Unlike that proverbial tree in the forest, global culture doesn't stop happening when SoundRoots doesn't report it for a spell. Indeed, away from Iraq, Alito, and Big Brother, some curious things are afoot.
My own ever-expanding global music collection pales in comparison to that of KCRW "Cafe LA" host Tom Schnabel, whose home and obsessions are documented in an interview in the LA Times. Though I'd love to know more details about his filing system....
Zimbabwe is pressing university students to learn Mandarin Chinese as part of President Mugabe's "Look East" policy. The government is looking east because its policies have alienated many of its former friends in the West. "It seems they are trying every political gimmick to lure the Chinese into this country to bankroll their bankrupt regime," says the president of the Zimbabwe National Association of Student Unions, Washington Katema. Read more from the BBC.
A fascinating article in today's Christian Science Monitor documents current developments in the ongoing evolution of religion in Africa, where since colonial times imported (or imposed) religions, including various flavors of Christianity and Islam, have merged with African traditional religions. "Amid intense sectarian violence in this half- Muslim, half-Christian country, these groups serve as tolerant peacemakers. Also, with widespread poverty and health concerns here, people are seeking practical, profitable religion more than rigid doctrine."
Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu is teaming up with P.O.D., and you can read about their musical marriage at mtv.com.
While the Grammys may not tell you much about the quality of music, they certainly can be a stepping stone to recognition. Mali's Amadou & Mariam are riding high on their nomination, popping up in shows all over the planet and getting nice writeups everywhere from RelishNow ("a spicy mix of things to do in Northwest North Carolina") to CNN. Though I defy you to explain how their album with Manu Chao -- Dimanche a Bamako -- however popular, is qualitatively better than their non-Manu albums.
Finally, a reminder that you have just a few days left to enter SoundRoots' January CD giveaway by leaving a non-anonymous (and at least vaguely relevant) comment. The contest runs through the end of January, and the randomly selected winner will receive the 2-CD set Sound of the World, compiled by the BBC's Charlie Gillett. You need not be present at SoundRoots headquarters to win.