Ani DiFranco has built her reputation as a take-no-bull folksinger who champions the downtrodden, rails against privileged excess and offers messages of empowerment and solidarity. A Woody Guthrie disciple, she's famous for circumventing the music-industry machine to find success on her own terms with her Righteous Babe label.
My father, world-renowned virtuoso violinist and teacher Roman Totenberg, whose professional career spanned nine decades and four continents, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 101.
His death was as remarkable as his life. He made his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic at age 11, performed his last concert when he was in his mid-90s, and was still teaching, literally, on his deathbed. This week, as word flew around the musical world that he was in renal failure, former students flocked to his home in Newton, Mass., to see the beloved "maestro."
Named as a World Cafe: Next artist just this past March, the charming sister duo First Aid Kit returns with a full-length World Cafe session. Swedish siblings Johanna and Klara Söderberg are barely into their twenties, but they already have an international reputation for their rich harmonies and simple, rousing folk songs.
Chicha is a corn-derived liquor native to the South American Andes since ancient times. It's also a quirky style of pop music that developed in the Peruvian Amazon in the 1960s and '70s. All of that provides inspiration for the Brooklyn band Chicha Libre, which has just released its second album, Canibalismo.
Founder Olivier Conan developed a passion for chicha music while crate-digging through old vinyl in Peru. He says all pop-music innovators are really sonic predators.
Born into a well-to-do Danish family in 1840, Christian Frederik Emil Horneman showed musical talent at an early age, then went on to study in Leipzig and later spent most of his life as a teacher. But he would also compose a limited amount of music, which one wishes had been greater in quantity judging from the fine orchestral works on this new release.
Soon after Michael Jackson's death in 2009, many of his songs popped up on jazz albums. While French violinist and composer Scott Tixier doesn't provide a forthright makeover to "I Can't Help It" — a Stevie Wonder-penned ballad from Jackson's Off the Wall — he does interpolate its Brazilian-tinged bass line in his captivating "Elephant Rose."
When it comes to reliable lightning rods in classical music, it's hard to top Richard Wagner. The latest controversies center on the Metropolitan Opera's current staging of the composer's gargantuan Ring cycle, the set of four epic and mythical operas first mounted at Bayreuth in 1876, and now seen live at the Met together in a series.
Okemah, Okla. — the birthplace of Woody Guthrie — has another musical native son to call its own. John Fullbright's recordings mix folk, country and blues, and his lyrics often tackle big-picture topics.
"I grew up with a lot of questions that couldn't really seem to be answered," Fullbright tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "Why are we here? Did some higher power make all of this? Did he make me? And songwriting is kind of your own voice, your strongest voice, that you can use to ask yourself those questions."