Kazim Al Saher, Mamak Kadem, and Flight of the Conchords

By Elizabeth Doyle

Kazim Al-Saher — A lot of people outside the middle east have never heard of this man, but he’s so famous in that region that he’s been called the “Caesar of Arabic song.” He may be one of the best selling singers in the history of the Arabic world!  Maybe.  That’s a pretty strong statement, but maybe!  Kazim is an Iraqi, and a graduate of the Baghdad Institute of Music. I believe he lived in Egypt during the recent war, but was recently very enthusiastically welcomed on a humanitarian trip home to Iraq. He has a beautiful voice. Click here.












Mamak Khadem — Inspired by Persian poetry to become a singer, this woman has a voice that absolutely soars.  She was born in Iran where she sang from the time she was a child, and she later studied classical Indian singing as well. Her songs always sound as though she’s singing them in a trance.  Here she is singing live. Click here.

And here’s one of my favorite songs in my music collection, sung while she was part of a group called Axiom of Choice.  It’s called “Parvaz” or “Flight” and you definitely feel like you’re floating on the wind when you listen to it. Click here.












Flight of the Conchords — This is just for fun!  This is a pair of friends in New Zealand who call themselves Flight of the Conchords, and sing comedic folk songs together.  They became an absolute cult sensation in many countries across the world, particularly among sarcastic young adults.  They even had a television series on HBO for a while.  I’m not sure what they’re up to these days, but a few years ago, this duo and this video was a bit of a rage. It’s comedy, but a lot of creativity goes into the musicality of their songs as well!  Click here.

Top photo:  Wikimedia Commons / This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Y.Momani. / Kazim Al-Saher

Second photo: Photo by User Zereshk / Wikimedia Commons / This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. / Picture of painting from Hasht-Behesht palace, Isfahan, Iran, from 1669.

Third photo: A. Aruninta / Wikimedia Commons / Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License / Mount cook, New Zealand

Didgeridoo, Carabao, and the Omani Royal Orchestra

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

By Elizabeth Doyle

The Omani Royal Orchestra –

I think Oman would be an interesting place to visit. My internal image of it is like an old, magical Arabia – they have a Sultan, they have holidays where they all wear brightly colored, festive clothing and curved knives, they have gorgeous white buildings against an aqua Oceanside – and secretly, in my imagination, I think they must have genies, too!  Villages have been found there that are 8,000 years old! They also have a really nice orchestra there that I like.  Formed about 30 years ago because the Sultan really likes classical music, I think they put on a really impressive show! Click here.

Several didgeridoos

Steven Simon – The didgeridoo is a really interesting instrument.  It kind of sounds like insects speaking to one another, but in a really intense, foreboding way. Almost like insects telling a prophecy.  Or casting a spell.  Or calling a gathering.  The instrument is found in Australia, among the aboriginal people there.  They’ve been playing it for more than a thousand years in both ceremony and festivity. And apparently – this is what I heard – in order to play it, you have to actually breathe in and out at the same time. (In through the nose, out through the mouth simultaneously.)  So didgeridoo players never have to pause to take a breath! It’s quite fascinating to watch.  Here’s a man named Steven Simon, a descendent of the Lama Lama Kuku Taipan tribes of Queensland, Australia, playing this fascinating instrument. Click here.

Playing a Thai drum

Carabao – Outside of Asia, not many people know about this band. But they’re extremely popular in Thailand and elsewhere.  They’ve been around since the 1970s, and their front man is an outspoken, sometimes called “sharp-tongued” inspiration to a lot of youth. Their music touches on everything from politics to social justice to issues of personal philosophy and positivity. As I said, they’re not well-known outside of Asia, but they’re legendary in some countries, and while in many ways, they’ll remind you of rock bands that you’ll find anywhere, in some ways, they’re absolutely unique. Click here.

Top photo: Author: Sabihuddin.khan / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license / Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Second photo: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Attribution: Nick carson at en.wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / Various types of Didgeridoo

Third photo: Author: Tevaprapas Makklay / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / Playing a Thai drum


Odetta and legacy music

By Elizabeth Doyle


Odetta – The world lost a legendary singer in December, 2008. Odetta had one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard, and sang some of strongest, most blood-pumping American folk songs and spirituals. There really will never be another Odetta. After a lifetime of struggling against racism in her early life, her dearest wish was to sing at the inauguration of America’s first black president. President Obama invited her to sing at his inauguration, and she was planning to do so. Then tragically, she died of heart failure just before she could. She will certainly never be forgotten in American music.  Here is a taste of what she sounded like in her prime. Click here.

Here she is, performing live, near the end of her life. Click here.

In honor of her, here are two singers who make me think of her:

India Arie





India.Arie – This is the singer I listen to whenever I drive a car. She’s bouncy enough to keep me awake, but she’s just brimming with positive messages.  I own every album she’s made so far, and will probably own every one she makes in the future! There’s a powerful spirit in her music, and a hint of enlightenment in her lyrics that I think could have been born from a foundation laid out by Odetta’s legacy. Although, of course, she has a voice that’s all her own. Click here.

Ani DeFranco




Ani DiFranco – This is Ani DiFranco. To some women my age, she’s been one of the most important singers of our time. (I’m 40.)  Many of us started listening to her in our 20s, when her music was highly political and angry. Back then, she always sounded like she was about to break the strings off her guitar. There was an Odetta-like fierceness and determination. We kept listening to her in our 30s, when her music became more full of personal angst and reflection.  Although most of those songs alluded to existential struggles, there was a softness-over-a-strong-undercurrent that was not unlike an Odetta spiritual in some ways.  And then, in what seemed like a great coincidence to me, after I’d spent decades following her music  – she had a baby around the same time I did. And wrote this very simple, but poignant song. Click here.

Top photo: Lee Paxton / Wikimedia Commons/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Odetta.jpg / Odetta performing at the Kent State Folk Festival in Kent, Ohio, on November 18, 2006.

Second photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ / Wikimedia Commons / File: Ani_Difranco_Ancienne_Belgique.jpg

Third photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Wikimedia Commons / File: Ani_Difranco_Ancienne_Belgique.jpg


By Elizabeth Doyle

Philae Temple, Egypt

Isis – Long ago in Egypt, the mother of all nature and magic was Isis.  Her religion spread all the way to Greece and beyond.  Compassionate and devoted to her family, she was frequently depicted with her son on her knee. Her most famous story involves putting her husband back together after he’s been torn to pieces by an enemy.  There was sometimes both a sensual side to her worship (because of her role as a wife and partner) and an entreating side to her worship (because of her gentleness and compassion as a mother.) She had by far the strongest magical powers of all of the Egyptian deities, and was summoned the most often in people’s magic spells. Her temples from Egypt to Italy to Iraq continued to be places of worship well into the first several centuries AD. But in the end, decrees were put out to destroy them all, and a huge number of them met that fate.  Here’s a portion of “The Song of Isis” by the incomparable David Heath. Click here.

Celtic mirror

Brigid – She’s been both a Celtic goddess and an Irish Catholic saint. The goddess named Brigid was a goddess of poetry, and a keeper of all things “high” (from high thoughts to high flames to high mountains.) When Celtic lands were converted to Catholicism, a Saint Brigid emerged who is thought by many to be a new version of the Goddess, Brigid. High priestesses tending sacred flames was a long-standing Celtic tradition. And today, Saint Brigid is often honored by the keeping of never-extinguished flames.  In one spot in Ireland, nuns tend the flames of St. Brigid full-time. Here is a song to Brigid (pronounced “Breed” in Gaelic) by Beverly Frederick:  Click here.






Kwan Yin


Kwan Yin – She’s either a Chinese goddess or a Buddhist boddhisatva or a Taoist Immortal, depending on your religious beliefs. No matter which she is, Kwan Yin (or Guanyin) represents compassion. She’s the one who “hears the cries of the world.” She feels for us all and has mercy.  Her legend began in China, but today, she is also popular throughout East Asia. Because of her deep kindness, she is often associated with vegetarianism, and some think that she particularly looks after women and children.  Here’s a nice song about her by the silky-voiced Lisa Thiel. Click here.

Top photo: Arrivée en bateau au temple de Philaé, Assouan, Égypte; arriving by boat at the Philae Temple, Aswan, Egypt. / Image taken by Gilles RENAULT /Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license. / Wikimedia Commons

Second photo: Fuzzypeg / Early Celtic La Tène style in Britain. Date: 50 BC – AD 50. 36 cm diameter. British Museum highlights /Wikimedia Commons / British Museum / Public Domain

Third photo: Statue of Kuan Yin, Ming Dynasty, by Chaozhong He, photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum. / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Wikimedia Commons

An array of Sounds

By Elizabeth Doyle


Nataraja, in the Chennai Museum

Harish Johari – He was born in Uttar Pradesh, India, and his father was a practitioner of vedic astrology and Hatha yoga. Harish was a sculptor (He sculpted the monkey god Hanuman for a temple in Bareilly.) He was a painter. He was a student of philosophy, and he was a much-published author. But most of all, he was a spiritual thinker who tried to share what he knew with the whole world. His meditative music and powerful chanting were absolutely legendary, and touched the lives of countless numbers of people. Sadly, he left his body in 1999.  But he left his artwork, his sculptures, his books and his music behind. Click here.

A pansori performance in Busan, South Korea

Pansori Music – Pansori is a little like traditional Korean opera.  A full Pansori mansang can take two hours to complete.  There’s a famous one that takes eight hours! It’s often performed by just one singer and just one drummer. And it doesn’t sound at all like Chinese opera.  The voice is much more wide-open. It’s incredibly expressive. The vocalist really gets passionate, and really lets it all out.  It’s an experience, watching the singer get more and more into the story, and grow increasingly impassioned. Often, he or she will stop and start talking in the middle. It’s really cool! Here’s one I found that I really fell in love with. Click here.

Father Matthew Bridge, Dublin

Balcony TV –  This is an online “music show” where they travel the world, having popular artists play simple examples of their music for us while standing on a balcony. It’s really popular, and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s a great place to see both established and up-and-coming singer/songwriters.

Once you click on a link below, look at the sound bar beneath the video, and click the four arrows in the right corner to make the performance big and fill your computer screen:

Ireland: (Eleanor McEvoy)

Germany: (Frau Horn)

Spain: (Luthea Salom)

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / Nataraja / The Chennai Museum

Second photo: Steve46814 / Wikimedia Commons / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Korea-Busan_3405-06_Pansori.JPG / Pansori performance at the Busan Cultural Center in Busan, South Korea

Third photo: Barcex / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dublin_-_Father_Mathew_Bridge_-_110508_182542.jpg  / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported / Wikimedia Commons / Father Matthew Bridge, Dublin


Music from Mali, from near the Khyber Pass, and from the American West

By Elizabeth Doyle

Oumou Sangare, performing at a concert in Portugal, 2007

Oumou Sangare – There’s a region in Mali called Wassoulou which has a really famous musical tradition. Its music stems from traditional hunting songs, and is usually sung by women, often focusing today on issues specifically facing women. One of its most famous singers currently is Oumou Sangare. She comes from a long line of musicians. And she’s not only a terrific Wassoulou performer with loads of personality, but true to her musical genre, she’s a huge advocate for women’s rights. She’s extremely vocal against child marriages and against polygamy. And she herself is a savvy business owner (hotel and automobile business) who tries to set an example to other ladies that financial independence is a form of freedom. A great singer and an impressively stubborn soul! Here she is:

Near the Khyber Pass

Aiman Udas – This is a lovely Pakistani singer, who was, very tragically killed by her family a couple of years ago. Allegedly, it was done by her brothers, as an “honor killing” because they thought she was a disgrace (both for being a woman who sang in public and for being divorced). They left both of her children orphaned, without a mom. Not much honor in that! So I say we spread videos of her singing in public all over the world. She gave her life to her art, and she deserves to be heard.  Click here.


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Connie Dover – She has one of my favorite voices. Truly an American treasure, this Arkansas-born lady composes and performs music that draws out the richness of American soil. She sings from a place of spirit and a sense of the heavens, while grounding every note in the earth. Some of her songs echo slightly of Scotland’s or Ireland’s reverberations on the United States, while others hint at ancient whispers of Christianity that have crossed the ocean, and some are even ticklish with thoughts of love, but many of her songs simply seek the grasp the sheer expansiveness of the American experience, and particularly, the massive American West. Here she is, singing at a Cowboy Poetry expedition.  Click here.


Top photo: Bunks  / Oumou Sangaré in Sines Portugal 2007 / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Second photo: James Mollison /  Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. / Taken at the Khyber Pass, near Peshawar, Pakistan, where Aiman Udas lived

Third photo:  Sharon St Joan / Canyon de Chelly / Arizona


Cambodian flutes, Bob Marley, and European choral music

By Elizabeth Doyle

Luc Viatour / http://www.Lucnix.beLuc Viatour / Sarus Crane

Yim Sang  — I think Cambodia has an interesting history. Once upon a time, it boasted the largest urban center in the world. Angkor was the envy of the lands for a long time. Hinduism thrived, then later Mahayana Buddhism, and the society was apparently relatively prosperous, comfortable, and I even see hints a great deal of respect for both genders.  They had ups and downs, including some wars and a Dark Age, and a little period of being owned by the French.  But in many ways, including musically, they really continued to thrive. They switched to Theravada Buddhism, they continued along.  And then in the 1970s, the absolutely unimaginable happened.  The Khmer Rouge rose up from within and killed …. Everyone.  Anyone who wore eyeglasses (because they looked smart) … anyone who sang a song … anyone who danced …. Anyone who prayed … anyone Chinese or Vietnamese … anyone who wasn’t marching fast enough …. anyone.  Torture became commonplace. The once mighty and prosperous Cambodia was reduced to … something unthinkable.  They’re recovering – but can you ever recover completely from something like that?  It’s no wonder that today, there’s a movement to “Save Khmer (Cambodian) music.” The Khmer Rouge did everything they could to wipe it out!  But the Cambodian Living Arts is working hard to try to revive the artistic world of Cambodia, and to teach people how to sing and dance again. They post a lot of videos on YouTube, so let’s help them get authentic Khmer music out there again, for people to see.  Here’s a look at one they’ve put up of a grand master of Cambodian woodwind instruments, Yim Sang, now 85 years old, who somehow survived it all.  Click here.

Bob Marley in concert, Zurich, Switzerland

Bob Marley – A lot of people wouldn’t know what Rastafarianism is if it hadn’t been for Bob Marley.  It’s a religion that originated on the small island of Jamaica, which proclaims that all humans came from Africa, and that basically (I’m going to get this a little bit wrong), the farther they’ve gotten from Africa, the more they’ve strayed, and become Babylon (an evil place) instead of Zion (a good place – the original Africa.)  They also believe that Ethiopia’s final emperor was a prophet or a special son of God.( I now apologize to all Rastafarians for not getting it quite right!) But it had been a much more obscure religion worldwide before Bob Marley came along. His music and his soul moved so many people, that in many ways he put both his country, Jamaica, and his religion on the map for all time.  I’ve always heard him as more of a singing spirit than a musician.  Here he is, singing a classic:

And no Bob Marley fan would forgive me if I didn’t also post a link to him singing No Woman No Cry, now that he’s on their minds. Here you go!

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England

Anonymous 4 – Choral music has been a European tradition since Ancient Greece. It’s singers singing a song in unison, often in many different vocal ranges simultaneously.  It can be all men singing, or all women, or most commonly, a mix of men and women in order to get the full effect of high voices and low voices singing the same song at the same time.  Choral music flourished a lot during Medieval times and the Renaissance, and the female chorus, Anonymous 4 is dedicated mainly to choral music of the Medieval era.  (Though they do pay homage to choral music throughout time.)  Most people I know who love music own at least one album by these ladies.  Their music is widely regarded as a staple in any respectable music collection!  And they really do bring an older, slightly more nervous, but also more haunted age in history to life with every song. Click here.


Top photo: Wikimedia Commons / Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.beLuc Viatour  / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Sarus Crane, native to Cambodia and other Asian countries

Second photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ueli Frey / http//www.drjazz.ch/album/bobmarley.html / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

Third photo: Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Attribution: WyrdLight.com Bodium Castle, East Sussex, England

Ottoman Turkey, Ireland, and the music of frogs

Painting, 1720 - musical band of Ottoman Turkey

By Elizabeth Doyle

Sarband — The music of the Ottoman Empire was famously grand. It spread through Sufi parlors, mosques and palaces, and was thought to be magical. Its complex structure was used even to heal illnesses. They really believed in the power of music! The old Ottoman sounds can still be heard in modern Turkish music. (Turkey has a lot of lovely music – I love the twisty, curvy sounds of it.) And there’s a group called Sarband, which fuses and celebrates all kinds of music in the region, both old and new. Here, they play a lovely old Ottoman piece. It’s easy to imagine hearing this in an old Turkish palace! And also easy to understand why the Ottomans believed that the subtle qualities in a musical piece could affect both a person’s psychology and physical state.

Click here.

Paulnabrone Dolmen, County Cork, Ireland



Aine Minogue — Ireland has a long history of beautiful music. There are songs being written today, and songs that have likely been sung since the days of the Celts. From spirited jigs to sweeping airs, the music of Ireland is distinctive, and greatly treasured, particularly in North America, which is home to a large number of genetically Irish people. North Americans embracing their Irish heritage had a lot to do with the Celtic music revival of the past few decades, and has helped shine a worldwide spotlight on some of Ireland’s most angelic music. I particularly like Aine Minogue. She’s an Irish harpist and singer whose music sounds to me like it was born in a stone temple, cold and moist in a hidden valley between two emerald green hills. I definitely believe that a Celtic goddess smiles every time she plucks a string! Click here.

Frog in a pond

Animal Musicians of the world – Of course, we aren’t the only species who sings.  Some of the most beautiful music in the world is composed and performed by our animal friends around the globe.  It would be hard to find any New Age album more soothing than the song of the frogs or an opera more dramatic than the lion’s roar.  So here are three good videos of animals performing in the wild:

Frogs: Ode to a ray of sunlight:

A lion opera of rejection, pining and a love lost: 

Mocking bird serenades the dark:

Christmas music

The painting "Anbetung der Hirten" by Giorgione, Fifteenth century

By Elizabeth Doyle

Handel’s Messiah – In honor of Christmas, here are three musical tributes to the many ways people celebrate and feel about this Christian holiday.  The first is Handel’s Messiah. A sweeping oratorio, written in the 1700s, it opens with whispering instrumentation, representing rumors that a Messiah is on the way.  It builds into a story about the life, teachings, and death of Jesus. And ends with the famous Hallelujah Chorus, proclaiming the holiness of what has just transpired.  This oratorio has only gained in popularity since Handel (A German who enjoyed living in England) wrote in the early 1700s. People still love it, and it seems to remind them of the power of the divine, in sort of an awe-struck-at-the-magnificence-of-it-all kind of a way.  Here is the ending climax of The Messiah, being sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  (It’s traditional for the audience to stand in reverence as soon as they hear the first note of this piece.)  Click here.

Mahalia Jackson

What Can I Give? — But there’s also a more intimate side to Christmas.  While choral music often expresses feelings of power and reverence, Gospel is often more about the feelings and struggles of having a relationship with Christ.  Where songs like Hallelujah Chorus of the Messiah sparkle and stretch to the heavens, songs like this one reach within, instead.  In this Christmas song, Mahalia Jackson ponders what she can give to Jesus, on this the day of his birth, and reaches the dramatic conclusion, “I’ll give my love – Lord, it’s all that I have.”  For many people, Christmas is a time for very personal reflection, in addition to reverence and praise.  (And Mahalia Jackson is the greatest gospel singer in the world, ever  – so I played with the idea of using someone different, since I’ve featured her before, but couldn’t bring myself to it!) Here’s Mahalia:



Christmas Revels– And for some people, Christmas is really just a winter celebration … like the

Christmas lights

ones people have been celebrating at the Solstice for thousands of years.  When I was a kid, we always went to the Christmas Revels at Christmastime. It’s a play, and it’s a Celtic celebration of the Solstice, which weaves together dancing, songs and mythology from Ireland and parts of Britain.  At the end of Act 1 in the play, the cast sings this song, Lord of the Dance, which brings the story of Christmas into the celebration for just one moment.  This is the singer who sang it during the play when I was growing up. I can’t find a clip of him singing it live on stage anymore (They have new singers now!), but this is the man I always saw on stage, so for sentimental reasons, I went with this clip, even though it doesn’t show him performing.  It does give you a feel! :  Click here.

Top photo: “Anbetung der Hirten”, Giorgione (1477-1510) / public domain world wide / Wikimedia Commons

Second photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1962 / public domain/ Wikimedia Commons / Mahalia Jackson

Third photo: © Iandreed11 / Dreamstime.com / Christmas lights

Roma people, Sri Lanka, Kenya rap

By Elizabeth Doyle

Monastery of St. Panteleimon, Macedonia

Esma Redzopova – The Roma people (sometimes called gypsies) have been some of the most persecuted people in the world. I’m sure I’ll get my history a little bit wrong here. But more or less, it’s thought that they may originally have come from India during the Middle Ages (No one’s sure why.) Then they landed in Eastern Europe (which is where the majority still live.) And to a large extent, they became a slave population there. Only in the 1800s was all slavery of Roma abolished. Many fled to other parts of Europe over the centuries, but they weren’t usually welcomed. Back then, the Roma preferred a nomadic lifestyle, and didn’t want to settle down and farm as some well-meaning neighbors tried to get them to do. Plus, they dressed a little differently, they sometimes married younger than what was considered acceptable, they had some customs and beliefs that Europeans found “superstitious”, and of course, they were poor, all of which made them a little unpopular. The poverty in particular caused a small number of them to do what many of us might do when we’re extremely poor. And it wasn’t long before the Roma gained a broad, generalized and therefore unfair reputation as thieves and beggars and particularly tricksters. So they continued to be persecuted. The Nazis tried to wipe them out completely in concentration camps, Czechoslovakia tried to sterilize their women, Spain took many of their children away. But through it all, somehow, their colorful culture and strong extended-family values survived. And Roma music kept on playing, influencing sounds throughout the continent, and eventually, all over the world. Possibly the most famous Roma singer of all time is Esma Redzopova, who lives in Macedonia, a place she declares treats its Roma population wonderfully, and she is currently a member of her local government! She’s been singing since she was a child, and has been a foster mother literally to dozens of orphaned children. Click here.

Sigriya Rock, Sri Lanka

Pandith Amaradeva – There’s a very strong music scene in Sri Lanka. It’s been heavily influenced by a lot of things over the centuries – Buddhism was one of the earliest and most major musical influences. The arrival of westerners brought some particular instruments, and of course, India and its films played a role. But all in all, Sri Lanka has a sound that’s all its own, and it has many fans. One name you have to know in Sri Lankan music is Pandith Amaradeva. Once people started making records, he’s one of the people who shaped the distinctive Sri Lankan sound that would be heard by the world. And he has the most velvety voice. Some Sri Lankans living abroad say they can’t hear him without feeling transported home: Click here.

Zebra, Nairobi National Park

Kalamashaka – I’m one of the only music fanatics I know who likes rap. Rap is music with the melody stripped out of it. It’s just voice and rhythm. It’s spoken word infused with rhyme, exaggerated emotion and a beat. People use it to communicate with power. To put force behind their words and to be heard. It gets a bad reputation sometimes because it speaks from and to the fire core of the personality. The words are wrenched from a visceral place. And so sometimes, other things that were locked in that Pandora’s Box come out – fantasies of violence, rage, misogyny, and destruction. None of that is a necessary part of rap. But it happens sometimes because rap explores the dark side of music – the side that isn’t pretty, but powerful. Rap really is proof of the raw force of music – the undeniable energy that all music taps into – even if you prefer something a little more comforting! Kalamashaka was one of the first really high quality rap groups to come out of Kenya. (In the world of rap, you’re considered high quality if you speak about rage, politics or social problems. You’re taken less seriously if your music is easy to dance to because that means your music is too “pretty” and not visceral enough.) Kalamashaka is a very well-respected socially conscious rap group from Nairobi, and is credited with helping make Swahili-rap a worldwide phenomenon. Kenya is now becoming a leader in the world of rap, and this is one of the songs that started it all: Click here.

Top photo: © Małgorzata Pakuła / Dreamstime.com / Monastery of St. Panteleimon, Macedonia

Second photo: Bernard Gagnon / Wikimedia Commons / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sigiriya.jpg   / Sigiriya Rock

Third photo: Sharon St. Joan / Zebra, Nairobi National Park