WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.


New York, NY




WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.






WNYC Radio 160 Varick St. New York, NY 10013 (212) 433-9692


Yasser Tejada Celebrates the Shared African Roots of Dominican Music

Dominican guitarist, vocalist, composer, and producer Yasser Tejeda explores the African roots of Dominican music, and combines the folkloric with jazz, rock and Caribbean influences. Lately, he has turned to Congolese guitar, and Haitian rhythms (Hispaniola), New Orleans and Afrobeaty funk to highlight the way that music has crisscrossed the Atlantic. Tejada and his band tear it up in the studio with music from his latest, La Madruga, (Dawn/Dusk). Yasser Tejada plays at TV Eye on June 15. Set list: 1. "El Sol De La Madruga" 2. "En El Naranjo" 3. "Todo Va A Marchar" Watch "El Sol De La Madruga":


Manchester Orchestra Finds A Tender Calm and Floating Optimism

Atlanta-based indie rock band Manchester Orchestra has long had a decidedly cinematic approach to songwriting, with tunes that grow in the telling and explode into grand, almost orchestral choruses. Now, they’ve released The Valley Of Vision, a stirring, emotional journey of healing inspired by a 1975 book of old Puritan prayers found in a suitcase. In these six songs and a VR film, Manchester Orchestra digs deep to find the peaceful floating zen of resolve and try on what it might mean to feel all right again. Songwriter Andy Hull and guitarist Robert McDowell play some of these tunes remotely in intimate arrangements. Set list: “Capital Karma”, “Quietly”, “Rear View” Watch "Quietly":


Mike Peters of The Alarm, On Going Forwards With Euphoria

Since 1981, Welsh musician Mike Peters has been the voice of the hit-making British band The Alarm. After the band split up in 1991, Peters wrote and released solo work, before reconstituting The Alarm in 2000, (Wikipedia.) Since being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2005 (he is also co-founder of the Love Hope Strength Foundation), Mike Peter’s career has been largely determined by the cycle of remission and relapse. But to listen to The Alarm’s upcoming album, pointedly called Forwards, and you’ll hear a man whose songwriting is as anthemic as ever, and, yes, determinedly forward looking. Mike Peters plays some of these new songs, as well as one of the band’s old hits, on acoustic baritone guitar, in-studio. (-John Schaefer) Set list: "Forwards", "Next", "The Stand" Watch "Forwards": Watch "Next": Watch "The Stand":


Orquesta Akokán Channels Golden Era of Cuban Mambo

Orquesta Akokán bursts and flows with the spirit of dance orchestras of the 1940’s and 1950’s of Havana on their debut record of nine tunes - all sparkling, blazing, soulful, and meticulously arranged and composed mambo originals. Together, singer José "Pepito" Gómez, producer Jacob Plasse, and arranger Michael Eckroth, along with Cuba’s finest players, young and old, recorded the record live to tape in a three-day session at the legendary and revered Estudios Areito in Cuba – where percussion and piano absolutely pop, and the brilliance of brass is magnified. The recording is the first Spanish-language venture for Daptone Records, (the folks who brought you Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley, and other timeless artists) whose old-school techniques and attention to sonic detail ensure a living, breathing warmth. The big band collective Orquesta Akokán joins us to play some of these Cuban Mambo (and rumba, cha-cha and jazzy) tunes in-studio. -Caryn Havlik


'American Songster' Dom Flemons' Old-Timey Stories and Tunes, In-Studio

Dom Flemons is a Grammy-winning singer, guitarist, banjo player, and all-around scholar of old Americana who was part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Flemons has dubbed himself “The American Songster,” and has performed songs rooted in blues, early gospel, ragtime, proto-country, and other forms of old-time folk music. His new album, Traveling Wildfire, includes a couple of his unerring arrangements of older tunes, but it’s largely comprised of original songs. Dom Flemons, the preservationist, storyteller, and instrumentalist, brings his one-man Americana road show to the live studio. Set list: "Traveling Wildfire", "Slow Dance With You", "It's Cold Inside" Watch "Traveling Wildfire": Watch "Slow Dance With You" : Watch "It's Cold Inside":


Violinist Curtis Stewart Carves Space In Classical Music

Curtis Stewart is a violinist, composer and arranger, and the current Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra. He is also the son of two professional jazz musicians, and when, at some point, he was offered the choice between composition and improvisation, he said “yes please” and took both. So on his own and with the improvising string quartet known as PubliQuartet, along with The Mighty Third Rail, Curtis Stewart plays a huge variety of music. Stewart and several musical friends: (Aaron Diehl, Eleanor Oppenheim, students from the Kaufman Music Center, Special Music School, and PubliQuartet) give just a hint of his range, performing in-studio. (-John Schaefer) Set list: Trad.: "Thalassaki Mou" Stewart: "Call, Response" with PubliQuartet Trad.: "Deep River", with PubliQuartet, with Eleanor Oppenheim, students from the Kaufman Music Center, Special Music School of Love. by Curtis Stewart


Playful Folk Fuzz and Daring Warmth From This Is The Kit

This is the Kit is the alias of British singer and guitarist Kate Stables, as well as the band she fronts. Her early albums were rooted in the long British folk/rock tradition, with later work perhaps more under the influence of indie rock. In June, she releases a new album called Careful of Your Keepers produced by Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), full of big ideas and big arrangements, but it’s also a very intimate, honest, and introspective set of songs. Kate plays some of them in a solo performance, in-studio. - John Schaefer Set list: “More Change”, “Stuck in a Room”, “Inside Outside” Watch “More Change”: Watch “Stuck in a Room”: Watch “Inside Outside”:


The Heavy Taps Into the Muscley Sound of Southern Soul

The Heavy is a band from Bath, England – an unlikely place for a group whose sound has been rooted in the kind of swampy, sweaty mix of gospel, R&B, funk and rock that we associate with the American south. Their latest, Amen, is "an exhilarating maelstrom of ‘60s R&B riffs, horns, and gospel harmonies" (Bandcamp), which "writhes with seditious blues drama, soul and gospel passion, the crunch of prime hip-hop and garage punk’s visceral electricity", (ShoreFire.) The full band joins us in-studio on a rare day off on their American tour. Set list: "Hurricane Coming", "I Feel the Love", "Feels Like Rain", "Bad Muthafucker" Watch: "Hurricane Coming": Watch "I Feel the Love": Watch "Feels Like Rain": Watch "Bad Muthafucker":


Gotopo's Indigenous and Ancestral Futurism

Gotopo is a Venezuelan singer and musician currently based in Berlin. Her music explores her own Afro-Indigenous roots through a mix of ancient folkloric sounds and modern electronic dance music. She is a "digger", and has thrown herself into researching source material, as in an Afro-Venezuelan hymn intended for slaves to give a spiritual farewell to their relatives who died at the hands of the enslaver which informed her song, "Malembe". Her debut release, called Sacudete, comes out on May 19, and Gotopo performs her indigenous and ancestral futurism, in-studio. Set list: "Piña Pa La Niña", "Cucu", "Sacudete" Watch "Piña Pa La Niña": Watch "Cucu": Watch "Sacudete":


Serbian Quartet EYOT Swirls Between Many Musical Styles

Serbian quartet EYOT draws on traditional Balkan folk music, jazz, classical piano, punk, and art-rock, and fits neatly into none of these categories. Their music - partly composed, and partly improvised - never loses its groove, even as it frequently makes use of the odd rhythm patterns (5/8, 7/8, 9/8) that are part of the turbulent history of the region. EYOT celebrates their 15th anniversary of making music together by playing some of the tunes from their most recent album, 557799, (yep, because of said odd meters contained therein), in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: "557799", "Linen", "Horizon" Watch "557799": Watch "Linen": Watch "Horizon":


Tribute to Doc Watson’s Lasting Legacy on 'I Am a Pilgrim'

This year marks the centennial of legendary North Carolina folk musician Doc Watson, one of the giants of the folk revival of the 50s and 60s. There’s a new album paying homage to pays homage to Watson's lasting legacy and influence on American music, which features a stellar cast of contemporary musicians playing some of the songs Watson had championed; it’s called I Am A Pilgrim – Doc Watson at 100. The producer of the collection is Grammy Award winning guitarist, songwriter, and producer Matthew Stevens, who gathered a few of the album’s featured musicians and collaborators - singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Valerie June, Brooklyn-born teen banjo wunderkind Nora Brown, fiddler Stephanie Coleman, and musician James Shipp - to play some of these songs in-studio. Plus, hear a bonus original tune, "Man Done Wrong", by Valerie June. -Caryn Havlik Watch Valerie June and Matthew Stevens play "Handsome Molly": Watch Nora Brown, Stephanie Coleman, James Shipp: "Am I Born to Die": Watch Nora Brown, Stephanie Coleman, James Shipp: "Your Long Journey": Watch Matthew Stevens play "Alberta": Watch Valerie June play "Man Done Wrong":


Tarta Relena Like Their Voices To Travel

Catalan folk duo Tarta Relena's vocal-based music limns centuries and borders, ranges from the sacred to the secular, and often uses electronics. Their body of work so far reimagines Mediterranean folk, Georgian laments, and the 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen. Then, there's their setting of verse from Afghan Pashto women singing about “controversial subjects such as envy, broken hearts, hatred or lust”, and adapted sacred music (they met as members of a religious music choir), (Songlines, 2022). Singing in Catalan, Spanish, Greek, Latin, English and Ladino, they treat each language as a tool, a color to bring up an emotion. Tarta Relena’s arrangements and performances traffic in the intense spirituality and human connection of the music, which lands with joy and poignancy, enhanced by dramatic use of electronics: percussion, drone, some bass synth, and vocal effects. For this edition of the Soundcheck Podcast, Tarta Relena sings a cappella, just like they started the duo back in 2016. They perform on location from the 2023 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN. - Caryn Havlik P.S. “Tarta relena” means “stuffed pie” in Spanish. Set list: "Esta Montagne d’enfrente", "Tuta Pulchra" Watch "Esta Montagne d’enfrente": Watch "Tuta Pulchra":


Party With The Lost Bayou Ramblers, Swinging Cajun-Style (Archives)

Louisiana-based Lost Bayou Ramblers are a swinging punkass party band who mix Cajun melodies on fiddle, accordion, guitars, and some electric sounds. They've won a regional roots Grammy for their record, Kalenda, but they’ve also done an original score for ROUS, a film about Nutria Rats and Louisiana’s coastal land loss, and contributed to the score for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Fresh off the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, the Lost Bayou Ramblers join us in the studio (from the Archives, 2018.)


Algiers Manipulates Sound Worlds in Furiously Exhilarating Fashion

The Atlanta-born quartet Algiers mixes post-punk guitars, gospel vocal harmonies, hip hop sampling, chopped and screwed production techniques, and pointed social commentary in a revolutionary way that is dark, urgent, angry, and utterly exhilarating. Their most recent record, Shook, has Algiers’ signature fury and weight, features a multiplicity of voices, and is the result of the creative energy released into the space and time generated by the enforced pause on touring. As Frankie Fisher says in a Bandcamp interview, "Algiers’s ethos, philosophy, and politics are about inclusivity and people generally on the margins", and in keeping with that, multiple guest artists from within the community contributed to this rich and complex sound, and the collaborative conversation even took on a new New York feel after the Shook stems were shared and manipulated into a separate companion soundworld. Algiers plays music from Shook, as a trio, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: “Irreversible Damage”, “Bite Back”, “Green Iris” Watch “Irreversible Damage”: Watch “Bite Back": Watch “Green Iris”:


Ezra Collective: 'You Have To Sound Like The Authentic You'

The London quintet known as Ezra Collective looks like a jazz band, with their dueling horns, keys, bass and drums. But their music reflects the lively artistic ferment happening now in South London, where the sounds of Caribbean music, hip hop, and especially the Nigerian style known as Afrobeat have all become part of the scene. Ezra Collective’s drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso studied with the late, great Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and with his brother TJ on bass, the two Koleosos form a propulsive rhythm section, but one that’s full of surprises. Add in keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, and tenor saxophonist James Mollison, and the quintet brings audiences a hybrid jazz with killah beats for dancing. - John Schaefer Set list: "Ego Killah", "No Confusion", "Belonging" Watch "Ego Killah": Watch "No Confusion": Watch "Belonging":


Harpist Brandee Younger Goes Beyond Musical Barriers

Harpist, collaborator, bandleader, educator, and improviser, Brandee Younger, has mastered the language of Debussy, Ravel, Alice Coltrane, R&B, hip hop, mid 20 century pop, funk, reggae, the blues, and hymns, to name merely a few genres. In her work, she weaves in ALL the sounds of the day- and is not locked into any one genre, just like the great pioneering harpist Dorothy Ashby – who was “way ahead of her time”. Younger’s latest effort, Brand New Life, covers and re-imagines some of Dorothy Ashby’s unreleased music, recruiting players like bassist/vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello, singer/songwriter/MC Mumu Fresh, guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Makaya McCraven, vibraphonist Joel Ross, and the great hip hop producer Pete Rock. Brandee Younger brings the killer bass lines, hang time, wide expressive range, and the delicate chords, trills, and sweeps - and demonstrates different extended harp techniques (pedal slide, prepared harp, playing near the board) - playing solo, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, “Essence of Ruby”, “Unrest I” Watch "Lift Every Voice and Sing": Watch "Essence of Ruby": Watch "Unrest I":


Fenne Lily Considers Closeness, Attachment, and Loss

Fenne Lily is an English singer, guitarist and songwriter now based here in New York. The songs on her new album, Big Picture, were written as some kind of way to bring order to some of the most vulnerable points of 2020. She explores her ever-changing view of love as a process, brightly framing worry, doubt, closeness, and letting go. Fenne Lily and her band play in-studio. Set list: "Pick", "Lights Light Up", "Dawncolored Horse" Watch "Pick": Watch "Lights Light Up": Watch "Dawncolored Horse":


Trombonist Kalia Vandever's Delicate Pattern Music

Brooklyn-based trombonist, composer, and bandleader Kalia Vandever weaves beautifully layered musical tapestries using layers of her horn, electronics, and occasional wordless vocals, creating works that sound dramatically different from the music she plays with her jazz quartet, or the work she’s done with Harry Stiles, Lizzo, indie rock’s Japanese Breakfast, and many others. Kalia Vandever's latest, We Fell In Turn, is inspired by Hawaiian mythology, dreamscapes, and ancestry. She plays some of these compositions for solo trombone and electronics, in-studio. Set list: "Held In / Stillness In Hand", "Recollections From Shore" Watch "Held In / Stillness In Hand": Watch "Recollections From Shore": We Fell In Turn by Kalia Vandever


Neo-Romance From Composer and Pianist Alexandra Stréliski

Alexandra Stréliski is a French-Canadian pianist who creates minimalist and cinematic music in the vein of composers Frédéric Chopin and Erik Satie as well as film music composers like Zimmer, Glass and Nyman - heavy on romance and with enough space to linger on the emotions in her work. Stréliski’s music was heard in HBO’s Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies Season 2 round-table, and in the Jean-Marc Vallée’s film Dallas Buyers Club (2013). Her latest release, Néo-Romance, conjures longing and hope, dream and imagination - inspired by the great themes of the romantic era, nostalgia, nature and spontaneity. Alexandra Stréliski performs some of these melancholic and beautiful tunes, in-studio. Set list: "In the Air / The Hills", "The Breach", "Borders" Watch "In the Air / The Hills": Watch "The Breach": Watch "Borders":


The New Pornographers Burn Bright, Ready For the Long Fade Out

The New Pornographers reliably bring the power pop; one can always count on big hooks, anthemic choruses, and impeccably arranged orchestrations. Then there are the sweet vocal harmonies, a few additional beats to make things far from simple, and unexpected lyrical twists like a plan for “a long fade out,” "we burst through the Overton window”, and "You made this hell yourself?/Well, it's real nice". Songwriter & vocalist Carl Newman has never settled for a simple narrative or a beautiful landscape in song lyrics that seem halfway in the real world, but not quite right; or sometimes in images that are non-representational, maybe like modern art. From glittering arpeggiators to a well-placed sampled yelp, along with saxophones and meaty synths, the songs seem to be born of a playful approach – “trying out ideas as if no one is listening”, describes Newman, and perhaps hinting that he also uses another delicate method in his songcraft of ‘mess around and find out’. Some of the members of The New Pornographers play stripped-down arrangements of songs from their latest, Continue as a Guest, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: “Really Really Light”, “Angelcover”, “Firework in the Falling Snow” Watch "Really Really Light": Watch "Angelcover": Watch "Firework in the Falling Snow":