Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 7:30 am
Bassist Omer Avital came from Israel to New York in the early '90s and found himself among the top tier of straight-ahead modern jazz performers. The time in the big city led him to re-investigate his roots — his parents are from the Arab-speaking world — and in 2002, he returned to Israel to study traditional music and oud. Since returning, he's remained a monster bass player, but has also integrated his Middle Eastern musical interests into his composing.
Joy Williams and John Paul White call their Grammy-winning band The Civil Wars, but the two have built a gentle, harmony-rich folk-pop sound in which warm chemistry more than counteracts the tension under the music's surface. Though not a couple themselves — each is married, and Williams just had a baby — they convey many hallmarks of a loving union, particularly in the way she stares at him sweetly as they sing.
Members of the alternative rock and rap band Flobots say their new album was inspired by the Arab Spring protests and the U.S. Occupy movement. Circles of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square gave them the idea for the title song, "The Circle in the Square." Three group members talk to host Michel Martin about the intersection of art and politics.