PRI’s Afropop Worldwide
Reporting, script-writing, field-reporting and oversaw production on the following hour-long radio documentaries.
Barbados recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence. We look into the rise and mysterious fall of the funky Bajan spouge beat which ruled the island in the ’70s, and discover a few underground musicians who are trying to keep it alive. Calypsonians Mighty Grynner and Red Plastic Bag detail their contributions to the lyrically potent kaiso scene. Soca stars Alison Hinds and Edwin Yearwood talk about the pros and cons of the island's competition circuit, and we learn about the hot new "soca bashment" scene. Co-produced with Noah Schaffer.
In Jamaica, sound systems are more than just a stack of speakers blasting the latest tunes to an eager crowd. Over the last 70 years, they have touched all levels of society in Jamaica, determining the island’s popular taste and profoundly influencing the daily lives of its citizenry. This program explores the evolution of sound system culture, from the Jamaican genesis of the 1940s to its gradual impact on diaspora communities, and ultimately, its undeniable influence on the popular culture of nations overseas. Co-produced with David Katz.
Music is a powerful means of expression in Jamaica--a platform for fierce commentary, and a bellwether for the social and political climate on the island. In Jamaica, when local newspapers, broadcast media and elected representatives don’t tell the whole story, you've got to listen to the music! With the help of scholars and artists like Max Romeo and King Jammy, this program delves into the way that Jamaican popular music has always sharply commented on partisan politics in Jamaica while also revealing that Jamaican politicians have often attempted to co-opt and subvert reggae’s liberating messages for their own purposes. Particular attention is paid to the turbulent Cold War era of the mid-1970s, when foreign influence led to what was basically an undeclared civil war and reggae’s popularity was at its highest. Co-produced with David Katz.
Carnival in Brooklyn - 2016
Every September, millions of people celebrate Carnival in Brooklyn. From the pre-dawn J'ouvert bacchanal in the streets, to the intense Panorama steel pan competition, to the massive Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway, Central Brooklyn is transformed into a Caribbean cultural haven. But before the fun comes months of preparation and centuries of history. We follow Caribbean steel pan groups, masquerade bands and Haitian rara groups through their preparations and celebrations and we hear how members of these Caribbean communities keep their cultural activities alive and thriving despite facing considerable challenges: violence and political backlash associated with Carnival, and soaring rents and cultural changes in Brooklyn due to gentrification.
Jamaican music journeyed to England in the ‘60s when immigrants from the island flocked to the UK in search of jobs and a better life. But as racism, unemployment and poor living conditions developed in the 70s, a new generation of UK-based reggae and dancehall artists transformed the music into a major platform for voicing the concerns, struggles and hard, daily reality of life in the UK for black immigrants. Through interviews with David Hinds of Steel Pulse, Dennis Bovell, Papa Levi and many more, we unravel the complex history of how Jamaican music in the United Kingdom became a major component in navigating the cultural and racial landscape for many blacks in a post-empire Britain while pushing the genre into new, musical soundscapes.
While bachata may have originated in the Dominican Republic, its growth in popularity over the past 10 years is not rooted within the shores of the small Caribbean nation but in the outer boroughs of New York City. It was here that the now-legendary bachata group Aventura formed. Aventura would go on to change the sound and style of bachata by mixing the style with the rap and r&b they were hearing on the streets of the Bronx. Christened “urban bachata,” the new style has catapulted the genre to greater international recognition and is starting to make its way into mainstream pop radio. We trace things back to their origins, talking to producers, artists and industry execs about the growing popularity of bachata and the astounding story of how a couple of Dominican teenagers from the Bronx completely revolutionized the genre and created the most popular Latin music of a generation.
New York City has long had a thriving and populous Jamaican community from Crown Heights, Brooklyn to the south Bronx. And as long as Jamaicans have come to the Big Apple they've brought their culture and music along with them. In this musical exposé Afropop producer Saxon Baird susses out the often overlooked NYC Jamaican music scene with interviews from some of its biggest players from Bullwackies in the Bronx to Brooklyn-based dancehall artists like Screechy Dan.