00:00:00 | 3:02:50




Tom Schnabel Host

Host of 'Rhythm Planet'

Tom Schnabel is an internationally recognized radio producer, pioneer, and innovator in world music. He helped introduce world music to American audiences as KCRW’s first music director and host of Morning Becomes Eclectic (1979-1991). Tom is the author of two books (Stolen Moments: Conversations with Contemporary Musicians and Rhythm Planet: The Great World Music Makers), and numerous articles about music. He has produced a number of recordings (Trance Planet, vols. 1–5), and provides music supervision for advertising and movies. He has also served as Program Advisor for the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Tom has taught in Los Angeles (UCLA Extension, SCIARC, Mt. Saint Mary’s College) and in Paris (Ecole Universelle). He has over 18 years of experience teaching world music and currently offers weekly music salons at his home.

His new project at KCRW, Rhythm Planet, showcases the best in jazz and world music.  The digital platform includes an on-demand show, a membership club, a blog, and a series of live music salons.  

FROM Tom Schnabel

Tom Schnabel's Rhythm Planet

Kel Tamasheq Sounds of the Sahara Back in the late 1960s and '70s, when bootleg cassette tapes first began exchanging hands amongst the Tuareg ranks of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the early sounds of  Tinariwen  were sown across the desert sands of the Sahara. Singing songs of struggle and division, their guitar-driven modal grooves became a unifying call for independence for Kel Tamasheq fans scattered across Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Libya and portions of Burkina Faso. The words, Tuareg and Kel Tamasheq, are often used interchangeably when referring to these semi-nomadic people of North African Berber origin:  Tuareg  being an ascribed remnant of former French occupation; and  Kel Tamasheq , a unifying endomym that translates as "speakers of the Tamasheq language." Historically, they were traders along the caravan routes of the Sahara until 20th century French colonization and oppressive Malian governing, repeated droughts, famine and subsequent rebellions left many seeking refuge in the desert. Until recently, the  ténéré —or desert—was a way of life for many. Nowadays, though, the younger generations are migrating to the cities in search of jobs and modern lives like anyone else, while remaining a part of the  ishumar  fabric. Following in the footsteps of Tinariwen, new bands like Tishoumara featuring Bazo Omar from Niamey, Niger, keep the Kel Tamasheq spirit alive digitally now by recording their music on their smart phones and sharing via text messages, Whatsapp and Facebook rather than cassettes. It's a beautiful thing. Our special guest this week on Rhythm Planet is Nyka Kwon, who visits us from Bamako, Mali, bringing with her the Kel Tamasheq sounds from the Sahara. I met Nyka last summer, after deejay-ing the opening set for Mauritanian powerhouse  Noura Mint Seymali  at the Skirball Cultural Center, where she was dancing to the deep, trance-inducing grooves alongside my peripatetic friend, Tom Nguyen, who runs the music and cultural bulletin,  EnClave LA . Two weeks later, Nyka moved to Bamako, Mali, and I'd often wondered what became of her. The impetus for Nyka's move to Mali came in 2008, when she first heard Tinariwen on public radio. She recalls their  "Chet Boghassa"  as having awakened "moribund DNA to a past life as a Kel Tamasheq girl living in the vast expanse of the ténéré, and thus, the caravan was set in motion." It's a feeling that, I think, many of us city slickers have probably felt on some level or another during our busy lives—the desire to simplify and reconnect with that which is rooted and authentic. We hear this embodied in the visceral music of  Tartit , a band of women from Timbuktu, whose musical structure takes us back to the very origins of traditional Kel Tamasheq music. Led by the matriarch lead, Fadimata Walet Oumar or "Disco," whom Nyka affectionally refers to as her Saharan sister, the women sit around a  tende  (drum), to the accompaniment of an  imzad  (one-string violin). It's important to note the female musicians because the image most people have of Kel Tamasheq music is that of men playing guitars. Niger singer-guitarist  Mariam Ahmed  from Agadez is just one example of a female artist you might not hear otherwise, featured on  Sahel Sounds , a wonderful website started by Portlandian Christopher Kirkley, who collects field recordings by such unknown artists as Mariam, in order to spread the message of the Kel Tamasheq. Assouf , as an expression of what we long for, or continue to seek existentially is an underlying current throughout much of Kel Tamasheq music. According to Nyka, there is a proverb that says, "it's better to keep walking than to stay put, even if you don't know our destination." And to that end, her journey to the ténéré continues.

46 MIN, 4 SEC Oct 09, 2015



Player Embed Code