When people find out I work in radio, there are usually a few classic questions they ask.
"How'd you get into it?" (I got my foot in the door as an intern.) "Are you related to Michelle Norris?" (Nope.) "Where do your story ideas come from?" (From different news outlets, TV Shows, books, people, press releases, conversations, and a lot of times from my own curiosity.)
But another place our stories come from is you. We read and listen to the letters and calls you send us, and occasionally, we bite.
The Book of Jonah is the new album from Nadir Omowale. It’s a blend of soul music, rock, funk and blues. While there are songs about love and relationships, themes of social and political consciousness carry through the album.
“I never felt like I had to fashion myself into one particular style. I grew up on Prince and The Time and Cameo and all that good stuff, and so funk is all deep within my soul. And I grew up in a small town in east Tennessee, so there were country music influences, there was a lot of Van Halen and rock and roll and so I love all of that music," Nadir told Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.
Religious themes are also found in his work. Nadir says growing up within a Baptist family in Tennessee has influenced him greatly. Although his new album is not as political as his last, Distorted Soul 2.0, he says his interest in politics and culture continues.
"And it's really inspired by a lot of the struggles that we've dealt with here in Michigan, and in Detroit especially, and what I've seen over the last couple of years is so much positive energy building as we're moving forward," said Nadir.
Listen to the full interview above to hear more about Nadir's newest album The Book of Jonah, including the song he wrote with guitarist and singer Mayaeni, titled 95 Miles Down the Road.
And click on the video below to see Nadir performing in our studio:
Many genres of music have deep roots in the city of Detroit, including punk, rock-and-roll, blues, techno and soul music. A new organization wants to help connect people and groups that have been archiving Detroit’s musical history.
Carleton Gholz is the president and founder of the Detroit Sound Conservancy. He’s been researching a book about the rise of DJ and hip-hop culture in Detroit. During that time, he’s come across small archiving groups, music journalists, and older musicians. Now Gholz wants to unite them.
Now in its thirteenth year, Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival has featured an enormously diverse group of electronic producers and DJs from around the world. Detroit is the birthplace of Techno and after all these years of being more popular nearly everywhere but Detroit, there was a feeling at this year's festival that it's all coming back home.
Here's host Bob Boilen talking with NPR's Sami Yenigun and U Street Music Hall promotions director Morgan Tepper about their experiences at the festival:
And here's a sampling of music heard at the festival (included is a song title using a phrase I often heard in grade school - *chuckle*).
What do experimental composer John Cage and Ann Arbor have in common, you ask? Morels. Story goes that John Cage was something of an amateur mushroom hunter, and he used to hunt for morels in the woods around Ann Arbor.
And since Spring means morel hunting season in Michigan, and many mushroom-enthusiasts are out foraging for the delicacy, a group in Ann Arbor is putting a musical twist on the annual spring hunt.
The idea behind the event is to celebrate the diversity of music among different communities and faiths in southeast Michigan. Participants seek to bridge cultural, racial, and religious gaps between different churches, and develop friendships.
Jean Wilson is the co-founder of Gospelfest, and choir director at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline. She sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the event’s 20-year history.
Wilson says the event offers a variety of music, from traditional black gospel to contemporary Christian, pop-rock, and more. And she says the event is about diversity and unity.
“Although we are so diverse in our different ways of worship, we are all headed in the same direction; we are all children of the same creator. Although we have so many differences, we do have that thing at the core of our very being that really says that we are all related and are one, and we get to celebrate it.”
On Saturday March 10, choirs from Ann Arbor and Detroit will come together for the 20th Annual Gospelfest at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.
The gospel choir of New Prospect Baptist Missionary Church in Detroit will also participate in this year's event. Here's a video of the choir during a Saturday morning practice.
Michigan natives Seth Bernard and May Erlewine have a new album inspired by their journey across Ethiopia.
Last year they were invited to join the project “Run Across Ethiopia," of the Michigan-based non-profit On the Ground. A group of eight eventually ran 240 miles across southern Ethiopia and raised over $200,000 to build schools in the coffee growing region of that country.
The album New Flower is based on that experience.
Michigan Radio's Jennifer White interviewed Seth & May. You can see them perform in Michigan Radio's Studio East.
Produced by Mercedes Mejia and Cade Sperlich. Our audio engineer is Bob Skon.
"Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius was found dead at his Sherman Oaks home Wednesday morning.
Law enforcement sources said police arrived at Cornelius' home around 4 a.m. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.
The sources said there was no sign of foul play, but the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating.
Soul Train was a springboard for new Motown artists in the 1970s.
NPR's Michele Norris tweets, "Soul Train showed us what to listen to, what to wear, how to dance, how to VIBE, how to be unapologetically fabulous. RIP Don Cornelius."
Cornelius hosted the show from 1971-1993 and coined the show's famous introduction:
We kick of the first Artpod of 2012 with an appearance by none other than the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
I interviewed Franklin last month about her search for the next great opera star. That's right, opera star. Franklin wants to get in on the singing contest circuit, and she's turning her searchlight on the world of classical music.
For all your late holiday shoppers out there, today's Artpod is filled with ideas for giving local.
I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook to hear your thoughts on Michigan-made gifts you'd like to give (or receive) this year. I also reached out to the owner of an independent bookstore in Grand Rapids, and the owner of an independent music store in Ann Arbor to get their suggestions, too.
So without further ado, here's what you had to say about giving local:
"Please Mister Postman" by The Marvelettes hit number one on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 the week of December 11th, 1961. The group was formed by five high school students in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, originally going by the name The Casinyets (short for “Can’t Sing Yet").
"Please Mister Postman” featured lead vocals by Gladys Horton, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 66. It was the biggest hit The Marvelettes would have. The group also scored with classics like "Beechwood 4-5-7-8-9", "Too Many Fish In The Sea", and "Don't Mess With Bill".
The duo Red Tail Ring goes back to traditional old-time music--because that’s what they love.
Michiganders Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo’s interpretation of Appalachian and folk songs come from their “strong connection to the outdoors and the natural world.”
Laurel is from the Upper Peninsula and Michael from the Kalamazoo area. The music they play is what you might call “backwoods music.”
“We’re modern people reaching back to older songs and traditions; we’re interpreters and explorers of older culture. Learning from the past is an essential aspect in art, and for us it’s been formative. It’s important to show how older words and melodies can be honored, not compromised, in reinterpretation, and that the world has been doing this since the beginning of time.”
This year they released two albums - the first - Middlewest Chant, is a collection of original songs.
The second album - Mountain Shout - is a compilation of traditional songs.
Red Tail Ring performed in Studio East, here at Michigan Radio, and we were all enthralled by the vibration of the fiddle and banjo--and the eerie harmonies that Laurel and Michael create together.
This program will lead students to creative approaches to popular musical composition by developing skills in melody, harmony, arranging, and lyric writing, while seeking to nurture a distinct individual writing and performance style.
The northern Michigan institution has taught many young musicians who've gone on to become successful singer/songwriters, including
When something big happens in your life, sometimes you just have to get it out.
Talk to a friend. Share it with your family, or just shout it out loud.
You know, express yourself a little.
Expression through song writing and production are skills that the organizers of Studio on the Gohope to teach kids in Michigan.
Kyle Norris reports the program "travels to schools and community centers in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo":
Kids use computers and keyboards to make music and beats and then they write lyrics about their lives, and finally record the songs. Kids are given a topic to write about, like "education," “making it” and "family"... The results are songs about their personal struggles along with heartfelt tributes. Some kids sing about what it’s like to have someone they love die or to have a family member in jail. Instructors say the kids learn a combination of technical skills along with life skills.
Michigan Radio's Multimedia Producer Mercedes Mejia and Reporter Kyle Norris put this video together about the program:
If Studio on the Go came to your town, what would your "making it" or "family" song be about?
Madonna, Iggy Pop and The White Stripes got their start in Michigan, but they left the state to make it big in the music industry. Today, some musicians want to stop that migration and keep talent close to home.
Kevin Prichard is with Bigger Brush Media in Lansing. He thinks music collectives can help keep people in Michigan.
""It must be something in the water." - Paul Tinkerhess.
Last Sunday, I walked around a neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side and witnessed a new music phenomenon - the Water Hill Music Festival - where neighbors played music from their front porches, backyards, and garages.
The idea for the festival came from Paul Tinkerhess, a local business owner and musician.
"The concept is simple," Tinkerhess said. "On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, everyone in the neighborhood who either is a musician or wants to pretend to be a musician is encouraged to step out onto their front porch and play music. That's it. Or half of it. The other half is that we are inviting all the other neighbors, and the rest of the world, to wander through the neighborhood that afternoon and enjoy something like a music festival with a lot of stages."
The neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side, dubbed "Water Hill" by Tinkerhess, if filled with musical talent.
I caught a small fraction of the festival, and made this video:
The Associated Press reports the U.S Supreme Court won't get involved in a fight between Eminem's former production company and Universal Music Group over downloads of the rapper's songs and ringtones.
The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Universal Music Group. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said F.B.T. Productions LLC's contract entitled Eminem and his producers to a 50-50 split with Universal for recordings licensed to digital distributors such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes.
The record label had paid F.B.T. and Eminem 12 percent of sales, the agreed-upon rate for physical albums. F.B.T. discovered Eminem in 1995 before he signed in 1998 with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records. Universal's Interscope Records distributes Aftermath recordings. The case is Aftermath Records v. F.B.T. Productions, LLC, 10-768.
Business owners who want to serve as a venue for ArtPrize this fall can now begin registering. The winner of the art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids. The top prize is $250,000.
“ArtPrize has already been open to all these things. The difference is with St. Cecilia coming on we’re being a little more intentional about trying to create a very specific space for it and draw more attention to it.”
St. Cecilia Music Hall opened its doors in 1894. The classically styled gold trimmed music hall will welcome all sorts of performances during ArtPrize this year. The music hall will have listening stations to hear the contestants – in addition to the live performances.
“There have been dances and performance art pieces that have been a part of ArtPrize the first two years. And we see that continuing. We just wanted to continue to press the envelope.”
Artists can begin registering in four weeks. ArtPrize runs from late September through early October.