Monday, January 25, 2010

Sound Tracks Brings Global Music to Public Television

Posted By on 01.25.10 at 04:29 PM

Seun Kuti
  • Seun Kuti
Tonight PBS airs a pilot for a new music-oriented program called Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders. The hour-long show is hosted by Marco Werman, a longtime fixture both as a producer and an anchor on the Public Radio International show The World. I’ve seen the first episode already, and while it isn’t perfect, it sure would be nice to have a TV program about music with a range broader than the Sundance Channel series hosted by Elvis Costello.

Tonight’s show includes a feature on the legacy of Fela Kuti and how it’s being advanced by his son Seun Kuti, a spot about a frothy pro-Putin pop song in Russia, a short performance by Portuguese fado singer Mariza, and a longer story on the efforts of a Kazakh musician to heal the cultural damage done to the country by the Sacha Baron Cohen film Borat. The variety of subjects is impressive, but none of the features digs very deep. It’s also a little disappointing that the piece about Kazakhstan provides no sense of what actual Kazakh music sounds like, and that the producers seem to be making the story happen themselves. A prominent classical violinist from Kazakhstan, Marat Bisengaliev, has enlisted Cohen’s brother, Erran Baron Cohen, who composed the fake Kazakh national anthem in Borat, to write a new symphony as a kind of apology to the country, but it’s only performed because Sound Tracks is willing to be there to capture it.

My quibbles aside, the show has real promise, and if it racks up good viewership numbers tonight it will likely be rewarded with a proper run—which ought to provide time enough for its producers to work out the kinks. Sound Tracks airs at 10 PM on WTTW.

Today’s playlist:

Don Cherry, Live at Cafe Montmartre Vol. Three (ESP-Disk)
Robert Wyatt, Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981 (Rai Trade)
Christian Wallumrød Trio, No Birch (ECM)
Lhasa, Lhasa (Nettwerk)
Splashgirl, Arbor (Hubro)

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