DiscoverWorld Cafe Words and Music from WXPN
World Cafe Words and Music from WXPN
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World Cafe Words and Music from WXPN

Author: NPR

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WXPN's live performance and interview program featuring music and conversation from a variety of important musicians
10 Episodes
It's not every day at World Cafe that we start our session with a disclaimer, but here's one: Today's conversation with Noah Gundersen includes some talk about psychedelic drugs and their influence on Gundersen's latest album, 'Lover'. Disclaimer out of the way, psychedelic drugs are just the jumping-off point for a conversation about the songs on Gundersen's rich, exquisitely crafted album. 'Lover' addresses a transformative year in Gundersen's life, one that included the end of a romantic relationship and the realization that Gundersen's parents, who raised him in a conservative, right-wing home in rural Washington, are now what he calls "truly progressive."
It took some convincing, but Jessy Wilson's new album was produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys; little did he know that was her plan all along. When Wilson's former band, the Americana act Muddy Magnolias, broke up, she reached out to Carney to explore rock 'n' roll sounds on her next record. The result is her debut solo album, 'Phase'. In this session, Wilson discusses working with Carney, her extensive musical background and why she wouldn't want to make music anywhere but Nashville. But first, we begin with a performance of "Oh, Baby!"
There are charismatic people, and then there's Michael Mwenso. The leader of Mwenso & the Shakes is full of energy, charm and most importantly, joy. That joy is ever-present when he's telling stories about growing up in Ghana and Nigeria and spending four years trying to impress James Brown. You'll also find that joy on his debut album, 'Emergence [The Process of Coming Into Being]', which blends jazz, R&B and spoken word in a live album that feels like a Broadway show. These songs are anthemic — an explosion of ideas and sounds wrapped around familiar instrumentation. Michael will tell the remarkable story of moving to England as a kid, finding music after his mom was deported and how he was taken under the wing of James Brown as a teen. First though, we get started with a live performance from the stage of World Cafe Live.
Motherless Brooklyn' is a new film about a private detective trying to solve a murder in 1950s New York. It's based on a novel by Jonathan Lethem and features an ensemble cast that includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe and Edward Norton, who adapted the novel for the big screen. 'Motherless Brooklyn' is film noir with a twist. Norton plays a private detective named Lionel, but not like the kind made famous by Humphrey Bogart or Jack Nicholson. Norton's character has Tourette's syndrome, which means he can't always control what he says out loud. "I really liked the idea of a detective who, at every moment that the smooth-talking tough guy would do a certain thing, this guy does the opposite," Norton says. Music is a big part of 'Motherless Brooklyn', and the film's soundtrack sets the mood with several elements. There's an original score, some classic jazz from Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, as well as a song from Thom Yorke of Radiohead, the band that came to mind when Norton first read the novel in the late 90s. "I had this intuition, this feeling when I was reading this character of Lionel, with his sensitivity but then this incredible jangley dissonance of his Tourettic mind. That was the era of Radiohead [releasing] OK Computer ... I remember having this thought [about] the way Thom Yorke's voice had that longing in it but the music had this wonderful electronic dissonance and fracture. I thought to myself 'That's a great modernist rendition of the way this guy's mind works in 'Motherless Brooklyn'." But Thom Yorke wasn't the only one who helped Norton with the film's music. Norton tapped American virtuoso trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis to help curate the classic jazz songs in 'Motherless Brooklyn' and composer Daniel Pemberton for the original score.
Jonatha Brooke has released a number of albums over the three decades that she has been making music, but when it came to her latest batch of songs she decided to keep it short and sweet. Instead of a full-length record, she put out an EP called 'Imposter', in which she cherry-picked the five songs she loved most from what she had written since her last album in 2016. Jonatha stopped by to give us a taste of the new music earlier this year. We will talk about the inspiration for the album's title (it may not be what you think) as well as look back at some of what Jonatha has learned over her many years in the music business.
Ranky Tanky is from Charleston, S.C. and the band's music draws on the culture of slave descendants from Gullah, a region of coastal sea islands that stretches from the southern coast of North Carolina to the northernmost part of Florida. Anchored by the powerful voice of Quiana Parler (who has shared the stage with Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5 and Miranda Lambert), Ranky Tanky showcases some dynamite musicianship. We'll talk about the history of Gullah, the importance of Alan Lomax and some pretty incredible performances starting with "Stand By Me".
My guest today makes some of the most stunning music I've ever heard. It's raw, it's visceral, it's real. Quinn Christopherson hails from Alaska, and even though he's released less than a handful of songs, they've left quite an impression on people. You might know Quinn's name if you're fan of the Tiny Desk Concert series. A Tiny Desk Concert is a big deal. Musicians like Lizzo, Dave Matthews, Taylor Swift and hundreds of others have crowded around the desk of our friend, NPR Music's Bob Boilen, since 2008. And NPR has a contest for up and coming bands to get their chance to perform at Bob's desk. This year, there were over 6000 entries and Quinn won for his moving song, "Erase Me," which is a powerful expression of his experience as a transgender man. Winning the contest brings exposure and attention. We talk about that, and why he made, in my opinion, the wise decision not to perform the song "Erase Me" for us. That's right, he didn't play it! And you'll find his reasoning to be among the most real and honest answers I've heard.
Emir Mohseni grew up in Tehran, Iran, loving rock music and wanting to be a musician. Thanks to a musical connection with his friend Tony Azar (who split time between the United States and Iran), The Muckers were born. The only catch? Emir wanted to play his music in America, not Iran. Getting to the United States wasn't easy for Emir, especially as his journey coincided with the implementation of Trump's travel ban in 2017. We'll talk about that intense experience, plus they'll rock out for us, starting with "It's Better Without You.
What happens when your hometown witnesses a seismic social event? David Wax and Suz Slezak, who lead the band David Wax Museum, had to answer that question after the 2017 Unite the Right rally and subsequent counter-protests in the pair's hometown of Charlottesville, Va. made national news. "I think for people who grew up there, we feel like 'Gosh, this does not represent our town at all,' " Suz explains. "But I think that is also a view that has a lot of blinders on it, because this does represent our country." Born out of that experience, the band's latest album, 'Line of Light', is a beautiful record, and you don't have to know its inspiration to appreciate it. David and Suz are two of the most thoughtful musicians you could meet, and they'll talk candidly about creating a positive message from a difficult situation.
Today's show features a true renaissance man: Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. He's the co-founder of the iconic hip-hop band The Roots, the bandleader for 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' and is an author five times over. His latest book is called "Mixtape Potluck". Inspired by the "food salon" dinner parties he throws, the book is a collection of recipes from his friends, including Martha Stewart, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler and dozens more. Alongside each recipe, Questlove has selected a song to inspire each friend in the kitchen. Quest will take us through some of his musical selections and we'll try to figure out which of his friends' recipes is his favorite. We'll have a lot of laughs, plus a giant surprise that you do not want to miss. Questlove also touches on food's special relationship to the genesis of The Roots' landmark album, 'Things Fall Apart', which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.
Comments (7)

Mikel K.

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Oct 15th


Great series!

Mar 13th

Jaime Ochoa

C ef

Dec 6th
Reply (1)

Pamela Greenstein

Great interview for this Journey fan!

Oct 26th

Jeremy Mitchell


Jul 28th

Alex Reyes


Jan 8th
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