music

Courtesy of Barney Ales

 

You’ve surely heard many stories about Motown over the years. Stories of its stars or of the ambitious Berry Gordy Jr. using an $800 family loan to build one of the most impactful record labels anywhere.

But there’s a side to the Motown we haven’t heard much about until now: the business side. The entrepreneurial spirit, the hard work and the hustle to “get the records played and the company paid.”

Temesgen Hussein of East Lansing with his begena harp.
Ben Foote / Michigan Radio

As part of our Songs from Studio East series we're exploring music that combines both contemporary and traditional music from around the globe.

Today we meet Temesgen Hussein of East Lansing. He was born and raised in Ethiopia. And he’s one of just a few outside that country who plays the begena.

It’s used mainly in religious festivities almost exclusively, but Temesgen is breaking with tradition and introducing the begena to contemporary music.

Courtesy of 5iveit Entertainment

As part of our series "Minding Michigan," we explore mental health issues in our state.

Today, we introduce you to Patrick Cleland, better known as Rick Chyme.

He’s a rapper from West Michigan who's been collaborating with local artists from around the state and has several project in the works.

Courtesy of Eugene Rogers

 

If you fancy yourself a lyricist, it's time to sharpen your pencil and start writing. 

The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club is on the hunt. They're seeking lyrics for an original new "Michigan song."

The song will be premiered next April, marking U of M's bicentennial. 

Courtesy of Lester Monts

Michigan boasts an exceptionally rich mix of folk, ethnic and immigrant music, and it goes back centuries.

Music professor Lester Monts wanted to capture that rich tapestry, so he spearheaded the Michigan Musical Heritage Project.

The project has three distinct goals: to create a full documentary, a video archive, and a University of Michigan course – all about Michigan’s music.

“We’re such a musical mosaic in this state that so many different immigrant groups, ethnic groups, folk groups have moved into the state and many of them have maintained or compartmentalized much of their music and culture,” Monts said. “But others have sort of fused together in such a way that they have created something very new.”

Jerry Coyne owns Q 100.3 in Grayling and hosts music in the afternoons.
Peter Payette

These days, most rock and roll radio stations play a limited number of songs. 

They play those over and over again.

That's because audience research has become so high-tech that stations know exactly what songs attract the most listeners.

The owners of a station in Grayling say classic rock is worn out.

So they launched a counter-offensive and are breaking all the rules about how to run a radio station in the 21st century. 

Pam Rossi's new book collects her conversations with musicians on her radio show Over Easy.
Flickr user Ministerio TIC Colombia / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Pam Rossi has produced and hosted Over Easy on Detroit classic rock station WCSX for the last 12 years. The show brings local, national and international musicians into the studio to talk and perform.

Now, she’s sharing those great conversations with great musicians in her book, Conversations with Pam Rossi.

Bridget Sova told us that some people listen to the recordings every day. For others, it takes a long time before they feel ready.
Public Domain / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Bridget Sova​ is a music therapist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, and she does some pretty interesting and unconventional work. 

Sova records the heartbeats of young patients, and then sets them to music.

Whether it's the heartbeat of a tiny baby heading home after being successfully cared for in the ICU, or the heartbeat of a child nearing the end of a battle with cancer, the recordings Sova makes are treasured by parents and families. 

Savor the sounds of a song bath
Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

Here’s how the Threshold Choir works. Typically, Hospice or a family member call ups the choir when someone is sick or dying. A small group of singers arrive at the person’s bedside and sing very simple songs with lyrics like “You are not alone, I am here beside you.”

Choir members say it’s not a performance but rather a way to be present with someone who’s dying.

Their friends tease them that singing to people on their deathbed must be depressing. But the singers say it’s energizing and life-affirming. They say it’s the opposite of depressing.

Laith Al-Saadi performing on The Voice.
screen grab / YouTube

 

In March, Laith Al-Saadi rocked American audiences on NBC’s The Voice with his audition.

And it didn’t stop there. As a member of Team Adam, the Michigan native continued to a fourth place finish.

A new documentary tracks how CREEM Magazine became one of the world's biggest music magazines.
Flickr user A.Currell / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

CREEM Magazine began in 1969, sold from the trunk of Barry Kramer’s car. Kramer was the creator and publisher of the magazine, and from that small beginning, it blossomed into one of the top music publications in the world. It was bold in its irreverence, and it launched the careers of some of music’s biggest names — both artists and writers.

Now, it’s the subject of a documentary, Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine.

 

Here's a sneak peek: 

 

Pablo Mahave

Grand Valley State University’s award-winning New Music Ensemble will be on tour this summer commemorating the National Park Service centennial. The group will be premiering new compositions inspired by the four parks they’ll be performing at: Bad Lands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks.

Make Music Detroit aims to celebrate music and promote music education.
Courtesy of Make Music Detroit

 

Make Music Days have appeared in 700 cities in 120 countries across the world. The events are inspired by France’s Fête de la Musique, a celebration inaugurated in 1982, and they occur on the summer solstice, June 21. Now, it’s coming to Detroit.

Make Music Detroit will feature more than 100 performers, professional and amateur, at 24 venues, and it will run this Tuesday from noon to midnight.

Mike Woo, the event producer for Make Music Detroit, joined us to discuss how Make Music came to Detroit and their goals for the event.

The Accidentals are Katie Larson, Michael Dause and Savannah Buist
Tony Demin

The Accidentals have been busy since last we spoke in 2013.

All told, the young musicians performed a whopping 230 shows across the country after graduating high school last year.
 

The dynamic Traverse City trio was named one of Billboard Magazine's top seven breakout acts of South by Southwest in 2015.

And now, they've just released their newest EP, Parking Lot.

John Thomas

In the summer of 2013, we spoke with law professor and music journalist John Thomas about the Kalamazoo Gals on Stateside.

Thomas had uncovered the story of women who built some 9,000 guitars at the Gibson Guitar headquarters in Kalamazoo during World War II.

This discovery clashed with Gibson’s official assertion that they built no instruments during the war.

He tells the story in his book, Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII.

In the three years since we last spoke, the story has taken some interesting turns. Today Thomas and Kalamazoo Gal Irene Stearns joined us again on Stateside to talk about it.

The Henry Ford

The Beatles have come to The Henry Ford Museum.

The Magical History Tour, a 10,000-square-foot exhibit that explores the full history of the iconic rock band is coming to Dearborn. The exhibit takes fans through the band's early days in Liverpool through its break-up in the 1970s and the solo careers that followed. 

While there are millions of fans of the band in the Great Lakes State, the number of significant connections to Michigan is relatively minimal (Paul McCartney has a Detroit Red Wings sticker on his guitar!). So why was Michigan chosen as the first stop on this tour? 

As part of Michigan Radio’s Songs from Studio East series, this year we are exploring music that combines both contemporary and traditional music from around the world.

Today we met Ann Arbor native Tyler Duncan and Irishman John McSherry. 

Despite being an ocean away, they play in a band together, called the olllam. The two have toured across the U.S. and in Europe producing a fusion of pop, rock and Irish music.

Duncan's musical career has included a variety of genres, like pop, rock and electronic. He has won international awards for playing traditional Irish instruments, like the uilleann pipes, a lighter version of Scotland's bagpipes, and whistles, a staple in Irish music. 

He discovered Irish music when he was 11, when his aunt gave him a VHS copy of Riverdance​. A pipe solo in the middle of the show grabbed his attention.

"As a kid I just was like, 'Woah, what is that? What is that instrument?'" he said. "And that got me really interested in the pipes."

Years later, as a 13-year-old Duncan moved to Ireland for a year with his family. His father took a sabbatical there.

He was given a tape he loved, which he later learned featured John McSherry, a rising star in the traditional Irish music scene. Then, when Duncan was in western Ireland, he had a chance to meet that musician.

He said it was a "serendipitous" meeting at a jam session in Milltown. Someone told Duncan that McSherry was at the bar. So Duncan started to stare. When McSherry's girlfriend noticed, the two introduced themselves.

That was the origin of the friendship that lead to the olllam.

Jodi Westrick

One of the big treats of doing Stateside live from the Charles H. Wright Museum was the live music from the Marcus Elliot Quartet. 

Elliot talked with Cynthia Canty about getting hooked on jazz,  teaching jazz at Troy High School and influences from his travels around the world, plus much more.

The Girls Rock Detroit band The Tiger Bots performs
Peter Smith / Girls Rock Detroit

The Next Idea

There are plenty of ways to empower young girls, but Melissa Coppola has a new approach: rock ‘n' roll.

Coppola, a graduating masters-level piano student at the University of Michigan, launched Girls Rock Detroit. The summer camp is a crash course in creating rock music for girls ages eight to 16.

Vincent York

Vincent York, the front man for the Vincent York +4 will be performing in Ann Arbor on April 30, which is International Jazz Day. The composer, bandleader, educator and advocate for the arts joins Stateside to talk about his upcoming performance and why jazz should be celebrated.

Listen to the full interview below.

The Ann Arbor-based Indian fusion band Sumkali performs at the Michigan Radio studios.
Michigan Radio

The Ann Arbor-based fusion band Sumkali brands themselves as “Indian music made in America.” Everyone in the band calls Michigan home, but according to the band’s founder John Churchville, half of them have family ties to India.

All the different band members bring their own skill sets, instruments, and influences that make the group the very definition of a fusion band. In the end, they create a sound intended to reach many different people.

The Ragbirds

The Ragbirds have been touring the state and country for the past 10 years. Their sound is a fusion of folk, rock and world music. You can hear that fusion in their latest album, called The Threshold and the Hearth being released today.

Erin Zindle is the lead singer, songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist for the Ragbirds. Zindle spoke with me about the album, motherhood and the craft of songwriting.


Charles Steen

Ann Arbor’s Chris Buhalis is releasing an album.  It’s called Big Car town.

A few years ago, when Chris was finishing up the album, he severely injured his left thumb and three other fingers in a table saw accident. He remodels houses for his day job.  As a guitarist and singer/songwriter, there was a point where he thought he would never be able to play guitar again.

Laith Al-Saadi performing on The Voice.
screen grab / YouTube

Last night's episode of The Voice, a reality show singing competition on ABC, featured a hard-working singer-songwriter from Ann Arbor.

Laith Al-Saadi has been playing around this region for a long-time.

"For the last 20 years, I've played over 300 dates a year," Al-Saadi told the judges last night.

Now he's working to up his national exposure -- and it worked.

Watch Al-Saadi's performance on The Voice below:

NPR Tiny Desk Contest
NPR

It’s time to throw away the objective journalist hat for a moment and put on my completely biased music-loving shoes because the submissions are in for NPR’S Tiny Desk contest.

The judges at NPR are pouring through all the entries right now to pick their national winner (their announcement is expected in the first week of March).

In the meantime, I watched all 129 of the videos submitted to the contest from our lovely mitten state.

Here are my top 10 picks.

Shane Ford

    

Detroit-based duo Gosh Pith released their second EP Gold Chain.

Josh Freed and Josh Smith are the artists behind the band. 

Their music is difficult to categorize – think heavy beats and drum loops juxtaposed with soft melodies, easygoing vocals and traces of electric guitar.

These self-proclaimed "children of the Internet" say their musical influences are wide-ranging, from folk and rock to hip-hop, techno, and R&B. But it's ragga – often called dancehall or dub – that has won them over in recent years. 

"Songs for the Union"
University of Michigan Library Edison Sheet Music Collection

Music that hasn’t been played, or even heard, in centuries could be coming to a concert hall near you in the coming years. This is thanks to a rare sheet music collection donated to the University of Michigan that includes tens of thousands of pieces that date as far back as 1790.

Kristen Castellana, a music librarian at the University of Michigan Library, is helping lead the charge on a massive project to catalog and digitize about 115,000 sheets of music. The sheet music collection belonged to Thomas Edison and was donated by the Edison Phonograph Company.

Greg Oberle

A few established Michigan musicians and public radio nerds have joined forces to start a new band called Public Access.

They’re releasing an album today and every track is named after a public broadcaster.

There’s Jack Speer, Dave Mattingly, Ira Glass and Michigan Radio’s own, Jennifer Guerra!

The instrumental songs kind of represent the broadcaster’s persona or the sound of their name.

Here's my review (listen below). 


Jonathan Craven

It has been quite a journey for Northport native Nathan Scherrer.

Four years ago, he moved from Michigan to Los Angeles with a few hundred dollars and was working as an intern, hoping to find a way to get into the business of making music videos. He was living off of macaroni and cheese, barely making ends meet, and now, this Monday (Feb. 15), he will be at the Staples Center hoping to hear his name called at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

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