- GH: I am struck and amazed by the many different kinds of
music that you play on your show. Last Wednesday [April
3 2002] you started off your day of Global Village with
the Paul Hillier Ensemble performing seventeenth-century Russian music,
followed by pieces from the Elizabethan composer John
Dowland and the contemporary composer John
YS-R: A composer whos hardly ever played anywhere
GH: and certainly would not be played at that length, even on a classical station. Your choices of all those different kinds of classical musics covering a span of almost four hundred years on that segment of your program, as well as the wide variety of the music that followed, really piqued my curiosity not only about your background in music, but about you as a person.
- YS-R: First of all, Im from Iran. I was born there
and I lived there until I was about sixteen years old. I grew up in
a family that was very supportive of music, a family of music lovers.
I have an elder brother, and both of us studied classical piano from
an early age. My father had a more eclectic taste, in the sense that
he also enjoyed flamenco music, European-style world music, and a
lot of classical music. My mother was the classical music
person. So, I got a classical music appreciation from the both of
- My brother was five years older than me and at that time listening
to The Beatles and stuff like that, so there was where the rock and
roll element came in. I remember that he used to come home after buying
these records45sand hed play these singles, and
wed be singing, Oh yeah! I want to hold your hand!
[laughs] He was very much my elder brother, my inspiration, in introducing
me to rock and roll, and then to alternative rock.
- Of course there was the classical inspiration that was coming from
my parents, and the fact that my brother and I were both playing classical
piano. I played piano for quite a while, and stopped when I got too
involved with work. I have moved a lot and couldnt take a piano
with me. To tell you the truth, my fingers are very rusty right now
especially my left hand, which trails behind the right!
- The world music element
but for us it wasnt world
music at the time. We were living in Iran, so when we would
listen to Persian music, it was just Persian musicit had nothing
to do with world music.
GH: It probably wasnt even Persian music for you, it was probably just music.
YS-R: Yes, just music. We wouldnt have identified it with any specific category in the sense that I would have wanted to label it.
- I think, historically, that elements of world music and the concept
of world music started creeping in with first experiments
of some of the classical and rock ensembles. For example, Yehudi
Menuhin and Ravi ShankarWest Meets East  when
they started collaborating, and the Sitar Concerto of Ravi
Shankar. In terms of rock and roll, I remember I first heard Mike
Oldfields Ommadawn there was so much
African drumming that was taking place in there. At the time I wasnt
even really relating to the fact that this was African drumming or
not. I was still young. But it was all extremely appealing in terms
of the sounds.
- My family left Iran in 1975my brother left earlierand
we went to live in London. Afterwards, I went to live in France where
I lived during my university years. In France you get exposed to a
lot of world music, because at that time the presence of Africans
and North AfricansMoroccans, Algerians, and Tunisianswas
very strong. And that was how I was introduced to the music of Africa.
And the music of Brazil, because Brazilian music was hot at the time.
There wasnt much happening for middle-eastern music, so any
knowledge that I had about middle-eastern music was based on my own
background and nationality. My background is in International Relations
and Languagesthats what I graduated in. I was first at
the University of NiceI got a Masters there. Then I did postgraduate
studies and a doctoral degree at the European Institute for Advanced
International Studies. It was called International Relations,
but it had a very European focus and was very much about the Euro
and the European Economic Community.
- When I came to America it was always with the objective of being
able to work for an international organization and being able to travel.
At first I worked for an environmental organization, and then for
the New York City Commission on Human Rights. It was when I moved
to New York that all of my musical interests came together because
I was exposed to the very cosmopolitan culture there. Living in New
York I started exploring lots and lots of different things and I became
extremely curious about what the music of all these different cultures
sounded like. If I had a Dominican friend, or a Haitian friend, I
thought, What are they listening to? So, we would all
just exchange music.
- My real dream was to be able to scout talent: I had this dream
of helping some of these musicians get better known and broadcast
on the radio. Always inside of me there was this pining for the artistic
world. I said to myself, Im just a consumer of musicIm
not doing anything about it, and I really want to get involved.
I also realized that everything that I was involved with at work was
policy making and lobbying: when you are in an environmental organization
you are lobbying all the time, and when you are working for the Commission
on Human Rights you are constantly investigating, fact-finding on
cases, writing your summaries, and taking them to another lawyer who
takes them before the judge. The whole nature of my job was conflict
and conflict resolution. I felt that there must be a better way of
bringing people together. I realized that the reason why people had
so many conflicts and that there was so much discrimination was that
people were scared of one another, or felt threatened. For example,
there are people who have all these ideas about gays or lesbians,
or people who have AIDS, and have this constant fear, and dont
try to understand what that other person is about as a person and
not label them by race, religion, color of skin, sexual orientation
relating to one person at a time, rather than
- YS-R: Exactly, exactly. There is a lot of discrimination
against African-Americans, against disabled people, against Hispanics,
against people of other origins. I felt, well, it would be so much
nicer if we found something that all of these people could enjoyand
one of the easiest things to enjoy is music. Its much easier
to enjoy than reading in someone elses language, since there
is no language barrier.
- GH: You were mentioning earlier that even as a child that
you were responding to all these different kinds of sounds as sounds
GH: because music can be experienced as a sort of unmediated sensual experience where you either like it or dont like it on that visceral level. And with that immediate reaction you can easily find something that you like.
- YS-R: Exactly. Music is very broad and theres something
there for everyone, so you can really enjoy it. Thats what I
thought. Well I said, I love music, and Ive always wanted
to be immersed in it and explore it. So, lets do something about
- To tell you the truth I changed
I left my jobleft
all the benefits, left everything. I decided that I had to take another
direction in life, but I didnt know where to start. I didnt
have an arts degree to find a job, so I started volunteering.
- The first place that I volunteered for was WNYC
radio, which is a public radio station. I was listening to it a lot
because of a program there called New Sounds with John
Schaefer thats aired every night at 11 oclock New York
time. It is a phenomenal program because it is extremely eclectic
and diverse: it was not just world music oriented, it was really new
music orientedthings that you dont get to hear on any
commercial station or even non-commercial stations. And I said this
is a wonderful learning experience, let me see if I can volunteer
my help and my services to WNYC. And lo and behold, they just said,
Yes, yes, come on inwe always need help.
- On the first day I remember, they gave me a lot of envelopes to
fill, label, and put stamps on. The next dayactually in the
afternoonthey came to me and said, Maybe youd like
to do something a little
different? And I said, Whatever
you need to get done, Ill do. And gradually I became more
and more involved. I started listening to the CDs. John receives piles
of CDs, mountains of CDs that were almost impossible for any one person
to go through and to deal with. He was the director of FM music programming,
so he would receive all the CDs and he had to filter them to the right
shows. But he also had to figure what would work on his own show.
So I would listen, and even suggest tracksThis track or
that track might work on your show. Of course, he would also
listen to it first. But he started trusting me and that exposed me
to a wider variety of musicno longer just world music, or classical,
or jazz, but new musicminimalist music, such as La Monte Young,
Reich, and Lou Harrison.
La Monte YoungSteve Reich
- John would have guests in studio and I would get to meet themit
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
- Then WNYC asked whether I wanted to do stage management for them
for some of their live concerts. They also had a series called New
Sounds Live. So I became the stage manager for that. Then they
got a call from World
Music Institute saying they had a position open and asking whether
they could recommend someone. WNYC recommended me and I got the job.
The World Music Institute is a concert-presenting organization that
deals primarily with world music, not much fusion, but traditional
folk and classical music, and also dance. The World Music Institute
tours a number of the musicians so they can afford to present them
in New York. I had this double role of coordinating the concert in
New York and booking their tour throughout the United States, a sometimes
going on tour and managing the tour
which was a lot of fun
and a lot of stress! It was usually a really good experience. Thats
how I really got involved in world music, and that was that.
- When I came to LA I kept my position with World Music Institute
whereby I still organized their tours and coordinated whatever I could.
But it was a long distance relationship and it had to fizzle out,
because you cant work for an organization and not be there when
they need you. Then I got the job the Skirball
Center, and for a while I even had a booking agency where I represented
artists of my own.
- Thenin 1997 was it?I was at an Iranian classical music
concert and Betto Arcos was sitting next to me. I knew Betto because
I had taken some of the musicians that I would be touring through
the United States and that would come through LA on his show. So
he always knew me through that as an artist representative.
Betto turns to me and says, Yatrika, do you want to be on the
air? Do you want to host Global Village, one of the days of
And I said, Huh? What?
He said, Yeah, yeah, Im really serious.
I said, You know, Ive worked on radio, but I dont have any on-air experience at all: how do you know that Ill be able to cut it? I dont know at all how to do this.
He said, Well train you. Just do a demo tape so that I show it to our program director. You have lot of knowledge of music, its obvious, and we really need someone to fill in.
Betto said that he really needed someone to substitute for him and he would prefer a woman because they had mostly men on the Global Village. He was primarily interested in the fact that I had a middle-eastern background and that I would be bringing more of a middle-eastern angle to the Global Village. So thats how it all started.
- I remember the first time I was on air
believe me, I dont
even know how I kept my voice stablemy whole head was shaking!
I was so scared because you have to do your own engineering. There
I wasI had to remember what I was going to say and I had to
remember to play the correct track. Of course, I had my play list
in front of me, but I had to make sure that I managed the board right.
They did give me some training, but it wasnt extensive training,
so I learned all of it on the jobon air, actually,
and with much trepidation! At some point I started feeling comfortable.
Even when I made mistakes I didnt become so flustered about
it, and said, Okay, its just a mistakeI wont
do it next time. Now Ive learnt.
- GH: One of the things that appeals to me about your showthe
whole Global Village line upis that its like a
friend saying, I just bought some new CDs and Id like
to play you some new things.
- YS-R: Yes, thats exactly the way that I like it to
be. If I have friends at home and somebody asks, What new things
have you bought? I become the DJ immediately. Okay, let
me play this for you, let me play that for you! Isnt this really
nice? Isnt that nice? And listen to that! Thats
exactly what I like to do on Global Village. I like to create
an atmosphere as if you are sitting in a living room and youre
just spending three hours listening to various types of music. I want
it to be friendly and I want it to be diverseI want it to cover
a broad gamut. Sometimes the show is very thematic, like three hours
of music from Asia or India. I like to do thematic shows.