A new travel series begins in February on PBS and it’s all about excavating the globe for interesting sounds. Produced by Tantra World Wide, Music Voyager is my kind of show, and host Jacob Edgar has my dream job. He also has the right background: His resume includes a stint at Putumayo records and ownership of indie music label Cumbancha. I recently caught up with Edgar and am now living vicariously through him. Here’s what he had to say:
What places in Latin America do you want to visit?
We are working on a trip to Colombia. Other Latin American countries we would like to visit are Brazil, Dominican Republic and Mexico, as well as a program on the Garifuna music of Belize, Honduras and Guatemala. We are also working on a Road to the Grammy special and we are hoping to meet one of the nominees in the Latin category, but I can't tell you which one yet!
Any under-the-radar acts you can recommend from those parts?
I was just in Colombia and I was amazed at the vitality of the local music scene. There is so much [that’s] amazing going on and hundreds of hip, young groups that are taking their local traditional styles and blending them with rock, rap, electronica, funk, African music and more. It was a really cool trip. Some of the groups I liked the most were Eka (Erika Muñoz, the lead singer of Sidestepper), who has a champeta project. Champeta is a fascinating blend of Colombian roots and African dance grooves—very fun stuff: La Makina del Karibe, La Mojarra Electrica, Toño Barrio Latin Groove, La Revuelta, and Systema Solar (check out this amazing video clip). And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Colombia is hot right now!
What travel shows do you like? Did you draw inspiration from any?
I am a longtime fan of Globetrekker, which was one of the first travel shows that wasn't stodgy and conservative. The original host, Ian Wright, is really funny and I hope someday I can be as entertaining and easy to like as he is. I also really like Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, mostly because Bourdain is such a good writer and an interesting character. I'm a fan of strange food, so I also enjoyed watching Bizarre Food, although I don't really like the host Andrew Zimmern so much.
What do you hope people will get from this show?
I hope that they will learn and get excited about music from other countries, which has always been my main motivation in life. I think that the artists we feature on the show will be introduced to a lot of new people, and hopefully it will bring them opportunities to travel and develop international careers. I also hope that the show encourages cultural tourism.
Any big musical discoveries so far from Music Voyager?
In India, I was really impressed with the band East India Company, which is a young group based in Delhi. They haven't recorded an album yet and are really at the beginning of their careers, but they are young and cool with an interesting blend of electronic music, rock, reggae and traditional folk music from the Assam region in northeastern India.
In Jamaica, I was totally blown away by Etana, a young reggae/neo-soul singer who blends the spirit of Bob Marley with the soulful sound of India Arie.
I just came back from Louisiana, where I hung out with Grammy nominee Cedric Watson. Cedric is an African -American accordion and violin player who has one of the hottest Cajun-Zydeco bands in the area.