Thursday, September 17, 2009

International Music News, Bad and Good

Posted By on 09.17.09 at 01:04 PM

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WBEZ continues to carry out its semiofficial assault on its own music programming by canning the long-running Afropop Worldwide program, an informative and accessible survey of music from Africa and the African diaspora. Friday’s episode will be the last one the station broadcasts.

On WBEZ’s blog acting program director Steve Edwards writes that the changes, which also include axing American Roots, are “not inconsistent with the station’s previously stated strategy of moving more squarely toward a news/talk format. In the case of Afropop, despite its long history, its listener response has been limited on both a real and relative basis.” I don’t know what “real and relative” means—maybe its listeners didn’t pony up enough money during pledge drives—but I’m guessing many Chicagoans will miss the weekly show and its charming host, the eccentric George Collinet. Afropop is being replaced by a Canadian program called Vinyl Cafe, which an acquaintance has compared unfavorably to A Prairie Home Companion. Per the show’s Web site: “The Vinyl Café stories are about Dave, owner of the second hand record store, and they are collected in books and on CD. The stories also feature Dave’s wife, Morley, their two children, Sam and Stephanie, and assorted friends and neighbours.” Gee!

You can still hear some episodes of Afropop Worldwide as podcasts, so this isn't a total wash. And there is some good news to help offset the bad, as promised. For the first time since 2003 the federal government has granted visas to Cuban musicians: nuevo cancion legend Pablo Milanés and composer and conductor Zenaida Romeu. Here’s hoping that this isn’t an anomaly, and that it marks another step toward Obama's promised normalization of relations with Cuba. It’s hardly a cakewalk for any international musician to get into the States these days, but it’d be a big improvement if Cubans only had to clear the same hurdles as everybody else.

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