An Interrupt This Program playlist: cutting-edge sounds from 5 global cities under pressure
Interrupt This Program has traversed the globe, connecting with artists whose creative voices were threatened — and fuelled — by crisis. While their tragedies differed — in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a devastating natural disaster; in Medellín, Colombia, drug cartel violence — one commonality that linked their experiences was the power of music in helping each city persevere.
In fact, judging from the energy of the sounds alone, you often wouldn't know the pain each city has endured. But maybe that's the point — to help endure the hurt or to help process it.
Beirut, Kiev, Port-au-Prince, Medellín, and Athens all have music scenes that showcase strength, innovation and optimism. To share these sounds with you, we asked the visual artists, DJs, tastemakers and fixers from Interrupt This Program to curate a playlist of disparate sounds from each of their cities, from the pioneering electronic bands of the Arab world to Colombian punk to Athenian emo-pop.
The final episode of Interrupt This Program, investigating Athens's art scene in the wake of the Greek debt crisis, airs January 4 at 7/7:30pm NT on CBC. And get caught up on all the previous episodes, linked below.
Medellín, Colombia: Growing past Cumbia
Since the late 17th century, Cumbia has been the national sound of Colombia, blending African, Indigenous and European traditions into an a signature sound — but for this playlist, we wanted a sense of where Colombia is now. We turned to social activist, visual artist and badass drummer Vita Osorio Sanmartin, who's the co-founder of rock band Spastico. Her tastes ranged from rock to electropop to folk and punk, proof that Cumbia isn't the only sound blasting from the Medellín's mountaintops. This House-tinged "obscure vision of pop" by PØPSTITUTE, for example, is a little like a Latin Junior Boys.
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti: Music as a way of life
As Port-au-Prince-based journalist and DJ Étienne Côté-Paluck put it to us, "music is the Haitian soul." There, music is used as a political weapon during campaign season and as a healing balm after tragedy strikes. To fully understand the breadth of the Haitian music experience, check out Étienne's thorough primer on the past and present styles that soundtrack the everyday lives of the Haitian people. And for a taste, here's a great example of the Raboday genre, which beefs up Haiti's voodoo music tradition with modern bass music sonics.
Athens, Greece: Hidden Musical Treasures
- Watch Episode 5: Athens — Art as solace January 4 at 7/7:30 p.m. NT on CBC
Overshadowed by the financial crisis, and facing a significant language barrier, Athens's musical output doesn't get much shine on this side of the Atlantic. But its sounds are wide-ranging and vibrant. We explored this scene with the help of Nickos Dervisis, the founder and frontman of avant-pop band Kid Flicks. He's a proper music lover dedicated to his hometown of Athens, always on top of the latest musical trends and influences in the Greek capital. His selections cracked open a wealth of deep, dark and danceable tracks, like this one by Red Bull Music Academy alumna Giganta. We can hear Björk's voice all over this.
Beirut, Lebanon: the pulsing musical heart of the Middle East
Jihad Samhat, a veteran DJ and founder/manager of Radio Beirut, shared his expert knowledge of Beirut's musical landscape, which ranges from scuzzy punk bands and experimental noisemakers to glam dance acts and, more recently, Syrian rock bands fleeing war for the relative safety of the Lebanese capital. His choice cuts include all the stuff he used to play during his DJ years at a little dive bar called Torino Express on Gemmayzeh's Gouraud street, a staple in Beirut's nightlife and music scene. Check out prolific underground Lebanese dance-punk Lebanese band Scrambled Eggs, who've been making waves in the city since 1998. Their tune song "Girls on Fire" would sit comfortably on James Murphy's DFA label.
Kiev, Ukraine: Musical bends and blends
From Kiev come the personal favourites of our fixer Sergiy Colodko, including an eclectic mix of modern Ukrainian sounds that blend traditional folk music with upbeat pop tunes and hardcore rock. At the top of his list is a track from rock rebel and award-winning author Irena Karpa — featured on Interrupt This Program: Kiev — whose subversive work has earned her death threats. Here is her wonderfully bratty-pop rock tune "Sex".