Photo of Yatrika Shah-Rais by Sheila Masson

Gordon Haramaki, University of California, Los Angeles
Photography by Sheila Masson

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“For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. It has failed to understand that the world is not for beholding. It is for the hearing. It is not legible, but audible ... ”
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  1. On a recent trip to London I spent one Sunday afternoon taking a walking tour of parking lots—or at least, that is what it must have looked like to anyone out of earshot. The other tourists my group passed must have wondered what we were doing as we followed our guide from parking lot to parking lot among

    Map of the Portsoken Ward of London
    Map of the Portsoken area
    the closed shops in the Portsoken area. The Tower of London was so near—just what were we looking at?

  2. If those observers had joined our group, they would have learned that, rather than taking a tour of physical present-day London, we were touring Medieval London—a London that disappeared in the Great Fire of 1666. Like the character of Marco Polo, who conjured up mythical and strange cities through his stories for Kublai Khan in Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, our tour guide’s words created a real and palpable city out of the air. We saw through the London of today to an equally real (yet metaphysical) London of the Middle Ages that our guide’s stories unearthed from the Medieval street plan that still marks modern London.

  3. My audiovisual experience of London that day is one that I have daily on my morning commutes through Los Angeles. The flat, expansive, and ambiguous face of LA’s smoggy panorama that reveals itself during my morning drive southward over the Sepulveda Pass appears completely vacant of meaning, like that of London’s parking lots. Yet it is a view that is belied by the sound of the many musics available on Los Angeles radio stations. Acting in place of my London tour guide (and Calvino’s Marco Polo) is Yatrika Shah-Rais, one of the five radio hosts of KPFK’s Global Village, whose lilting voice floats over the Los Angeles airwaves on 90.7 FM on Wednesday mornings. Conceived and produced by Betto Arcos, Operations Director at KPFK, Global Village explores local and world music with a different host—and viewpoint—each day of the week: Betto Arcos himself on Mondays, Simeon Pillich on Tuesdays, John Schneider on Thursdays, and Sergio Mielniczenko on Fridays.

  4. Though the term “World Music” has been around since the late 1980s (and has been rightly criticized as a catch-all term for everything that doesn’t fit neatly into record store categories),“World of Music” would be a better way to describe the wide variety of music that Global Village’s hosts play every weekday: music from all the classical traditions, jazz, salsa, progressive rock, folk, film music, and an array of traditional and crossover musics from around the globe. Yatrika Shah-Rais’s Wednesday Global Village program presents music to her listeners with an accent on India, the Middle East, Asia, and women composers and performers.

  5. Literary scholar Raymond Williams has written that what we might gain from an understanding of the way the arts work—and I would include music here—is a deeper understanding of a culture’s “structures of feeling.” (132) The continued political unrest throughout the world makes our understanding of different cultures urgent and more needed, and the music of KPFK’s Global Village fosters a deeper knowledge of what musicologist Susan McClary has described as the many “ways societies have devised for articulating their most basic beliefs through the medium of sound”—the many “structures of feeling” from around the world as well as those from our own backyard. (31)

    Yatrika Shah-Rais and Gordon Haramaki at the Koan Collection

    Yatrika Shah-Rais and Gordon Haramaki at the Koan Collection

  6. I had the pleasure of watching Yatrika do her show on April 10, 2002 during the week of Global Village’s Fifth Anniversary and of listening to some of their “greatest hits” over the past five years. Global Village’s anniversary is made all the more amazing when you find out that the hosts and support staff of Global Village, as with many of the programs on KPFK, are all volunteers giving freely of their time to play music that they love—music that they think you will love, too. The day before, away from the bustle of the KPFK studio, we sat among the beautiful objects and furniture of the Koan Collection on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and I asked Yatrika about herself and her musical world.

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“Hello Cleveland!”


Yatrika Shah-Rais

Review Essay


Photography by Sheila Masson
Designed by Gordon Haramaki