National Public Radio, Nova Onda Do Pelo, and The Very Best

January 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm 2 comments

by Alec Patton

Nova Onda do Pelo (photo from

My friend Anil Mundra wrote an article for National Public Radio (America’s BBC radio, minus about 90% of the funding*) about the Brazil-based band Nova Onda do Pelo (NODP to the cognoscenti, according to Anil’s article) , and it’s worth reading (and listening to the accompanying track on the NPR media player – more on that in a moment).

The first thing I want to point out about the band is their personnel – NODP grew from a jam session in Salvador de Bahia (Brazil’s one-time capital) between percussionist David Wehren (who ‘lives’ in the mountains outside Lausanne, to the extent he could be said to be domiciled in any single location), bass player Yunior Terry Cabrera (who splits his time between Cuba and New York), and sax player BA (from Salvador de Bahia). They brought in a few more musicians, some from Salvador, some from the rest of the world, and recorded an album, most (if not all ) of which seems to be available to listen to on their myspace page – and speaking personally, I can’t get enough of it.

I’m not going to make any grand claims for cross-national musical collaboration, but it has led to some pretty awesome music (though NODP’s carbon footprint doesn’t bear thinking about) – and in the UK, you can put together a trans-national band without getting on a plane, or even getting in your car in some instances – which brings me to my next discovery –

First, some geekery. When I read Anil’s article and clicked to listen to the accompanying song, I was taken to the NPR media player. This is set up according to a rather different paradigm from BBC’s iplayer – as far as I can tell, much of NPR’s programming is broken up into pieces that last under five minutes, which you can add to your ‘playlist’ – thereby constructing your own NPR radio show, in whatever order you want. It seems pretty cool to me – but what I’d really like is a radio aggregator site that lets me do this with bits and pieces from radio stations around the world.

Anyway, the NPR media player recommended I listen to a piece of the programme ‘Morning Edition’ (roughly analogous to a mix between the Today programme and Start the Week on Radio 4) which was about the band ‘The Very Best’. This band was founded when two producers living in London, Etienne Tron (who is French) and Johan Karlberg (who’s Swedish) met Esau Mwamwaya, a singer from Malawi who ran a secondhand furniture shop down the street from their studio (so yes, apart from anything else that’s international about this, I learned about a London band from an American radio station – Thomas Friedman’s right after all). The Very Best, with their google-confounding name, are really good, and you can listen to them on spotify.

The point of all this (beyond the fact that you should listen to NODP and The Very Best) is that both of these discoveries were entirely serendipitous (I only read Anil’s article because it appeared on my Facebook feed) – I’ve heard the internet described as a vast, charmless city with lots of information but no heart (so, sort of like Canary Wharf) but these were very charming discoveries – of course they’re both accompanied by a nagging feeling that there must be LOADS of music that sounds like both of them that I’ve just never heard because I’ve never listened to music from Salvador de Bahia or from any cities in Malawi – and it can’t be coincidence that the one thing that unites the personnel of both of these bands is the presence of white Europeans.

So from my comfortable perch as a consumer, contemporary music is a movable, streamable feast – I feel no anxiety over whether a particular scene is whithering away (as I constantly worried in my teens) because there’s always another scene to check out somewhere in the world. What now remains to be seen is whether either of these bands end up getting any money from me…

*NB: Absolutely no research was done to back up that figure.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Student Loan Federal Consolidation  |  January 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    […] National Public Radio, Nova Onda Do Pelo, and The Very Best … […]

  • 2. Meredith Magulak  |  January 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I , too, serendipitously stumbled across much of this music inadvertently after reading Tropical Truth by one of Brazil’s Tropicalia’s founder Caetano Veloso. Africa Brasil by Jorge Ben Jor is an amazing cd worth checking out as well as the artists K’naan and Tinariwen if you have not already. Enjoy!


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