Archives for category: Music

Out in Richmond Hills, Queens, a Guyanese native repairs an instrument central to Indian spirituality. My story about Mindra Sahadeo, the harmonium king of Queens, for The World

Also check out Sonny Singh’s article about Sahadeo for Open City.

Mindra Sahadeo in his Richmond Hills home, playing one of the Madhura harmoniums he designed with a friend in Calcutta.

Mindra Sahadeo in his Richmond Hills home, playing one of the Madhura harmoniums he designed with a friend in Calcutta.


Robin Girod, Xavier Bray, and Cyril Yeterian at the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette.

Mama Rosin’s Facebook page  lists Amédé Ardoin, The Clash, and The Velvet Underground as a few of the band’s musical influences, and that gives a pretty good sense for what they’re all about. They’re three young Swiss guys psyched about the punk attitude they find in old cajun and zydeco music.

I had a chance to talk to them and see them play at the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette at the end of April. Hopefully they’ll be back to the U.S. soon. Until then, here’s the story I did on them for The World, here’s their homepage, and here’s their Bandcamp page where you can listen to a bunch of their music. And you really should.

You can also read two blogposts I wrote while my friend Adam and I were tooling around in and around Lafayette, they’re here and here.

* Does anyone know why this is a thing cajuns are always yelling in their songs?


The Yellow Dogs at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn

The Yellow Dogs got their start on the underground alt music scene in Tehran. They were featured in a semi-documentary about that scene called No One Knows About Persian Cats, and the scrutiny got a bit intense after that. They left the country and settled in the young-band mecca of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

That’s where I caught one of their shows, and interviewed frontman Obaash. Yes, he does share a loft with his bandmates and a few other Iranian artists. Living the dream.

Here’s the story for The World.

Lots of cool music happening in these parts at the Arab/Middle-Eastern/North-African/Jazz/New-Music intersection. (It’s a busy intersection.) I caught Brahim Fribgane‘s great Andalusian/Moroccan project last week at Terraza 7 in Queens; band and venue both highly recommended. A few days earlier I’d seen Amino Belyamani‘s Dawn of Midi turn in a mesmerizing set at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.

Fribgane and Belyamani shared the stage with a bunch of others in January at a festival that’s emerging as a meeting-of-the-minds for this scene. (I think it’s fair to call it a scene. It’s a scene, right?) The festival is called Maqam Fest, it’s put on by Alwan for the Arts, and curated by multi-talented Amir ElSaffar. Here’s the story I did for The World.

From the left: Ole Mathisen, Amir ElSaffar,  and Dena El Saffar of the group Salaam at Maqam Fest in January.

From the left: Ole Mathisen, Amir ElSaffar, and Dena El Saffar of the group Salaam at Maqam Fest in January.

I hurried up to Mandalay planning to head from there to Monywa, where ongoing protests against a Chinese-owned copper mine had just been broken up pretty violently by local security forces. When I got to Mandalay, though, I found out that The World already had someone in Monywa covering the demonstration. (Sometimes communication breaks down a bit when there’s an 11-and-a-half-hour difference between reporter and editor.)

So there I was in Mandalay. Here’s the story I cobbled together.

Signs on the stage at the Moustache Brothers' performance space in Mandalay. The  photograph shows Lu Maw with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Signs on the stage at the Moustache Brothers’ space in Mandalay. Par Par Lay and Aung San Suu Kyi are in the photo behind the signs.

A couple new Global Hits on The World in the past month.

Hüsnü Şenlendirici is a big-deal Turkish clarinetist whose recorded output sometimes tends towards the New Agey, but was way more old-agey when Julia and I saw him in Philadelphia at the end of October. The show was part of Al Bustan Seeds of Culture‘s 2012-2013 season. Here’s the story I filed for The World.

I first got into Bachata a couple years ago when I was working at WYPR in Baltimore and a few of the newly resurfaced legends of the music came to play at Artscape. I recently got back in touch with Benjamin de Menil, the guy who put on that show and runs iASO Records, a label largely devoted to bachata. He told me about an upcoming bachata show he was putting on in Manhattan, mixing a two generations of bachateros. Can’t miss that. Here’s the story.

I’m sorry to say it, but by the time you read this, Fanfare Ciocarlia [fun-FAR-ah CHOKE-ur-LEE-uh] will have left North America. If you’re in Europe, though, you really should try to catch one of their dates there. It’s a helluva show.

Here’s the story I did for The World about their New York date; it was part of the annual New York Gypsy Festival.

Here’s a longer version of the song that ends the piece–it starts right after I ran out into the lobby to get closer to the band as they marched out of the theater. Awesome.


Fanfare Ciocarlia. Photo Credit: Arne Reinhardt

Players gather at Despers USA’s pan yard on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

I wish I could take credit for it, but it was someone over at NPR who chose the title “Bang on a Pan” for my story about the 45th annual Steel Band Panorama competition. It’s a genius title though, right?

One basic thing I think I didn’t convey in here is just what a majestic spectacle it is when a huge steel orchestra is all synced-in and playing at the top of their game. If you’re in Brooklyn next August, do yourself a favor and go to a band launch party.

The website When Steel Talks is a clearinghouse for information on steel orchestras, including the ones in Brooklyn. Another good resource is the book The Steelband Movement. It’s an academic but readable account of steel drumming’s origins, history, and political character in Trinidad.

Hafez Modirzadeh lives this generous, universal philosophy centered in music. He’s been refining it for 30 years. A lot of it began with Charlie Parker. Hear a bit about it in my story; learn more about it here. But, really, just spend some time listening to his music.

Allow me to set my journalistic objectivity aside for a moment and say I just really like Radio Jarocho. You can listen to the story I did about them for The World here. But you should really try to catch them live–for one thing the visual fun of their performance is lost on the radio. They also teach regular jarana and zapateado lessons. Dig ’em.

Radio Jarocho at Terraza Cafe in Queens.