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Stuff your eyes (and ears) with wonder . . . live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
Ray Bradbury (1920 - ____) US science-fiction writer
worldbeatcanada radio: Cumbancha Records represents an important second step in the seduction of fresh ears to the global side. With Putumayo compilations being the perfect party platter, offering a taste of many different sounds from similar backgrounds, there was a void in the market for those who were ready to commit to an entire album by a world artist. Accessibility and intrigue are keys to establishing trust between label and budding world music lover and Cumbancha strikes the perfect balance, leaving us always looking forward to the next star to come forward in their ever growing roster. In February 2010, PBS Television (KCTS 9 in Seattle) debuts Music Voyager, starring Jacob as a the globe-trotting, music prospecting individual that he is, experiencing the best and worst of global music so we don't have to, satiating himself on street food around the world and ingesting exotic intestinal bugs ... it's the gig of a lifetime and Jacob is here to tell us about it. Hello Jacob.
Jacob Edgar: Hi there.
WBC: So tell us the highs and lows of the new TV series.
JE: Well the highs are pretty incredible. First of all, when you travel with a TV crew the red carpet is really rolled out for you in a different way, so it's nice to be able to take advantage of things you might not do if you were just traveling somewhere for fun. For example, when I was in India I got to stay at the Maharaja's palace in Rajasthan and hang out with the Maharaja which was pretty interesting and not something I might have done otherwise. It's just a really wonderful way to expose yourself to a new place.
WBC: How long did you spend away from home?
JE: I was on the India trip for three weeks.
WBC: How did you come upon the name Cumbancha?
JE: When I was thinking about a name for the label I really wanted something that represented what the music was about but I didn't necessarily want a familiar word. Cumbancha is actually an Afro-Cuban word. I was always really fascinated with Afro-Cuban music and culture. It's basically an impromptu musical get-together. So, when people get together with a bottle of rum and a guitar and they play music all night, that's a Cumbancha.
WBC: Despite the words I tried to put into your mouth with the introduction, what was your inspiration to start this label?
JE: Well, I've been doing the A&R work for Putumayo for about eight years and while I really enjoyed the work and loved being the person who gets to listen to all the music that gets sent in and that we sought out for Putumayo, I really felt like I wanted to help some artists develop a little bit. Putumayo has experimented with artists but mostly they focus on compilations. I just kept meeting talent who I thought were really exceptional and needed some help in exposing their work to the world and I thought I could be the person to help them do that. So, that was the motivation and also I wanted to have a little more creative control and be able to make the final decisions about which artists I wanted to work with on my own.
WBC: Though I'd never ask you to choose between your babies, one of the artists must have a story that eclipses the others. Who would you think that might be?
JE: I think of all them, Andy Palacio and the whole saga of the Garifuna people and the process of releasing that album, and the year that took place between the release of that album and the time that Andy died. He died about a year after the record was first released and it was a very incredible year for everybody involved in the project. It was a very well received record and it made some real world changes for the Garifuna people of Central America because it demonstrated to their community, especially to young people that their music and culture was worth celebrating. A lot of times traditional cultures turn away from that when they get seduced by hip hop or western influences or whatever. The success of Andy's record really inspired a new generation to go back to their roots and try to value what they have that's theirs.
WBC: worldbeatcanada radio is on the pod with our ver4y special guest, Jacob Edgar, founder of Cumbancha Records. Connect with their exquisite roster of global artists at cumbancha.com. Jacob, as we head into a new decade, what role do you see global music playing in popular music?
JE: I think what's happening right now, and it's really intriguing to me is global music is permeating popular music to a level which most people don't even fully realize. I think that's really interesting. There are a lot of pop groups and indie rock groups and successful artists who have built followings for themselves that aren't being marketed as "world music" artists but I consider them to be world music artists. A good example might be Rodrigo y Gabriela who have a very strong flamenco influence in their sound but they detest being called world music. They would rather be put into the rock category. Or, take a band like Vampire Weekend who are basically an indie rock band with very strong African influences in their guitars. There's a new band called Fool's Gold who are singing songs in Hebrew with a lot of Middle Eastern and Ethiopian influences but they're playing to kids in rock clubs. There are countless examples of that happening. In fact, it's a really fascinating time for world music. At the same time we're moving beyond the term world music. That term has become passé in a way so it will be interesting to see how we find and communicate with people who are interested in international flavors in the future.
WBC: I prefer global music or worldbeat to describe the more up-tempo and contemporary side of what’s going on. We had the good fortune to have Kailash Kher tell us in his own words how Yatra (Nomadic Soul) became part of the Cumbancha collection. We're going out on one of my favorite tracks of the year, Na Batati Tu from Kailash Kher and Kailasa. What can you tell us about this track and this album which I think is incredibly important.
JE: Well, you know I first heard Kailash when I was in India a few years a go traveling with my family. I was riding in an autorickshaw and I heard his song Tauba Tauba blasting out of the speakers of a little shop and I asked the driver to slam on the brakes and ran out. Because, it was very distinct from a lot of the pop music I was hearing in India. It was more like Khaled and less like Bollywood and I really liked it. So, I tracked down the album and when we were producing our first episode of Music Voyager in India I had the opportunity to meet Kailash and profile him. And, just through coincidence we decided to work together. This song, Na Batati Tu is a new track that was recorded specifically for international release. I think it's very cool because it has a very strong Beatles flavor to it which just brings it all back home. The Beatles were obviously very influenced by Indian music and I love how they have taken the reverse tactic and let Lydian music be influenced by The Beatles. It's a really fun song and Kailash is an amazing artist and a very popular figure in India so it's an honor to be working with him.
Jacob Edgar was interviewed by Cal Koat on December 22/09 for worldbeatcanada radio