Category Archives: Music

VOA’s Music Man For Africa, Leo Sarkisian, dies at 97

FILE – Leo Sarkisian, center, his wife, Mary, and VOA Director David Ensor smile during a celebration that followed the renaming of VOA Studio 23 in Sarkisian’s honor, Jan. 29, 2014. (Source: VOA News)

In February 2013, Leo Sarkisian and his sweet wife, Mary, invited me to their home and studio in Maryland and I recorded what turned into a 3+ hour audio interview.

Sitting with him, time seemed to disappear as I was absorbed by stories about his travels and experiences. He was so kind and gracious–he even insisted that I walk away with one of his amazing drawings which I’ve since framed for my office.

Leo passed away on June 8, 2018 at the age of 97. Rest in peace, Leo.

Here’s the story from VOA News:

(Source: VOA News)

Leo Sarkisian, the creator and longtime producer of The Voice of America’s “Music Time in Africa,” has died. He was 97.

Known by his fans as the “Music Man of Africa,” Sarkisian spent a half-century traveling Africa, listening to local musicians and capturing their performances. Those recordings became the basis of VOA’s longest-running English program.

“Leo always left you feeling like you were special. He didn’t treat anyone less or greater based on their social standing or age or anything, it seemed. He was a true gentleman and optimist and lover of the beautiful things in life,” said Heather Maxwell, an ethnomusicologist who succeeded Sarkisian as the host of “Music Time in Africa.”

Meeting Murrow

Sarkisian arrived in Africa as a soldier in the U.S. Army. In 1961, a fateful encounter changed the course of his life. Edward R. Murrow, newly minted as the director of the U.S. Information Agency, came to Sarkisian’s apartment in Conakry, Guinea, and asked if he’d like to join The Voice of America. Four years later, he went on the air with “Music Time in Africa.”

He spent the next 47 years traveling the continent with his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1949. Together, they met thousands of local musicians and gave their art a global stage.

Sarkisian’s travels put him at the vanguard of African music. Maxwell said a favorite recording from Sarkisian’s collection was of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, before he developed the Afrobeat style that would become his world-famous trademark.

Sarkisian was himself a musician and artist. He sketched performers, audience members and dignitaries. Some of his illustrations can be found in “Leo Sarkisian’s Faces of Africa,” a collection of portraits of people he met in his travels.

But his greatest legacy will perhaps be the original collection of about 10,000 recordings that he curated, representing every African country. In 2014, the University of Michigan acquired the collection from VOA on long-term loan. Their work involves digitizing the collection and preserving it for generations to come.

‘I feel as if I’m just beginning’

Sarkisian retired in 2012, when he was 91.

“I feel as if I’m just beginning,” he told VOA’s Vincent Makori in an interview that year.

When asked what African music meant to him, Sarkisian said, “It’s been my entire life. It’s from my childhood right up to today, and maybe into the future. I’ll still be doing my art, and I’ll be dancing with my music. What else? It is passion.”

Sarkisian’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Turkey in the early 1900s, according to The Washington Post. Born in 1921, Sarkisian studied art and drew maps for the Army, the Post reported.

Sarkisian lived by Murrow’s “last three feet” motto, Maxwell said. That meant the most important part of communication, even across international borders, came from a personal, human connection.

“We still care about Africa,” Sarkisian said in 2012. “We care about them. We love the African culture. And in turn, of course, we have their love, also. And that is the satisfaction of our work.”

Leo and Mary Sarkisian, after spending most of their lives living in Africa, settled in Boston. Leo Sarkisian died June 8 and will be buried in North Andover, Massachusetts, with full military honors.

Click here to read this story at VOA News.

Alan Roe’s updated A18 season guide to music on shortwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alan Roe, who notes:

I have now updated my Music on Shortwave listing for A-18, and attach version 2.1.version 2.0.

Alan, thanks so much for keeping this excellent guide updated each broadcast season and for sharing it here with the community!

Click here to download a PDF copy of Alan Roe’s Music on Shortwave A-18 v2.1

VORW Radio International updated schedule

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor John with TheReportOfTheWeek who writes:

Since our last update, a few additional time and frequency changes have been made to our shortwave airings of VORW Radio Int. Each broadcast features a fun hour of misc talk and commentary as well as a wide variety of listener requested music!

The full schedule is below, with changes being highlighted.

Thursday 1000 UTC – 5950 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Western North America
Thursday 2000 UTC – 7780 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Eastern North America
Thursday 2100 UTC – 7490 kHz – WBCQ 50 kW – Eastern North America
Thursday 2200 UTC – 9955 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – South America
Friday 0000 UTC (Thu 8 PM Eastern) – 7730 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Western North America
Friday 0000 UTC – 5950 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Central America (ex. 9455 kHz)
Friday 0000 UTC – 9395 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – North America
Friday 0100 UTC – 7780 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Eastern North America & Europe
Friday 0100 UTC – 5850 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – North America
Friday 0400 UTC – 7730 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – Western North America (new. Test transmission for West Coast Listeners)
Sunday 2000 UTC – 9395 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – North America
Sunday 2100 UTC – 7780 kHz – WRMI 100 kW – North America

Questions, comments, reception reports and music requests may be sent to vorwinfo@gmail.com PayPal donations are also welcome at that email as this is a listener funded broadcast.

Reception reports will receive a QSL!

All the best,

John

Alan Roe’s A18 season guide to music on shortwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alan Roe, who notes that he has now compiled his Music on Shortwave listing for the A18 broadcast season.

Alan, thanks so much for keeping this excellent guide updated each broadcast season and for sharing it here with the community!

Click here to download Alan Roe’s A18 Shortwave Music Guide version 1.0 (PDF).

Our Galaxy Expressed as Jazz

Rather than take pictures of the Milky Way, astronomer Mark Heyer decided to capture it in a completely different art form.

This amazing video is part of an article from Interesting Engineering  depicting the motion of the Milky Way translated into a musical score.

While most astronomers love capturing unique and stunning images of the Milky Way, one astronomer wanted to capture the galaxy in a unique way. Astronomer Mark Heyer expressed how the galaxy moves in the musical composition “Milky Way Blues.”

This is no Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” as the music isn’t simply inspired by the galaxy’s sounds; it is the galaxy’s sounds. The University of Massachusetts Amherst professor created an algorithm that transformed the data into a series of notes.

“This musical expression lets you ‘hear’ the motions of our Milky Way galaxy,” he says. “The notes primarily reflect the velocities of the gas rotating around the center of our galaxy.”

Heyer assigned notes to the atomic, molecular and ionized gases that can be found between the stars in our galaxy. He then gave different pitches, tones and note count to the velocity and spectra of each gas phase. For example, atomic gases were given an acoustic bass sound, molecular gasses got woodblocks and piano, and ionized gases became saxophone notes.

“Astronomers make amazing pictures, but they’re a snapshot in time and therefore static. In fact, stars and interstellar gas are constantly moving through the galaxy but this motion is not conveyed in those images. The Milky Way galaxy and the universe are very dynamic, and putting that motion to music is one way to express that action.” He chose to compose this piece using a pentatonic scale – with five notes in the octave instead of seven – and in a minor key, because “when I heard the bass notes it sounded jazzy and blue,” he said.

You can read more about this incredible process here.

Watch the video here.

Enjoy!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.       Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.