Kai Wright: It's Notes from America. I'm Kai Wright and I'm joined by our producer, Regina de Heer, for another update on our Notes from America Summer Playlist Project. Hey, Regina.
Regina de Heer: Hi, Kai.
Kai Wright: Just to recap, we've been asking our listeners all summer to help generate a playlist for these wonderfully long and sunny days. We do need that hit of joy with all of the climate-related crises we've been facing this summer. This is our second annual playlist effort and the theme this year is Music of our Diasporas. Listeners have been sending us songs that represent their own personal stories of identity as part of some kind of diaspora, and we're taking those submissions and making a Spotify playlist that you can stream right now.
Regina de Heer: Yes, it's available to stream right now. Just go to WNYC.org/playlist to listen. I'm learning so much and also just getting amazing song recommendations that I never would've been introduced to otherwise. Like this submission from Johnson, who is Brazilian but is now based in Arizona.
Johnson: I was born in Massachusetts, lived for a little bit in Brazil, because that's where my family's from, grew up most of my life in New Jersey, but now I'm currently residing in the great city of Arizona. My contribution would be “Tchau pra Você” by a Brazilian band called Banda Calypso. The chorus essentially translates to, “My love, pack my bag for me because I got to go.”
It's so fun. It is so silly, but it also taps into a deep-seated knowledge that I have that I don't belong here. I don't belong there. It is my destiny as part of the diaspora to always be on the go and to carry my home on my shoulders with me. And it's a song that I sing to my family whenever it's time for me to go. In the song, there's also a feeling of longing and of affection towards our different homes.
Kai Wright: Yes, that's a powerful point, not belonging here or there, but also just the affection towards all those different homes. That's really well put.
Regina de Heer: It's super relatable and I've had his song suggestion on repeats since I first heard it.
Kai Wright: Nice.
Regina de Heer: Speaking of which, I love this voicemail from Rachel. Rachel is Samoan and like Johnson, and like me, she understands what it's like to straddle two cultures.
Rachel: I am what Samoans call an Afakasi, meaning I'm half-Samoan and half-white. Samoa is part of Polynesia, and those are all the Pacific Islands within the triangle formed by Rapanui or Easter Island in the east. I would say Aurora, New Zealand to the west and the kingdom of Hawaii in the north. Polynesians are few but proud with most of us not living in the islands where we are from. Since there are so few Polynesians in the world, the music from all of our cultures marinates with each other, along with reggae from the Caribbean to create a unique sound.
As an Afakasi, I grew up with my white family in the American South. There weren't any other Samoans around, so I didn't grow up knowing much of my culture other than summer visits to the islands. I tried to assimilate in America, but I decided to go back to the islands and lived there for a decade working and learning about my culture.
The song I wanted to add to the Diaspora Sounds of Summer Playlist is Ue'i Ho Sino, the Fokaa Jr Mega Mix by DJ Noiz. DJ Noiz is a famous Polynesian DJ who's the master of island-style remixes.
[MUSIC - DJ Noiz - Ue'i Ho Sino (Fokaa Jr) Mega Mix]
This song is a mashup of three songs from different Pacific Islands, including Tonga, the Solomon Island, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Samoa. I love that it includes multiple languages from all over Pacifica. It's a fun, catchy song that's often playing at barbecues or other events where adult beverages are present but be warned, it has an earworm and you will get it stuck in your head. Thanks so much for listening. Bye.
Kai Wright: Wow, Rachel, clearly understood the assignment.
Regina de Heer: Exactly. Hey, Rachel, make sure you play our playlist at the next barbecue, wnyc.org/playlist.
Kai Wright: All right.
Regina de Heer: But seriously, I love that we get to learn a little bit about Rachel and her culture through a voicemail.
Kai Wright: Yes, I love hearing these stories. Let's take a quick break before we hear more of them though, and stay with us for a special contribution at the end. We'll be right back.
Regina de Heer: The next one I have for you is from Jad, who considers himself to be a multilingual globalist.
Kai Wright: Okay. Jad.
Jad: I was born and raised in Lebanon, and I come from partial Palestinian roots and a cultural intersection with Haiti. I've lived in New York for six years in Brooklyn, and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and I consider myself a multilingual globalist. One song that I love from back home is called “Bi Sabah El Alf El Talet” by Carole Samaha, and composed by Oussama Rahbani and translation is in the morning of the third millennium. I really love that song because my mom used to sing it and perform it in family gatherings and events.
It's a very historical song that talks about anti-racism, gender equality, humanitarian acts, and brotherhood and bondmanship of people within our society. I love it because it has an orchestra-oriented vibe to it and it's been such a very powerful song from my childhood.
Regina de Heer: A lot of the voicemails connect back to childhood, like this one from Medina in Brooklyn.
Medina: The song I'm adding to the playlist is Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen. It's a modern reboot of the classic The Andrew Sisters from the 1940s.
[MUSIC - The Andrew Sisters - Bei Mir Bistu Shein]
I love big band music. I love that it's in Yiddish, the mother tongue of my ancestors and it's a shout-out to the roots of the roots of that era’s music, which is both jazz and klezmer music.
Regina de Heer: Kai, I had to save this one for you. It also connects back to childhood, and it's from the very first person we posed this diaspora question to when she was a guest on the show. It's from Taste the Nation host Padma Lakshmi.
Kai Wright: Okay. Padma.
Padma Lakshmi: I mean, my diaspora story, that's a tall order, but I will tell you a song. The song that immediately comes to mind is Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers.
[MUSIC - Isley Brothers: Summer Breeze]
Because that's just a great jam and I think it was one of the few songs that I remember kind of grooving to. My parents would have these late, late, late night parties with so much smoke of every kind. I just remember them dancing and remember thinking they were so glamorous and being told to go to bed. I think that Isley Brothers song was one that they used to groove to at sort of the end of the night on a warm night.
[MUSIC - Isley Brothers: Summer Breeze]
Kai Wright: A great addition to have Padma Lakshmi in here and a great summer jam to boot. Regina, now that listeners know what we're looking for, again, we reminded them of that. Remind them how to get involved.
Regina de Heer: Yes. Listeners, we want to hear from you. Tell us what song represents your personal diaspora story. Go to notesfromamerica.org and look for the green record button to leave us a message. Start with your name and where you're recording from, then tell us the name of the song you picked, the artist, and a short story that goes along with it. Feel free to include a little bit about your background as well.
Kai Wright: Again, you can stream it right now. Just go to wnyc.org/playlist. We're going to keep updating this throughout the summer, all the way through Labor Day so get into it now. We've got a little bit of time left to just have some fun in the sun with these submissions. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being willing to participate in this project. Check it out if you haven't yet. Otherwise, we will talk to you on Sunday.
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