid to the links between the Afro-Lusophone world—from Cape Verde to Angola to Brazil. This podcast offers a lightning tour of some of the most important groups that helped pull together this often-overlooked sonic universe. Produced and hosted by Sam Backer. [Distributed 10/25/2016]
Political Fiction: Music and Partisan Violence in Jamaica: The Caribbean island on which the package holiday was first unveiled has long been blighted by unacceptably high levels of politically-motivated violence, a nightmarish by-product of its firmly entrenched two-party political system. This podcast aims to reveal the early beginnings of Jamaica’s dramatic partisan divisions, and to highlight the role that the island’s music has played in commenting on and challenging such divides. Produced by David Katz and Saxon Baird. [Distributed 11/08/2016]
Salaam, Amani, Peace: Festivals in Goma, DR Congo—In a context of ongoing violence and N.G.O. intervention in Eastern Congo, a festival culture is emerging based on the concept of “peace-building” through the arts. With the guidance of professor Chérie Ndaliko and local artists, we explore the ways in which these festivals can negatively or positively affect the local arts community. Produced and hosted by Morgan Greenstreet. [Distributed 11/22/2016]
Soundin’ Like Weself: Rapso in Trinidad—Industry, carnival, politics and music are all are intertwined in Trinidad/Tobago’s unique national music culture. We meet the creators of rapso, a little-known local rap variant that could only have been born here. Part roots dance music, part folklore, part socially engaged street poetry, rapso is renegade steel band music, deeply rooted in island communities. Produced and hosted by Jake Hochberger [Distributed 12/06/2016]