We do our best to turn our World Cafe studio into bluesman R.L. Boyce's porch at his house in Como, Mississippi. That's where Boyce sits and plays many days in the farming community south of Memphis in the Mississippi Hill country.
As a part of our Sense of Place, South Africa trip, we traveled to Cape Town and recorded the band Freshlyground on their home turf.
The group is led by the energetic and powerful singer Zolani Mahola, and includes members from Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as South Africa, where Mahola grew up. Mahola talked about what it was like for her to realize how Apartheid impacted her father's life as well as her own, and shared the funny reason she got kicked out of a ska band before joining Freshlyground.
For this Sense Of Place session, we spent some time in South Africa with guitarist and songwriter Johnny Clegg. The visionary musician was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three years ago, and spent the latter part of 2017 on a world tour he called "The Final Journey." It was a productive three months that also included a new solo album, King of Time. But rather than feature that new material, Clegg performed four of his most beloved songs from yesteryear.
Sometimes fans of bands that initially missed or were too young for the first breakthrough are lucky enough to get a second chance. Interest builds and when a group reunites there is a new and old fan base waiting. That's the way the long tail of the internet works.
globalFEST has been a staple of the New York City music scene for the last 15 years. The one-night global music showcase spotlights a dozen artists from around the world that even die-hard music fans likely haven't seen with their own two eyes.
Native Young began as a bedroom project for Cape Town-based musician Yannick Meyer. But after hours of recording, the white South African realized that to truly make the songs what he wanted them to be, he would need some help. Meeting the traditional Xhosa Marimba player Mark Sikele launched him into further collaborations and the resulting album Kings won a South African Music Award in 2017 for Best Alternative Album.
McCoy Mrubata was born in 1959 in Cape Town, South Africa. He left school after the 1976 Soweto uprising, first dedicating himself to painting and later to music. Playing the flute and saxophone, he toured alongside Hugh Masekela in the '90s and has led his own bands.
Fifteen hours southwest of the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg is the beautiful city of Cape Town. A picturesque spot along the coast, mountains rise out of the sea and winding roads snake along the ocean, connecting a downtown filled with high rises to smaller bayside villages. People here have a reputation for being more relaxed, and moving at a slower pace.
Over the last five years, a psychedelic and garage rock scene has sprung up here that has gained attention across the country.
For our latest installments of the series Sense of Place we're exploring two cities in South Africa: Johannesburg and Cape Town.
We started our trip off in Johannesburg, which is the economic hub of the country. (Think skyscrapers, a fast pace of life and a sense of energy — and sometimes danger.) The city still feels the lasting effects of apartheid, with the much poorer township of Soweto nearby. Both are a sharp contrast to the city 900 miles to the south we would later visit, the more laidback – and maybe more beautiful – Cape Town.