Continental Drift

Wednesday 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Genres: International
Host: Elizabeth Cowan

Continental Drift is Atlanta’s longest running international music radio program. Featuring quality traditional and contemporary music from around the planet, you can listen to the world on Continental Drift. We play music from a different country every week!

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continental drift 1/18/23: mauritania

This week we are drifting (in a continental fashion) to Mauritania! Find the playlist here, and listen back to the episode here.

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali, and Senegal. The name Mauritania is derived from the dominant ethnic group, the Moors. Its official language is Arabic, though pulaar, soninke, wolof, and french are also officially recognized. Its signed language is Francophone African Sign LanguageSince independence from France in 1960, Mauritania has been culturally, linguistically, and politically part of the Arab world; they belong to the Arab League and the official religion is Islam. 

Moorish music can be roughly divided into ‘folk’ music and ‘classical’ music. Folk music includes lullabies, work songs, game songs, courting songs, shepherd songs, and religious praise ‘songs’, and the classical music is of the Iggawen, or griots. The music industry in Mauritania is limited: the first professional studio opened in 2003, and they are only now starting to develop a nightlife where popular music is played.

Tidinit - N´Goni (instrumento musical) - EcuRed

The tidinit

Jakwar is a style of dance music that was created in 1976 by Jheich ould Abba, a blind musician from Atar in Northern Mauritania. It was named after the fast French fighter jets, “Jaguar,” that often flew over northern Mauritania during the Saharan war.  It was made by amplifying the tidinit, a traditional 5-string lute. 

Jakwar sample:
“Guera” // Idoumou ould Jheich ould Abba (surge of wedding)

Iggawen started playing Jakwar on the electric guitar instead of the tidinit, and Hammadi ould Nana is credited as the first to do so. Hammadi learned tidinit from his father and was also influenced by his paternal grandmother, who led a group of three female singers. Hammadi was trained on the traditional tidinit music but was more interested in the Haratin folk music. 

The music of Mauritania, Part One. « Music Time in Africa

Hammadi ould Nana

In the late 1960s, one of his cousins had brought a guitar with him. When his cousin left Tidjikja several months later, the guitar did not leave with him. Over the next couple of years Hammadi started to develop a unique repertoire of guitar melodies; a repertoire that both conformed to the strict modal structures of Moorish music, and drew on Haratin folk rhythms. Running his acoustic guitar through a radio amplifier, and accompanied by his sister, several percussionists, and a chorus of female singers, Hammadi was starting to develop the sound that would make his name. When he was gifted an electric guitar, his distinctive style took form. 

Electric jakwar sample:
Hammadi ould Nana, live recording July 2000

This next recording features two young sisters, Hudho mint Abba (16 years old) and Guine mint Abba (14 years old), accompanied by their mother Mukhtara mint Nana on Ardin, an eleven string harp, and their cousin Idoumou ould Jheich ould Abba on Tidinit. This recording was made in a “small blue-walled room at 11 pm.”

Small Blue Walled Segment:
Hudho mint Abba, Guine mint Abba, Mukhtara mina Nana, & Idoumou ould Abbba

Between Tradition And Taboo: The Music Of Malouma


Female musicians are considered rare in Mauritania, though, paradoxically, the most popular musicians are often female. Dimi Mint Abba is known for her ‘salon music.’ Both of her parents were musicians, and her father was commissioned to compose the national anthem.

Malouma is a singer, politician, and activist. She’s been exiled from Mauritania (and since let back in) for her views on women’s rights and caste inequality. She’s earned the recognition of Knight of the Legion of Honor from France for her activism.

Female musician segment:
Hassaniya Song for Dancing // Khalifa Ould Eide, Dimi Mint Abba
Biyé // Ooleya Mint Amartichitt
Yarab // Malouma 
Ghlana // Noura Mint Seymali

The Orchestre National De Mauritanie was created in 1968 following independence from France, but they were shut down in 1975 after a military coup overthrew the Daddah regime. All of their recordings were nearly destroyed in the coup when the radio archive was looted by loyal military forces. During the chaos, one heroic radio engineer snuck into the archives and salvaged the reels of the music which were sequestered in his home for the past decades.

Orchestre segment:
Mauritanie Mon Pays, Que J’aime (Mauritania My Country, Which I Love) // Orchestre National de Mauritanie
La Mone (The Monk) // Orchestre National de Mauritanie

Modern Music segment:
Kar // Ahmedou Ahmed Lowl
Zina // Babylone

continental drift 1/11/23: cambodia

Continental Drift is finally back after what seems like ages (2 weeks). This week we are dusting off the engines and drifting to Cambodia. Find the playlist here, and listen back to the episode here.

The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia located in the Indochinese peninsula. It has a population of 17 million, making it the 71st most populated in the world, and 97% of Cambodians practice Buddhism. Its official language is Khmer.

Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, featuring two seasons each year (wet from May to September and dry from October to April). At the end of the wet season each year, as the Mekong River sinks back to normal levels, the Tonle Sap River reverses its flow. Bon Om Touk, the Cambodian Water & Moon Festival, is an annual boat rowing contest and the most attended Cambodian national festival. It features games, thanksgivings to the moon, fireworks, feasts, and the boat race on the reversed river. 

Traditional Cambodian music comes in 3 forms: pinpeat, phleng kar, and mahori. A pinpeat orchestra contains a ching, roneat, pai au, sralai, chapey, gong, tro, and various kinds of drums, and is sometimes accompanied by pinpeat dance. 

Pinpeat sample:
Sathouka // The Pinpeat Orchestra

Mahori is made for noblemen, contrasting with the pinpeat music for dieties. Mahori seeks to “soothe their souls,” and consequently takes on a softer sound. Common instruments include  khloy flute, krapeu, tro chhé, tro sor and Tro Ou stringed instruments, and roneat ek xylophone, roneat thong metallophone, skor romonea drums and chhing finger cymbals.

Mahori sample:
Laang Preah Poun Leah // The Mahori Orchestra

The very distinctive rock and roll of Cambodia which was produced in the late 50s, the 1960s and 70s. 

នរោត្តម សីហនុ Albums: songs, discography, biography, and listening guide -  Rate Your Music

Music of the prince

In the 50s, music was celebrated in the country. The prince Norodom Sihanouk was a singer himself, often performing on TV and releasing albums of his work. Norodom Sihanouk took over the country following independence from France in 1953. At this time, records from France, Cuba, and South America were making their way into Cambodian record stores, and it wasn’t long before Cambodian popular artists began to emerge, mixing these styles with traditional singing styles. 

The “father of popular music in Cambodia,” as proclaimed by musicologist Sam Ang Sam, was former medical student Sin Sisamouth. For a long time, he dominated the airwaves. People without radios would park their bikes outside the radio stations after work and listen as his music was broadcast on speakers outside the station. 

Stream Fearful ភ័យ ភ័យ ភ័យ Ros Serey Sothea by Sinn Sisamouth | Listen  online for free on SoundCloud

Ros Serey Sothea and Sinn Sisamouth

Ros Serey Sothea worked closely with Sinn Sisamouth, even collaborating with him on dozens of records. Born a rice planter, she took her one shot and moved to Phnom Penh as a teenager, where she was recognized for her singing talent. Her career shot off from there.  

The Vietnam war was raging right on Cambodia’s border, though Cambodia was determined to stay neutral. American soliders influenced the music scene of Cambodia through their radio, which exposed the Cambodian people to American rock and roll. One of the first “guitar bands” in the country was Baksey Cham Krong, created in the late 50s and made up of teenage brothers and friends. Whereas Sinn Sisamouth was popular with adults, guitar music became the music of young people. 

Now we move on to the 1970s. Early in the 1970s a US-aligned group took over the government, ousting Norodom Sihanouk from power. Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serey Sothea, etc remained popular, but “hippie” acts began to emerge with long hair and looser styles. None were more famous than Yol Aularong. Working closely with him, sometimes performing in his band, was Pan Rom. 

Cambodian Rock & Roll/Psych Rock Segment:
Stingy Cheeks // Sinn Sisamouth,
Khmer folk songs – Srey No (Lady Name No) Original recording
Shave Your Beard // Ros Serey Sothea
BCK // Baksey Cham Krong
Console Me // Sieng Vannthy
Youm Os Tirk Pnake // Pov Vannary
Cyclo // Yol Aularong
Pha em nas sneh (Love Is So Sweet) // Pan Rom
Crazy Loving You // Drakkar

Unfortunately, the music history of Cambodia isn’t a pretty one. Cambodia couldn’t stay neutral forever as war waged on its borders. The US bombed rural Cambodia in hopes of inciting them to action, but it ended up backfiring as rural Cambodians sided with the Khmer Rouge, a communist group backed by China. What sealed the deal for Khmer Rouge was former prince Norodom Sihanouk backing them after China promised they’d subsequently ally with Cambodia. The US pulled out support from the country and a civil war broke out, Cambodians fighting each other. 

Don't Think I've Forgotten - WikipediaThe documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgottenwhich chronicles the “lost rock & roll” of Cambodia, describes:

“After taking over the country on April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge began wiping out all traces of modernity and Western influence. Intellectuals, artists and musicians were specifically and systematically targeted and eliminated. Thus began one of the most brutal genocides in history, killing an estimated two million people – a quarter of the Cambodian population.”

As a result, 90% of musicians perished, and Cambodia has had to completely rebuild its arts scene. Players of traditional instruments are designated by the government as essential people in hopes that they will inspire and teach others to take up these styles. While the country is undergoing repair, new bands have emerged to continue on the Cambodian rock and roll tradition that was so strong before.

Revival segment:
(01) Dengue Fever – Both Sides Now   (Joni Mitchell cover)
I’m Unsatisfied // The Cambodian Space Project

continental drift 12/21/22- greece

Listen to the playlist here, and listen back to this episode here.

Today we drifted to the idyllic locale of Greece, known officially as the Hellenic Republic. It is located in the southern part of the balkans peninsula in southern Europe on the mediterranean basin. Greece was the origin of not only democracy but also western philosophy, literature, theater, and the Olympics. Because its history goes back to the 8th century BC, and its history is relatively well recorded, its folk music is rich. 

Rebetiko was the defining sound of 20th century Greece, and remains a popular folk music style. The Lausanne Treaty in 1923, intended to end a WWI border dispute, moved approximately 1.5 million Christians of Turkish citizenship to Greece. There they continued to spread eastern influence to the Turkish sound. 

Though Greece is the “birthplace of Western civilization”, you’ll hear today that a lot of its music is heavily Eastern-influenced. This is because Greece was under Ottoman rule for a good bit of its history, as well as because of its positioning around countries like Turkey and Albania that have influenced its music and culture over the years.

Rebetiko sample:
Ximeronei Kai Vradiazei // Vassilis Tsitsanis ((translation: dawn and dusk))

Dimotiká, or folk music, has lyrics influenced by poetry and often features instruments like laoutos and lyras. Nikos Saragoudas was a popular greek composer who drew inspiration from both folk and classical traditions. 

Dimotika sample:
San pas sta ksena // Nikos Saragoudas

Laiko is what followed after the commercialization of rebetiko music. Though translated Laïko means “popular song” or “song of the people”, it is less pop music and more modern greek folk music. Marinella was a popular classic Laiko singer in the 70s and 80s and has released 66 solo albums

Laïko sample:
Na Paizei To Tranzistor // Marinella

The Greek label Teranga Beat blends traditional sounds with electronic music

One band signed to the label, Evritiki Zygia, plays thracian music. According to their bandcamp album description, “The distinctively psychedelic element of Thracian music was enhanced with the introduction of the CRB-Diamond 800 organ and the Moog, giving the whole project a hybrid sound with a unique identity.” The album was recorded on an analog 24-track tape Otari MX80 and in two sessions that took place on May 18 and 19 2019. It is a live recording that captures the energy of the group’s live performances.”

Greek Fusion Orchestra was a group who played together on radio in 1973. Adamantios Kafetzis, the label creator, says of the group: “It started as a program on the radio to create a jazz fusion progressive orchestra playing traditional music tracks. Every week, they would have to produce 30 minutes of music. He [Kyriakos Sfetsas] would go and find old music in books, and bring it to the musicians just before the show started, and they would only have a small rehearsal before going on air.” 

Terranga Beat segment:
Karsilamas //  Evritiki Zygia
Morning Expectations // Greek Fusion Orchestra

Pop/Indie Segment:
Moro Mou Sss // Elli Kokkinou
Koktela // Nalyssa Green (a theremin player!)
The Race // Σtella
Don Quixote (death was a letter never sent) // Kid Flicks
Lucy // Plastic Flowers
We Need Some Space // Baby Guru

Cinematic Beats/Trip Hop Segment:
Spice Lahore // Moderator
Besima // Mononome

continental drift 12/14/22: argentina

I forgot to do the website post for this past episode, but better late than never! Listen to the playlist here, and listen back to the episode here.

Argentina is a country that makes up the southern tip of South America. It is home to 47 million people, making it the 32nd largest country in the world by population. 

Argentina’s flag is light blue with a white triband containing a yellow sun in the center. The flag represents the parting of a blue sky to reveal white clouds, which is said to be what happened when a liberation demonstration occurred in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires in 1810. The yellow sun on the flag is known as the “Sun of May”, which represents the Incan god of the sun. 

Tango is the most notable genre to come out of Argentina. Originating in the early 20th century as a mix of rural gaucho styles, cuban habanera music, slavic polka and mazurka, spanish contradanse, andalucian flamenco, and italian folk music, tango reached its golden age in the 1930s through 50s. 

Tango segment:
Garufa // Tita Merello

Nueva cancionero was a musico-literal movement sprung out of the greater Latin American nueva cancion movement, which spread left-wing ideologies through folk styles. 14 artists, both musicians and poets, met in February 1963 to sign the Manifesto Fundacional de Nuevo Cancionero. This document sought to develop a national style that could overcome tango’s dominance and encourage critical thinking and the open exchange of ideas. 

Mercedes Sosa is one of the most famous folk singers to come out of Argentina, and is the face of nueva cancionero. 

Nueva cancionero Sample:
Todo Cambia // Mercedes Sosa

Argentine rock began in the 60s when bands switched from covering English hits to producing Spanish songs of their own. In the early 70s, there was a split among rock and rollers as some artists transitioned to a heavier sound (punk, metal, etc), and others went acoustic as part of the hippie movement. Los Gatos were the first popular Argentine rock artists, reaching popularity with their breakout hit “La Balsa.” This was notable because it was both in Spanish and an original composition.

Celeste Carballo was a popular singer-songwriter in rock, blues, punk, and tango in the 1980s and 90s. In the late 80s, she made her relationship with fellow Argentine rock singer Sandra Mihanovich public. The two later released an album together, titled “Mujer contra mujer” in 1990, which was quickly embraced by the Argentine lesbian community. 

rock/indie segment:
La Balsa // Los Gatos
El Chino // Celeste Carballo
Lo Quiero Mucho a Ese Muchacho // Bestia Bebé
Vámonos De Viaje // Bandalos Chinos
Al Auto y Volver // Clara Cava, Carlota Urdiales
Pensando en ti // Lara91k
Apasionado // El Zar
A 1200 Km // Las Ligas Menores
Policía // 1915

On Al Auto y Volver: “The theme comes from that moment in the summer night where you are partying, it is daylight and you are going to flash around with your friend, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, alone and enjoy that. I feel that the theme became something when Carlota and Punga appeared” – Clara Cava

“Nada mejor que vos y yo al amanece; baliándole locas al DJ”

“Nothing better than you and me at dawn, dancing crazy to the DJ”

On Pensando en Ti: “[It is] a retrospective of my adolescence, a tribute to all that growing up on the beach with my friends, skateboarding, surfing, music and inventing everything because nothing was happening. That madness of being very alone there, in a town, but at the same time connecting with gigantic things and without borders.” – Lara91k

There were 3 distinct waves of punk music in Argentina. The first started around 1978 with early bands such as the Laxantes, the second wave came in the 80s, and the Third generation of punk groups in the 90s, including Katarro Vandalico (1990). According to Leo De Cecco, drummer of Attaque 77, the punk movement in Argentina was something strictly cultural and musical, while in England it was part of a larger social and political outburst.”

Punk segment:
De Más // Cadena Perpetua
Cuando Yo Esté Muerto // Katarro Vandalico

continental drift 12/7/22: mali

Welcome back to continental drift! This episode was very special to me, as I put in a lot of great research, and found lots of cool things to share! This is Mali. Listen to the playlist here, and listen back to the episode here.  

Mali is a country on the west coast of Africa. It is the 24th rank by land area and the 60th rank by population. The official language is French, as Mali was under colonial rule until 1960, though Bambara is the first language for half the population. 

Mali is home of Mandingnkalu, or ‘people of Manding’. What’s unique about this episode is that instead of exploring different genres, as usual, I found there to be a very distinct Manding or Malian sound with variations on this sound based on situations, influences, or content. Baba Sangare of Radio Mali says “even if we play with modern instruments, it still retains the smell of folk music.” 

This sound is derived from the jeli tradition. Jeli is the Manding word for griot, and refers to an oral historian, storyteller, songmaker. The main instrument in Manding music is the Kora, a 21 string lute, played almost exclusively by men. There is also a Taureg culture, but as that was covered extensively in the Niger episode, I won’t focus on that here. 

In the making of this episode I relied strongly on the research of ethnomusicologist Lucy Durán, who specializes in West African and Cuban music, specifically Manding music, women singers of Mali, the kora, jeli traditions, and Cuban influence in West Africa. I also found a fascinating documentary from BBC in 1989, which highlights several musicians and cultures of Mali and also was based on Duran’s research. 

Western Mali was the birthplace of the emperor Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mali empire around 1235. Sunjata’s rise to power has many twists and turns, including themes of love, betrayal, sorcery, battles, etc, which has been preserved in jeli tradition. Sunjata had a personal jeli named Bala Faseke Kouyate, and today the Kouyate lineage is regarded as the only true hereditary lineage of musicians. Anyone in the Kouyate family is automatically regarded as a jeli, regardless of if they play music or sing. 

Sunjata // Trio de Kali and the Kronos Quartet

There is a very strong Cuban influence in some of the popular Manding songs, especially those from the late 20th century. In the 1989 BBC documentary, Salif Keita says, “I consider it a duty for all Malians to love Cuban music, because it’s through Cuban music that we were introduced to modern instruments.”

Salif Keita’s biggest hit of the 1970s is “Mandjou”, which although based on a jeli praise song, has clear Latin influence. Salif Keita got his start in Rail Band. They were originally commissioned to make Buffet Hotel, owned by the rail line, profitable, so they played every day in the garden. They were super popular, launching careers of many musicians and making the Buffet Hotel the place to be.

When asked about singing in Spanish, Salif Keita says, “Je faisais semblant de chanter en espagnol, je sais pas si c’était l’espagnol, parce que on peut imiter l’intonation, mais peux pas l’exactement de la langue” (I was doing a semblance of Spanish, but I don’t know if it was Spanish, because I can imitate the intonation, but not exactly the language). 

But why cuban influence in Mali? Baba Sangare of Radio Mali credits the “percussion, frenzy, taste for dance, and expressing oneself through drumming.” He says “the African loves everything that is rhythm,” and “it’s a lot easier to dance to than the tango or the waltz.” 

Cuban segment:
Mandjou // Salif Keita
Nansi Komotigi // L’orchestre National “A” de la Republique du Mali

Bamako wedding celebration

Sundays are special in Mali, specifically in the capital Bamako. On Sundays, “the entire city becomes a riot of colour and rhythm.” This is because Sunday is the day of jelis in Bamako, and of weddings (traditionally), up to 500 in one Sunday. Amadou & Mariam made album Dimanches à Bamako about this celebration. “Beaux Dimanches” describes the going ons about the city for a wedding. 

Amadou & Mariam

From “Beaux Dimanches:”

Les dimanches à Bamako c’est le jour de mariage (Sundays in Bamako are the day for marriage)
Les djembés et les n’doulous résonnent partout (Djembes and N’doulous sound throughout)
Les baras et les n’tamas résonnent partout (Baras and N’tamas sound throughout)
La kora et le n’goni sont aussi au rendez-vous (The kora and the n’goni are at the function)

Les parents et les sympathisants sont au rendez-vous (parents and loved ones are at the function)
Les copains et les voisins sont au rendez-vous (friends and neighbors are at the function)
Les Founés et les Djidis sont aussi au rendez-vous (The Founes and the Dijidis are also at the function)

Wedding sample:
Beaux Dimanches // Amadou & Miriam

In Mali, there is a strict gender divide among musicians: women are the most popular singers, and men are instrumentalists. Women dominate radio and popular music, though it is important to note that they are not allowed to play instruments, whereas men are allowed to sing, so it is just as well (in my opinion) that they get to shine in the singing department. Jelimusow, or women jelis, have become “an important role model for the blending of old cultural values with new social norms. Male musicians complain that they are overshadowed by these fabulous cantatrices, and have even formed an association (Association Amicale des Artistes) to ensure that they receive their proper share of the sometimes substantial sums of money bestowed on these women by their adoring audiences”. Due to the predominance of women singers, many of their songs are about issues that affect women adversely, such as polygamy and arranged marriages. 

In “San barana”, Kandia Kouyaté (of the true lineage of jelis) is calling on co-wives to respect each other. She is firmly grounded in the Maninka tradition of her home town of Kita, one of the great centres of jeli music. 

San barana // Kandia Kouyate

Ami Koita | SpotifyAmi Koïta is another woman I’d like to highlight. She was popular in Mali in the 80s and 90s, for her music and also her penchant for star power. Many of her songs were dedicated to Concorde Gaye, her main patron, a Senegalese businessman who famously provided her with a new car every two years. She incorporated a lot of contemporary elements into her music such as trumpet, saxophone, violin, synth, drum machine, etc. She drew from Manding tradition but also controversially from Congolese soukous, zouk (which we talked about in the West Indies episode), and salsa, and was thus called jeli finesse (sophisticated) and jeli pachanga (salsa is often referred to as pachanga in mali). 

Concorde Gaye // Ami Koïta

Many Manding tunes (including many featured on this episode and especially newer songs) have been “played so often that they are more like blueprints for improvisation than fixed melodies – like jazz standards they are constantly updated with new interpretations, peppered with references to global rhythms and dazzling, virtuosic ornamentation.” Keletigui Diabaté says “l’improvisation c’est pour enlever la monotonie de la musique.

Ali Farka Touré, was a world renowned Mali musician known for his blues style guitar. His son, Vieux Farka Toure (The Hendrix of the Sahara), has carried on in his style, even reworking some of the same songs as his father. Ali, a collaboration with Texas artist Khruangbin, is a remembrance to his father who died in 2006. The songs were selected by Ali’s 11 children. In Mali, your family name will often correspond to your profession, and it is common for families to all be musicians. We saw this earlier with Sidiki Diabate, and also the Kouyaté lineage. 

Jarabi (also spelt “Diarabi”) talks of the power of passionate love, and advises youths to follow their hearts in their choice of marriage partner. It is a popular choice to be played at weddings.

Standard Song Segment:

Tangambara // Ali Farka Touré
Diarabi // Vieux Farka Touré
Se se wa bena” “song encouraging rural youth to organize themselves” (36:24)

International songstress Fatoumata Diawara plays NYC March 30 - New York  Amsterdam News

Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara takes Malian music and blends with the Western style of London to create Londonko. 

Londonko sample:
Nterini // Fatoumata Diawara

Thanks for reading, or tuning in! I’m here every Wednesday 8-9pm with a new country. Join next week for Argentina.