3:32pm

Sun November 27, 2011
Music

Chart Hits From Hong Kong And Senegal

Originally published on Sun November 27, 2011 9:48 pm

You might know what's at the top of the music charts in the U.S. — Rihanna, LMFAO, Bruno Mars — but how about what's hot in countries across the world?

Weekend All Things Considered asked music critics from Hong Kong and Senegal what's playing on their radio station.

Hong Kong's Bubbly Cantopop

Ben Sin is a feature writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He's also been an editor for the Time Out Hong Kong website and written concert reviews for Beat Magazine.

Sin's first pick is a love ballad called "Your Happiness" by Kay Tse, one of Hong Kong's hottest stars in "cantopop" — Cantonese pop music. He says song is about "looking at things from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, you should look at it half full."

Sin says Tse has a good voice, but what really makes her popular are her near-flawless looks. "That's a big thing with the Hong Kong music scene," he says. "They have to look good."

His second pick is "The Last Party," by one of the biggest cantopop stars of the last decade, Eason Chen. "He can play instruments and he writes some of his own songs, and that's very rare for Hong Kong cantopop," Sin says.

In "The Last Party," Chen sings about death. The accompanying music video shows Chinese celebrities, including Jackie Chan's son, at a funeral. At the end of the video, the singer's ghost appears and tells the mourners to cheer up.

"The theme of the song is to not look at death as necessarily a sad thing, but to celebrate life," Sin says.

For his third pick, Sin takes a departure from cantopop with the English-language song "Velvet Tiger" by his favorite Hong Kong indie-rock band, DP.

"These indie bands are made up of normal people with day jobs, and they're not famous," he says. "They just play music that they consider to be legit."

Sin compares bass-and-drums DP to American band The Black Keys. The music video for the "Velvet Tiger" played at the 2010 South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Fast Beats In Dakar

Rose Skelton is a radio and print journalist who has written extensively about West African music. She has lived in Senegal for 10 years.

Her first pick is the pulsing "Fima Tollu," by Viviane N'dour, who Skelton calls the "queen of Senegalese pop music." The upbeat song blends the traditional musical style of the native Walof people with modern guitars and keyboards.

Skelton says she admires the trend-setting pop star. "I think she is extremely talented and brave to exist in a completely male-dominated music scene," she says. "Not a day will go by in Dakar without hearing a Viviane song on a taxi radio."

Her second pick is "Tomorrow," a guitar-driven rap song by longtime favorite popular group, Daara J Family. The hip-hop act has been around since the mid-1990s, and they have toured in the U.S. and Europe.

"Their songs are extremely pointed about certain things in society that people don't feel they can speak out about," she says, "and people really look to rappers like Daara J Family to say what it is that's on their mind."

"Tomorrow" is a rallying cry to not put off until tomorrow what you know should be done today. Skelton says the song is wildly popular in Senegal because its message resonates so well with young people there.

Skelton's final song recommendation is "Sen Regal" by Carlou D. A dramatic performer with long dreadlocks and elaborate handmade outfits, Carlou D also came out of the hip-hop movement of the 90s. Although he still incorporates elements of hip-hop in his music, Carlou D now creates acoustic music inspired by the popular religious chants and rhythms of Senegal.

"When you go to these concerts and you see him singing this song, the whole audience — from really young children to much older people — will all be singing in unison," she says.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for music. Today, we wanted to do something a little different. What's topping the music charts in the U.S.? That's easy. Rihanna, LMFAO, Adele. But how about what's hot in other parts of the world? A little harder to gauge, and even the international music introduced in the States is often designed to fit our American taste. So we went on a mission to find out what's bumping on radios and playing in iPods in other parts of the world.

We asked two music critics living far away from the Top 40s tunes of our FM dial to tell us what they're listening to.

BEN SIN: Hi. My name is Ben Sin. I'm a features writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. I've been living in Hong Kong for about five years now.

ROSE SKELTON: My name is Rose Skelton. I'm a journalist. I've been living in Senegal for about 10 years. And one of the things I write about is music.

MARTIN: All right. Time for recommendations. Here's Ben in Hong Kong.

SIN: The Hong Kong mainstream music scene, it's almost exclusively pop. And it's the manufactured bubblegum type of pop. So the first song I want to introduce to you guys is a traditional Cantopop song which is a slow ballad. It's by Kay Tse, and it's called "Your Happiness."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR HAPPINESS")

SIN: This is Kay Tse. She's one of the biggest female singers in Hong Kong right now. For this song, Kay is singing about looking at things from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, you should look at it half full.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR HAPPINESS")

SIN: And she has a good voice. That's why she's popular. And she's pretty. And that's a big thing with the Hong Kong music scene. Like, they have to look good. The next one is a song called "The Last Party" by Eason Chen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: Eason Chen is arguably the most popular and biggest Cantopop star for a decade now. And the reason for that is because he's actually good. He can play instruments, and he writes some of his own songs. And that's very rare for Hong Kong Cantopop stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: He's singing about death, and in the music video, a bunch of other celebrities, including Jackie Chan's son, Jaycee. And everybody looks sad at first, and then later, Eason's ghost comes on and basically tells everybody to cheer up and (unintelligible). So I guess the theme of the song is to not look at death as necessarily a sad thing but to celebrate life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LAST PARTY")

SIN: Hong Kong, being an international city, there are a lot of English speakers in Hong Kong. With that being the case, a lot of people are unhappy with the Cantopop. So what's happened is there's a small indie scene, and these indie bands are made up of normal people with day jobs. And they're not famous. They just play music that they consider to be legit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

SIN: We're listening to "Velvet Tiger" by DP. DP is part of the indie scene. And it's two-piece, bass and drums, like The Black Keys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

DP: (Singing) Every day get right down to the wire. It happened just the other day.

SIN: This video, it was actually screened at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, and the song itself, it's really heavy. It's metal. It's rock and roll. It's probably my favorite band in Hong Kong.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELVET TIGER")

DP: (Singing) We're unafraid. Get out. Bring it out.

MARTIN: That's "Velvet Tiger" by DP, just one of the recommendations from music reviewer Ben Sin in Hong Kong. Now to Senegal, West Africa, and musical tips from writer Rose Skelton.

SKELTON: The first song that I want to play today is by a singer called Viviane N'dour, and the song is called "Fima Tollu."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: Viviane is really the queen of Senegalese pop music. She's as much loved for her music and her songwriting as she is for her outrageous clothing and style. Her stage performances, she has this big orchestra of drummers and guitarists.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: This kind of music is called Mbalax. It's extremely fast. It's a combination of the Wolof traditions, the Wolof people, who are one of the big ethnic groups in Senegal, and then also modern guitars and keyboards. And it's the music that everybody listens to in Senegal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIMA TOLLU")

SKELTON: So the second song I want to play for you is called "Tomorrow," and it's by Daara J Family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

SKELTON: They've always been extremely popular in Senegal since hip-hop came to Senegal in the 1990s. And it's really rap, which is so popular in West Africa, and that very rapid fire rapping which the Wolof language just seems to do so well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

SKELTON: And people really look to rappers like Daara J Family to say what it is that's on their minds. So this song is called "Tomorrow." And what they're saying is if there's something that you should do, you shouldn't wait until tomorrow. You should get up and do it today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMORROW")

DAARA J FAMILY: (Rapping) Get up early morning. I suggest you wake up rather than wasting your time. Yawning and snoring while time is running. Get up and do something. You'll never make it scrounging. Don't expect to reap credit if you've sown nothing.

SKELTON: Another song that I want to introduce is "Sen Regal," and it's by a young Senegalese singer called Carlou D. He came out of the hip-hop movement of the 1990s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

SKELTON: A lot of what he does is inspired by the Sufi, Muslim chants which you hear in religious gatherings all over the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

SKELTON: He's so dramatic. He's extremely tall. He has these long dreadlocks. He wears this beautiful patchwork, handmade outfits. And when you go to these concerts and you see him singing this song, the whole audience, from really young children to much older people, will all be singing in unison.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL")

MARTIN: That's the song "Sen Regal" by Carlou D. brought to us by Rose Skelton. She's a journalist in Dakar, Senegal. To listen to that song and more of Ben and Rose's world music picks, go to npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEN REGAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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