The phrase “world music” was first coined as a marketing term about 30 years ago. Initially it was just a way to organize music from around the globe so people could find it and buy it. Since then, a lot of people have developed a dislike for the term; critics say it ghettoizes foreign music, dividing musical genres into a small “us” and a very broad “them.”
Interview PRI The World - May 22, 2017
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But whatever you call it, the diversity of world music deserves a deep listen. Here at The World, we’ve been acknowledging the richness of three decades of the genre by talking to artists about what “world music” means to them — artists who feel a personal connection to it, like Bonnie Raitt.
Raitt’s foray into “world music” began with the blues, a style close to her heart and central to her career. As a young person, she was fascinated by its evocative and emotional nature.
“It’s real. It’s coming from a place of incredible pain and survival, and hope and perserverence and longing, and anger,” she says. “All of the emotions, it makes it the kind of music that will stand the test of time forever, because it just speaks to the heart.”
For more than 45 years, Raitt has tapped into that feeling and has made her own mark on the genre, with 20 albums and 11 Grammys to her name.
She recognized some time ago that the roots of the blues go way beyond the American South, reaching across the Atlantic to West Africa. She says a visit to Mali back in 2000 connected her with them, and changed her musical outlook.
After her trip, Raitt’s collaborations became more global. They were crowned by her duets with the late Malian artist Ali Farka Toure, who also became a friend. Before he died in 2006, he and Raitt found numerous occasions to play together.
“He was just the guy. He was the cat,” she says of Toure. “And he was so loquacious and generous and very enthusiastic about collaborating. I was just knocked out by his playing.”
Raitt had plenty more to share with us about her connection with world music, including stories from her travels in West Africa. Click the player above to hear it all.
Live at Segou festival, Mali, February 2005 Featuring Bassekou Kouyate on the ngoni. For more information go to www.facebook.com/AliFarkaToure
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Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2, the anticipated new John Prine tribute record from Oh Boy Records, is out today. Stream/purchase HERE.
Created as a celebration of Prine’s life and career, the album features new renditions of some of Prine’s most beloved songs performed by Brandi Carlile (“I Remember Everything”), Tyler Childers (“Yes I Guess They Oughta Name A Drink After You”), Iris DeMent (“One Red Rose”), Emmylou Harris (“Hello In There”), Jason Isbell (“Souvenirs”), Valerie June (“Summer’s End”), Margo Price (“Sweet Revenge”), Bonnie Raitt (“Angel From Montgomery”), Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (“Pretty Good”), Amanda Shires (“Saddle in the Rain”), Sturgill Simpson(“Paradise”) and John Paul White (“Sam Stone”). Proceeds from the album will benefit twelve different non-profit organizations, one selected by each of the featured artists.
Eric Clapton, one of the world’s pre-eminent blues/rock guitarists, once again summoned an all-star team of six-string heroes for his fifth Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2019. Held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, the two-day concert event raised funds for the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, the chemical dependency treatment and education facility that Clapton founded in 1998.
Raitt contributed to a new album, If You're Going To The City: A Tribute To Mose Allison, which celebrates the late singer and pianist, who famously blended the rough-edged blues of the Mississippi Delta with the 1950s jazz of New York City.
NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Bonnie Raitt about her friendship with the Mose Allison. They're also joined by Amy Allison — his daughter, who executive produced the album — about selecting an unexpected list of artists to contribute songs to the album.
Recorded on tour June 3, 2017 - Centennial Hall, London - Ontario Canada