- GH: Like most of Los Angeles I commute and spend a lot of
time in the car listening to the radio. I used to listen exclusively
to another public radio station until they changed to an all
YS-R: mostly news?
GH: mostly news, especially local news. I enjoy listening to the news and being informed about what is going on in LA and the world, but thought what a shame it was that they had cancelled their music programs. Many National Public Radio shows devote considerable space to stories about music and musicians, and Fresh Airs host Terry Gross consistently devotes shows to music, such as her American Popular Song series. But somehow the absence of music programs seems to replace the kind of meaning that you can only perceive with music with a flow of reportagea series of factsand that seems to me to be a great loss. Could you talk about the choice of having music or not on a public radio station?
- YS-R: I think that its very important to have music,
but it is a choice that the general manager and the board of the station
make, whether they want it to be all talk or not. Its one thing
to say that India and Pakistan came close to declaring war on one
another, or to say that this event is happening between Israel and
the Palestinians, or in Bosnia, or the war in Afghanistan.
- Its fine to bring us all the news, but to bring music or
to bring the literature of a culturesomething that speaks more
personally to a listeneris just as important as the news. When
you feel that you can relate and feel connected to all these cultures
then the news takes on a totally new dimension. The reason that I
believe that its important to play music from different parts
of the world is to bring forth this spirit of tolerance and harmony.
Peoples compassion and tolerance increases. I think that is
very important, and for me its a mission.
- I decided that I would do a show after Bushs talk about the
of Evil and the reason that I did that was that when they
talk about these countries that these are just names that theyre
throwing around. These countries consist of people, a lot of whose
people are now living in the United States. Theyre people like
you and me, people that we encounter in the streets. Some of these
people might be our friends. Why does everyone have to equate people
with their government? Many people in the world are victims of their
government, especially in those countries that dont have democracy.
Why dont we listen to what they have to say in music, from their
point of view and from their words, and listen to the kind of beauty
that they can bring to our lives?
- GH: Im glad that you brought up your Music
from the Axis of Evil show, because I found the title is
very ironic. If you look down your play list without knowing the theme
of the show, you would think, What wonderful interesting musicwhat
a lovely collection of things to listen to, all this really interesting
music from Korea, Iran, and Iraq. But, put that title in!
- YS-R: You see, when you have that kind of rhetoric and you
use it in public, people might not understandif they havent
been in touch with any of these culturesand they might just
equate all these people with terrorists. And thats not the case.
Most people in these countries are just trying to scrape out a living
and its a question of survival. Or theyre people just
like you and I, trying to live a life. So, I think this kind of rhetoric
is dangerous. I think that we need to try to bring about a kind of
balance with something that speaks directly to the soul and to the
people. And sensory experience is very important, its like eating:
you share a meal and break bread with someone and it brings you closer.
You enjoy a piece of music from another culture and it brings you
closer to the people from that culture. Thats the whole ideal
about the Global Village, not only that it may introduce people
to different kinds of music, but to try and bring people together
through the music.
- GH: What do you think about in putting together a set for
Global Village? Does it evolve, or do you have something in
mind before you begin?
- YS-R: You know, I decide first of all what I want to do
on a show, and I decide whether I want it to be thematic or whether
I just want it to be a free flow thing. It depends on whether Ive
received new releases or not. Sometimes I do a program thats
based just on new releases, because there are so many of them that
by the time that youve listened to them youve filled three
hours. On the other hand, if I decide that I want to do a show on
the Mediterranean, then the theme is set and Im going to look
for music that fits within this categorymusic from different
parts of that region. If I decide that I just want the program to
flow, a lot of times it depends of my mood, in the sense of What
have we not played in a long time? Sometimes it depends of the
feedback from listeners. I had a listener that wrote to me awhile
back saying, You have not played Balinese music in a while.
And I thought, Hes right. I played it a few months ago,
but a few months ago is not enough. Why not have some Balinese music
here? It was not that I didnt want to play Balinese music;
it just happened that the other things took precedence over the Balinese
music. So I decide that I will incorporate some Balinese music.
- Primarily what I try to do is to make sure that the music within
one set flows, that they are not jarring when they follow one another.
It doesnt have to be in the same key, it doesnt have to
be the same rhythm. But its got to give you a feeling that you
are actually on a journey. And if you are dreaming with that journey,
that you are not jolted rudely out of your dream. That is what I try
to observe, sometimes more successfully than others. You know, we
all have our days! [laughs]
- GH: Do you go out and search through record stores when
you are doing a show like the Mediterranean idea that you just talked
about? I assume that people send you things.
- YS-R: I get lots of stuff from labels. I get lots of stuff
from the artists themselvesthey mail them to me. Some things
come to KPFK directly and I borrow them.
- I do go and research. For example, for the Korean music in the
Axis of Evil show, I thought, I dont get any
Korean music from anyone. Nobodys sending me anything.
So I went and bought some. I even went on the Internet and looked
at what was available, whether there was a really long roster. I did
not just want to be pop music, because, in my opinion, if you are
just playing Western music and putting foreign lyrics on it, its
not really World music anymore. Its somewhere in between. The
Western element is so strong, that its diluted your culture.
So when I play world music, if it has Western elements and fusion
elementsjazz, classical, hip-hop, whateverI still want
the roots of the originating culture to be very, very present. Sometimes
its very hard to find because either what is being recorded
in other parts of the world is not being released in America, or you
have to go to specialized records stores. There is some Indian music
that I can never find in regular stores: I have go to Pioneer Boulevard
in Cerritos and go to Raga Record Store and go through their stuff
and see whether I can find it there. At other times I may have to
go on the Internet and search. For Turkish music, a lot of times,
I order it through the Turkish
Music Club because I cant find it here.
- GH: It sounds like a very active process.
- YS-R: Yes. You have to be active, or otherwise you just end
up playing whats commercially promoted. And thats a dangerwe
have a lot of unheard voices that deserve to be heard.
- GH: We all have a musical comfort zone that
we tend to stay in, and we usually end up at the point where you say
to yourself, I want to listen to something new, but Im
not sure what to listen to. I have a friend who is just turning
forty and she told me, Ive been listening to 1970s rock
for as long as I can remember, and I need something new now.
[laughs] I told her, You need to listen to some world music.
She liked the suggestion, but it can be a really confusing world to
try and enter.
- YS-R: It can be very confusing. Whats happening
in world music right now is that the boundaries are just completely
dissolving. There is so much fusion of not just two cultures togetherEast
and West or African and Westernbut of all sorts of cultures
coming together. And not only cross-cultural, but cross-genre: so
we get crossover classical, crossover jazz, and crossover pop and
rock where elements of different cultures are brought into it. Because
of this it can become very confusing, especially if you dont
know where to start and youre a beginner.
YS-R: classics, even if they are very old. You have to have those, and you have to understand those. Then you can start exploring from there and experimenting with other stuff.
- So, yes, it can be very confusing, especially when you dont
know what to choose. But, really one of the best ways is to tune in
to the Global Village, and that way you get to sample a little
bit of all this music. And not just to tune in once and then go and
buy something: try to tune in for a few times, or for two or three
months and see what you like. You might find a piece thats nice
on recording, but maybe the rest of the recording is not as good!
And we only played that nice piece on the air! [laughs] So its
good to give yourself a little bit of time until your ears become
- GH: I like the play
lists that the Global Village posts on their website so
listeners can look up on the Internet what was played on the show.
Sometimes the sets flow so beautifully from one song to another, that
youve listened to four songs and have had a lovely experience,
but you cant quantify it. So its nice to be able to go
look them up and say, Between 11:30 and 11:50 I listened to
these songs, and I think it was the third one that I really liked.
- YS-R: And even sometimes, because you may have heard three
pieces between 11:30 and 11:50, I still get emails from people who
describe the music to find out what the recording was. You knowIt
had a trumpet in it, and had male vocals, and it had a tabla in there:
who was that? And I think, Okay, I know what youre
talking about: its this. Sometimes I get calls from people
saying, A year ago you played
And I say, You
know, I can refer you to the online play lists, but for the life of
me I couldnt tell you what I played a year ago or at what time.
It could have been a number of things.
- GH: I wonder if you could comment on the fact that Global
Village is on five days a week, but with five different hosts
rather than one person.
- YS-R: Well, you know that Global Village was the brainchild
of Betto Arcos, who used to be KPFKs music director. He is currently
Operations Director at KPFK, but has kept his program as the Monday
host of Global Village. The reason that he decided that it
would be nice to have five different hosts was that it would bring
in different musical angles, and that the show would not be biased.
And every person has his or her pet peevesyou know? Or they
have their own slant on music: they bring in diversity. So, what is
nice about having five hosts is that if you want to get a lot of Brazilian
music you can listen to Sergio Mielniczenko on Friday, or if you want
a lot of Latin music, you can definitely get it from Bettos
show on a Monday. If you want classical music, you definitely can
get it on John Schneiders showthats a Thursday show.
It was important to create some balance. I may play a lot of Indian
and Middle Eastern music, and things like that, and then maybe the
next day, the person who tuned in to my show may want to have a break.
They may not want to hear that sort of music all the time. Its
such a breath of fresh air to have John Schneider come and do his
show on Thursdays. And then from John have Sergio bring you a little
piece of Brazil and happiness on Fridays.
- GH: Ive been struck by the dialogic qualities that
the various shows have with each other. I notice that more than one
host has played Yo-Yo Mas Silk Road Journeys album.
- YS-R: The piece that I played
most of those pieces
have been commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma from all these different musicians
that are now representatives of the old Silk Road.
- GH: It was interesting to me that music from that CD was
played on your show, but also on
YS-R: Bettos show. He played it yesterday. He played the Italian piece yesterday. [Renaissance composer Fillippo Azzaiolos Chi passa persta strada]
GH: I thought that is was interesting to observe what the different hosts on the Global Village were picking and choosing from this one album. It was like a conversation: This is my favorite track. No, this is my favorite track!
- YS-R: Yes! Sometimes we end up having the same favorite track.
And sometimes its very different. I dont mind playing
gentle music: I dont mind playing the long Raag. Betto
will inevitably go to the rhythmic part, because thats the kind
of element that he brings to his showthe rhythmic, the more
upbeat. For me, it can sometimes be the upbeat element, and at other
times, many other times, it can be the more introspective. I like
that introspective mood. I also think that its the morning and
a lot of people might be at work, and maybe they cant listen
if the music starts disturbing everybody else around them.
- GH: What do you bring to your musical choices on the Global
Village as the only woman host? You mentioned that Betto Arcos
wanted a womans voice on the air.
- YS-R: I think well, the fact that Ive done shows on women in world music. I dont think that any of the other hosts have devoted three hours to women in world music, so I think thats one aspect of it. The other thing is I dont know maybe a more introspective sensibility. Maybe the yin part comes in a little more in the type of music that I choose. I cant really say. Its for the listener to say, This is a woman programming, and this is a man programming. But I think that my desire to give a voice to female musicians from different parts of world comes from the fact that I myself am a woman and look at it from that perspective. The music scene is still dominated by men, in every aspect, although there are a lot of women in music. When you look at all the albums that are coming out, and the percentage of how many are from male performers and how many are female its still dominated by men. Thats fine, as long as women get their voice and are getting it out there. To me, good music is good music. It doesnt have a gender. But a lot of times women bring certain things, certain lyrics that come from a different angle which is really interesting.