Sharon Jones, head of the old-school funk and soul band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, is working it. She and her band have a new album, their third, called 100 Days, 100 Nights. They’ve been touring to support the album, and Jones was recently part of the cast of Berlin, along with Lou Reed. She also shot a part for the upcoming Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters. Jones shares a hometown with the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. Though she moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when she was little, she spent months of every year in Augusta, Ga., singing and dancing to his music. That and her early start singing in church have flavored the songs she sings now. She’s come all the way from working as a prison guard on Riker’s Island to being hailed as a “timeless soul singer” by The New York Times. Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records and bass player for The Dap-Kings, talks about the band’s increased involvement in songwriting and arranging on 100 Days, 100 Nights. He wrote many of the songs himself, including the title track. The Dap-Kings’ members have kept busy, as well. They backed Amy Winehouse on several tracks off her album Back to Black, including “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good,” and they served as her band during her first tour in the U.S. PLUS, Fresh Air critic KEN TUCKER sucks up to his daughter and her friends takes Britney Spears seriously.
How do we decide who gets deported? Since 1996, Congress made it easier to deport non-citizens if they commit crimes. While it’s aimed at getting criminals and potential terrorists out of the country, it also results in the deportation of many families highly regarded in their communities. We’ll debate whether the current policy of who stays and who goes is working. We’ll hear from JAN TING, a former INS official and now Professor of Law at Temple University, and with JAYA RAMJI-NOGALES co-author of the recent report Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, and an Assistant Professor of Law at Temple University. Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3
Benjamin Franklin was known for many things, founding father, scientist, and inventor But Sudoku? Well, not quite that, but an earlier manifestation known as magic squares. Numbers add up no matter which direct the column goes. Well, turns out, Ben had major fascination with mathematics. Our guest is PAUL PASLES, an associate professor of mathematics at Villanova University who has written a new book on this little known side of Franklin it’s titled Benjamin Franklin’s Numbers: An Unsung Mathematical Odyssey Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3
The singer, rapper, and producer known as M.I.A. released one of the most celebrated albums of 2005. Critics and fans were wildly enthusiastic over her blend of revolutionary rhetoric, exotic musical infusions and explosive club tracks. Two years later, the follow-up has arrived. It’s called Kala, and it proves to be an even more adventurous effort. Kala is not another facile attempt at so-called world music fusion. True, M.I.A. does mix in everything from Bollywood bass lines to Baltimore club beats to Australian aboriginal didgeridoo. But these are far more than showy stamps in a sonic passport. At a time when globalization is both dissolving and reinforcing national identities, M.I.A.’s music speaks from a blurry borderland through a lingua franca of agitated, propulsive pop. The energy should be familiar to restless youth almost anywhere. Aptly enough, one of the recurring sounds that shout out from the album are the voices of children.
Most of Kala was recorded in different cities in India, Trinidad, Angola — more than half a dozen locations around the world. On her first album, M.I.A. imported the sounds of Sao Paolo favelas and Kingston shantytowns into her studios; with Kala, she went mobile, making it a point to record on location as much as possible. The noisy clash of voices and rhythms makes Kala sound like it’s from everywhere and nowhere at once. Cutting through these contrasting styles is the thin blade of M.I.A.’s own voice — all insistent yelps, slurring syllables and British brogue. She favors repeated couplets that turn her lyrics into a rhythm of their own, as much a part of the sonic fabric as the howling synthesizers and gunshot drum rolls.
M.I.A. rhymes with the swaggering bravado of a street rapper, only she favors bandoliers over bling. Parse the songwriting though, and the sensibility awkwardly falls somewhere between party girl and guerrilla fighter. The message lacks cogency, but her hooks do pack potency, even when they sound nursery rhyme-inspired. Even if her politics may not prove as irresistible as her rhythms, the scope of her musical ideas and the focus of her execution have both improved over the last two years. Her debut rolled in on a wave of hype, but with Kala, M.I.A. shows that she’s a formidable tidal force all her own.
MIA performs Saturday at the Electric Factory. The show is sold out.