Saturday, August 23, 2014

World Apart: Wyclef Jean and "24 É Tan Pou Viv"

One of the difficulties I often have is deciding whether something is world music. Megan and I tend to be a bit expansive on our show when we pick music. Our criteria usually runs this way: 1) Is the artist from somewhere other than the United States? 2) If not, is the artist fit loosely into a world genre? and 3) Do we like it or does it have some reason that it should be heard?

This still creates some conundrums. Should we play the Finnish rockabilly band covering a Johnny Cash song? Is that world? Or, just because some American pop artist puts a few words of another language in a song or even allows an artist from another country to sing on a song, does that make it a world song? What about foreign bands that play rock, or blues, or jazz? We usually stay away from reggae, because the station has a reggae show, but there is a lively debate on whether reggae is considered world music. We have played songs with reggae beats in them, but usually if they are infused with other genres. Folk music comes from all countries, but is American folk world music? We usually stay away from that because there are at least a couple of folk shows on our station.

So, what often happens is that we play it by ear. We stick fairly firmly to other countries but throw in some American acts that meet our subjective criteria. If the song is of a genre like rock, jazz or blues even though it is from a foreign artist, we listen to it, read about it, and make some kind of decision. After all, we don't want to be totalitarian over what is considered world and global, and ultimately our shows have a good mix that sometimes stretches the boundaries of what can be called "world."

While Wyclef Jean in some of his music would have us thinking about whether to include him, this song, 24 É Tan Pou Viv, would not make us hesitate. Wyclef Jean, despite his time spent in the United States as a part of the American pop music scene with The Fugees, is from Haiti and clearly identifies with his culture. He also clearly made this song to highlight Haiti and its culture. He is using a genre developed in the US, hip hip and rap, but he includes influences from the Caribbean and does his rapping in French creole (which I particularly like). So, we would (and did!) play this song on our show without any hesitations.

Multiple Grammy-winning artist Wyclef Jean first came to fame in the US music business, but this Haitian hip hop artist, actor, and politician is also a humanitarian who has established a foundation to aid his native country. Born in Haiti, he moved with his family to New Jersey in 1982. A founding member of The Fugees (their name was a reference to Haitian refugees), he rose to prominence with the rest of the band as they released highly successful albums in the 1990s. In the late 1990s, he embarked on a solo career and collaborated with other artists such as Youssou N'Dour, Earth Wind and Fire and Shakira. His foundation, Yéle Haiti, has aided in the aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Additionally, in 2010 he made a bid to run for president of Haiti, but his candidacy was turned down by the Electoral Council because he did not meet minimum residency requirements. He has released 10 solo albums, with another in the works. 24 É Tan Pou Viv is from his 2004 album Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101.