Wednesday, December 26, 2012
We're beginning today's show by re-airing two interviews with National Book Award winners—first, Katherine Boo on her book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, about life in a Mumbai slum. Then with Louise Erdrich, who talks about her novel, The Round House. And Carol and Joe Reich talk about their education advocacy work and their Brooklyn charter school. And we’ll take a look at the rise in allergies and auto-immune disorders and new ways of treating them.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Ravi Shankar, legendary sitar master who played alongside The Beatles, John Coltrane and Yehudi Menuhin, died Tuesday at the age of 92. Soundcheck host John Schaefer reflects on the life and music of Shankar.
Listen back to two archival interviews conducted by Schaefer on his program New Sounds -- one from 1984, the other from 1996.
The first time I met Ravi Shankar, he told the story of the first time he met Baba Allaudin Khan, the man who would become his guru, and later, his father-in-law. Khan began, Shankar recalled, "by rebuking me. He said I was like a butterfly, doing too many things." Shankar was a 15-year old dancer in his brother Uday Shankar's troupe, which in the 1930s first brought Indian music and dance to the West. He also sang, played flute, and sitar -- all by ear. Khan told him that when he was ready to settle down and commit to one thing, he would accept Shankar as a student. It was, he said, a difficult decision, and it took a couple of years, but he eventually committed to the sitar.
Fortunately for us, Ravi Shankar never stopped doing "too many things." While he did become the most famous sitarist and perhaps the most globally-renowned non-Western artist of our time, he also composed film scores, collaborated with leading classical, rock, jazz and traditional Japanese musicians, and even wrote electronic music and played a bit of synthesizer.
"When I play the sitar," Shankar said during one of his many visits to our studio, "I am a purist, orthodox, very traditional. But as a composer I'm not frightened of experimenting with new sounds. It excites me to hear a whole range of instruments."
This was a hard-won wisdom. In the wake of becoming The Beatles "cult guru," to use his phrase, Shankar found himself in a range of unusual settings. Booked into huge rock festivals, he admitted to being discomfited by the sheer volume of the music and the rampant drug use that accompanied much of it. Though he did say he liked The Mamas & The Papas and some of the other, more melodic groups, I got the strong impression that he would not have willingly sat through another Jimi Hendrix set. After Woodstock, when he saw half a million young people "in the mud, and no one in their right mind," Shankar insisted to his overeager managers that he would not do any more rock festivals.
So for much of the 1970s, Shankar kept a relatively low profile, and when he returned in the '80s, he found that the wave of raga-rock excess has crested, and left behind in its wake a much smaller, but still substantial, number of listeners who were genuinely interested in and moved by his music. When he marked his 50th anniversary of performing, he seemed as energized as ever. Every night, he said, meant a different audience, and that kept it new for him.
Shankar passed on his musical genes. His son Shubho passed away in 1992 at the age of 50, but had toured with Ravi and had proven himself a worthy musical companion. His daughters, Anoushka Shankar and singer Norah Jones have each come into their own in the last decade -- Norah of course with a boatload of Grammy Awards and Anoushka as a globetrotting, risk-taking sitarist very much cut from her father's cloth.
And finally, Ravi Shankar taught. You can take that any way you want: He literally taught music to students in school and in private. But he also taught several generations of Westerners to appreciate the beauty and tradition of Indian music. On an even more basic level, he taught us that just because music doesn't come from your culture doesn't mean it can't be yours.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Aman Sethi tells the story of the life of Mohammed Ashraf, who studied biology, became a butcher, a tailor, and an electrician’s apprentice, but ended up a homeless day laborer in old Delhi, in India. Sethi’s book A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi is portrait of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the world’s largest cities.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Based on actual events, Tarun J. Tejpal’s The Story of My Assassins is about a journalist who learns that the police have captured five hit men on their way to kill him. The news prompts him to launch an urgent investigation into the lives of his aspiring murderers and their mastermind, and forces him to reexamine his own life. The novel is part thriller, part romance, and moves from India’s grand palaces to its seediest slums.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Pankaj Mishra tells the stories of the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia Mishra explores the lives and work of Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Hear a load of border-crossing collaborations for this New Sounds, including a danceable Bhangra tune (dance music from the Indian subcontinent) by a Budapest-based Balkan brass band. Then there’s Bangladeshi interpretation of Afro-Latin styles by LokKhi TeRa, a London-based collective who have taken in the streets of Bangladesh, the Afrobeat clubs of Nigeria, the cantinas of Cuba and the beaches of Brazil. On their tune, "Shokhi Kunjo Shajoa,"Indian flute soars over Cuban Santéria-style chants, steady percussion and keyboard flourishes, before horns take it higher and sweet Bengali vocals take it higher still.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Anand Giridharadas, "Currents" columnist for the New York Times and author of India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking, discusses the massive blackout in India, which ended yesterday, and what it says about that country's development and democracy.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
For nearly 30 years, Oprah Winfrey has been one of the most influential voices in American culture, overseeing a multi-billion dollar empire that includes publishing, radio, motion pictures, and, television. But this past weekend, millions of viewers in India believe they witnessed Oprah at her worst.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Director Micha X. Peled, discusses his documentary “Bitter Seeds,” about an epidemic of farmer suicides in India. In 2004 an American company introduced its genetically modified seeds to the Indian market, promising higher yields. But the seeds require expensive pesticides and chemical fertilizers and are sterile, so new seeds have to be every year, which is costly for farmers with already meager incomes. “Bitter Seeds” is being shown as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
The society announced on Wednesday that Dr. Vishakha Desai is leaving her post as president and chief executive officer in September to join the Guggenheim Foundation as a senior adviser for global policy and programs.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
India test-fired a nuclear-capable missile last night, capable of reaching 3,100 miles and within range of China's key cities. India joins the U.S., China, Britain, France and Russia as the only nations with these kinds of weapons. David Sanger is the chief Washington correspondent for our partner the New York Times.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Akash Kapur, the child of an Indian father and an American mother, spent his formative years in India and his young adulthood in the United States. He talks about moving to India permanently in 2003 to watch the country’s growth and modernization first-hand. In his new book, India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India, he describes the complex and often contradictory country that he found.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo tells the story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai, India. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is based on three years of reporting, and it gives a glimpse into the lives of Annawadi residents, including Abdul, a Muslim teenager who scavenges for recyclables; Asha, who is seeking a route to the middle class through political corruption; and her daughter Manju, who will soon become Annawadi’s first female college graduate. When terrorism and the global economic recession shake Mumbai, suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Today in India an explosion tore through an Israeli diplomat's car on the streets of New Delhi, Israeli officials said. The driver and a diplomat's wife were injured. The explosion took place close to the Israeli embassy. Meanwhile in Tiblisi, Georgia Israel's Foreign Ministry said an attempted car bombing in Georgia was thwarted.
Friday, February 10, 2012
There's music recorded in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan on this New Sounds program. Composer/vocalist Meredith Monk has just returned from a trip to India and Bhutan where she obtained recordings of young musicians striving - via the talent show, "Bhutan Star,"- to keep the traditional sounds of Bhutanese music alive. The program is an "American Idol"-esque talent show which forces contestants to sing the nation's fading traditional songs.