10 Years of Wandering Rhythms

Yes that’s right, this radio program just reached double digits. We’ve played something like 8000 different artists on the show. It has been a magnificent globetrotting musical odyssey. My mind has been cracked open, and I can distill the experience into 3 words: HUMANS ARE AMAZING.

I’ve got nothing but love for all the people, especially musicians who grace every street corner, café or bar, playing for thousands or hiding in their bedroom chasing something mysterious and sublime. A special thanks to the almighty Internet and all its participants, for the invisible yet herculean effort of gathering all recorded music into one easily accessible place. Up until the last ten to twenty years, a show like this could not have existed. And of course a huge round of applause to you, every listener who has made the choice to try something new. It may seem trivial, but you are manifesting global awareness through your own openness to other cultures. Way to go! Earthlings be free!

We celebrate a decade of border smashing with a retrospective of music played on Wandering Rhythms, the cream of the crop as they say. Groove on.

French Ama-soniques

This week we visit the nation that never was but probably should be: Guyane, sur le bord du jungle amazone.

Devil's Island: the Alcatraz of South America

Devil’s Island: the Alcatraz of South America

French Guiana – the only piece of South America still held in custody by their colonial mother-in-law.  The other Guys have all been set free… qu’est ce qu’il y a la France?  Still bitter about losing Haiti?  Oh right, you needed somewhere to build a spaceport.  Politics aside, French Guiana is well worthy of a sonic exploration; and so we find ourselves back in the almighty Amazon, the sacred lungs of our momma Earth.

Though native South Americans still survive in pockets of the rainforest, the quarter-million humans in French Guiana are primarily of African or mixed ancestry, living either in isolated communities where drumming traditions are preserved, or in smallish coastal cities like Cayenne and Kourou, where the traditions mix with modern sounds to form a frenetic hybrid style called aléké.

Still, much of the music has a distinct Caribbean vibe.  Roots reggae is a powerful force in the region, and the best-known local musicians play some variation of it.  The biggest international star, Prince Koloni, plays both aléké and reggae.. perhaps they will one day fuse into a distinctly amazonian sound smash.

Hear drums of focused fury, laid back skankin’, and some unexpected twists on the French Guianese special.

Mengen in de Netherworlds

On the northern edge of the Amazon rainforest lies a small nation of Dutch-speaking Asian and African voyagers who make swingin’ Indo-Caribbean music.  Nope, you can’t make this stuff up..

90% jungled since 20,000 BC

90% jungled since 50,000 BC

Welcome to Suriname, the land of alien toads and human experimentation.  With only half a million people in this former Dutch colony, the Surinamese have slipped under the international radar to become the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation in the Americas.

More than half the population is of Asian ancestry, coming mainly from North India and the Indonesian island of Java as contract workers over a hundred years ago.  The rest of the inhabitants are of mixed West-African descent, with a small minority of indigenous peoples (3.7%) still watching over the rainforest.  The Dutch seem to have disappeared almost completely, leaving behind their language and wooden shoes.

The greatest sonic blend of traditions is revealed in a wonderfully rhythmic style called Kaseko – a hybrid of early jazz music, calypso, and Creole drumming/chanting.  In other words, a pan-Caribbean groove monster!

Many influential Surinamese musicians (including Lieve Hugo — the undisputed king of Kaseko) went on to live and perform in Holland, spreading African rhythms further around the planet.  Truly mind-bending, the musical influence that Africans have had on other cultures over the past hundred years…

There is also very authentic Indian Classical music and Javanese Gamelan music being played in Suriname.  Yet the different ethnic groups remain relatively segregated in this country, and we are still waiting for Afro-Indian Gamelan funk-hop to emerge from the ether of Paramaribo.  But for now, some vintage Surinamese disco-funk:

Check out a great Surinamese music blog here.
Our weekly Global Mix here.
And our Suriname Special here.  –including classic Kaseko, 70’s rock, classic Indian folk, hip-hop, reggae, soul, and so on..