Shortly after the World Trade Center fell in autumn 2001, it became clear the United States would invade Afghanistan. Producer Scott Carrier decided he ought to go there too. Why? To see for himself: that’s what writers do. Who are these fanatics, these fundamentalists, the Taliban and the like? And what do they want?
For the weekend of 9/11/11, Hearing Voices from NPR presents Prisoner of Zion. Carrier narrates his trip to Afghanistan. With his young guide and translator, Najibulla, they tour the horrors of war.
Years later Naji tells Scott he must leave his homeland — the dangers for a translator have become extreme. Scott gets Najibulla accepted at Utah Valley University. Naji, it turns out, handles the Mormons quite well, while Scott, teaching at the same school, has a hard time with them. At the end Naji is graduating, about to get married, and start a new job; while Scott wonders whether he can stand teaching another year — or if he’ll wind up on the street like Naji.
→ From Afghanistan: A photo-audio-essay by Scott Carrier; with sounds, images, songs and prayers of the Afghan people.
A short symphony in pistons and rings, made from tractors recorded at the Reidsville, NC Antique Engine Show. All sounds are actual engines; the piece has no instruments or effects. Paul Overton is at: Dude Craft | Every Day is Awesome | PRX.
The ethanol-injected noise of cars, drivers, and fans at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an ocean-side street race with top pro race-car drivers from around the globe. One-hundred-and-eighty thousand aficionados gather around a two mile course of Fast & Loud in downtown LB — 186mph avg, 200+ on the straightaways. Co-recorded by Joe Skyward.
Thruout the hour, we hear excerpts from the tracks “Zhangmu: Crossing A Landslide Area” (2300 meters above sea level), “Palung: A Yak Caravan is Coming (5400m), “Cho Oyo Basecamp: Morning” (5700m), “Jobo Rabzang: A 6666 metre peak in the Cho Oyu Himal”, “Camp 3: Neighbours On Oxygen” (7500m), “Summit: Only slight breeze on the summit at 8201m.” Also this piece “sampled and processed from a cassette of Tibetan music.”
For twenty years, Reverend Robert Shields, of Dayton, Washington, kept a written record of absolutely everything that happened to him, day and night. For four hours each day, Shields holes himself up in the small office in his home, turns on his stereo, and types. His diary, at 35 million words, is believed the world’s longest. A Sound Portraits production, on the CD Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics And Other American Heroes (and companion book)
“Nick in SLC: Home School to High School” (1999 / 16:39) Radio Diaries
For RD’s Teenage Diaries project, they gave “tape recorders to young people around the country to report on their own lives. They conduct interviews, keep an audio journal and record the sounds of daily life — usually collecting more than 40 hours of raw tape over the course of a year. Nick Epperson of Salt Lake City began his audio diary when he was 13. The talented singer/cellist music, but has a hard time making friends.
Erica was a private investigator; now she’s a radio producer. The skills overlap: you ask questions, try to figure what happened, and make a report. (None of the interviewees were clients when she recorded them.) Produced by Larry Massett.
A good neighbor goes bad in the producer’s DC block. Dozens of rats are infesting her yard and attacking other houses. Produced for This American Life, “Neighbors,” and part of Katie’s Neighborhood Stories series. End music: Music: “Cheval Noir” Fug, Ready For Us..
“I can break the law because… I am the law.” Sleepless in Tbilisi. A twenty-four hour tour, from Turkish baths to Batumi beaches, through the country of Georgia, in Southwest Asia. High-speed sight-seeing, driven by the accidental tourguide: “a ‘detective,’ or ‘special police,’ or ‘security force.’ It’s not clear. Sometimes he even says ‘KGB,’ though that no longer exists… does it?” Music: “Dachrilis Simgera (Song for Wounded)” Tbilisi Vocal Ensemble, Georgian Folk and Sacred Songs (2002). (Annotated transcript.)
Part 1: A bike trip through Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, into windstorms, between snowbanks, and in the middle of a bison herd. Interviewees: Rick McAdam, Yellowstone Park Ranger; Geyser Gazers at Old Failthful; Kathy Urbigkit of Spin a Yarn, Dubois WY; Wolves in West Yellowstone MT.
Part 2: Finishing seven hundred miles of miking and mic-ing in Wyoming, riding north on the east side of Yellowstone,. encounting killers, hunters, special forces, and trips to Heaven. Interviewees: Dan Herring, Herring & Sons Taxidermy, Thermopolis WY; Special Forces members Buck Wilkerson (US Army retired) and David Owens (Tech Sergeant, US Air Force) at Honor Our Special Operations Forces Weekend, Memorial Day, Cody WY; Pastor William Hardrick, Kingdom of Heaven Embassy visiting his kids in Riverton WY (photo gallery).
The paving of America as seen from the shoulders and sidewalks of our country’s roads. Musings-in-motion recorded during a 5000 trek from Arizona to Georgia to Maine. “It is becoming illegal to travel this country by foot.” Music by Jeff Arntsen. (A longer version of this story is at Third Coast International Audio Festival.)
Bhutan is a land of prayer flags, Buddhism, and, like everywhere else: poverty, poor health, and domestic violence, Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk believes her job is to increase the Gross National Happiness. To do that she treks into the most remote corners of the country, meeting people she’d otherwise never see, asking about their lives, helping them with health care issues, and working to end mistreatment of woman. Outer Voices accompanied her into an unmapped corner of the high Himalayas — they are the first foreign journalists invited to accompany a Bhutanese monarch on a trek, and to interview the Queen.
The Queen of Bhutan, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, with her people (photo: Jack Chance)
Special thanks to Her Majesty Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk, the staff and clients of RENEW Bhutan, Tshering Uden Penjor, Françoise Pommaret, Ariana Maki, the Royal Body Guard and the Royal Bhutan Army, the Zulikha Nunnery, Hotel Zhi Waling, and the people of Daifam, Zamtari, and Shinka Lauri villages.
RENEW = Respect Educate, Nurture and Empower Women, “an organization dedicated to the empowerment of vulnerable women of our society so that they can emerge as socially and economically independent members of their communities.”
From the British prime minister’s speech to the House of Commons, June 4 1940, preceding the Battle of Britain:
We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
From the benefit CD Path To Zero – A Prayer Cycle I(video below). Proceeds go to Global Zero, an international organization dedicated to nuclear disarmament. Some voices on the album: Sting (on “Atomic Mother”), Robert Downey Jr., Sinead O’Connor, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Jon Anderson of Yes, Angelique Kidjo, and Pakistan’s Rahat Fateh Ali Khan; along with archival tape, including a previously unreleased recording of Jim Morrison, performing a poem on the plight of Native Americans in Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Face: Prayer Cycle | Space: Jonathan Elias.), and J. Robert Oppenheimer, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The recollections of Hiroshima survivor Kaz Suyeishi, rendered by two young Japanese woman, Kazuka and Kiyo. Alvin Huntsman performed the improvisational music by banging, scraping, and bowing several large sculptures by Gary Bates, including the “Wind Wagon,” a 35-foot multi-stringed banjo-like structure.
Land of 10K Homeless is a Minneapolis music-audio documentary project by Voices of the Streets, “An Artistic Portrayal of Homelessness in Minnesota.” Thier “website of artistic activism provides a space for the disadvantaged to share their stories.” Producer Danny Burke created this mix of the main theme, blended with interviews with individuals staying at a family shelter in Minneapolis.
After leaving the Marines, George Hill became addicted to drugs and alcohol. He soon found himself on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless for 12 years. But the kindness of another homeless man changed everything. Hill is now off the streets, working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and pursuing a computer information systems degree at Cal State University. Recorded in Santa Monica, CA; part of StoryCorps’Griot Initiative.
A portrait of the self-named, Crazy John, who lives on the streets of Austin, Texas. He tells writer Carmen Delzell about his life. Carmen was homeless for a couple of years in the early 1990s. This piece was made after she got on her feet and was living in Austin. Produced by Jay Allison (PRX).
From One Thing: The producers spent a year talking to refugees living in USA about why they had to leave their country, how they got here, and what “One Thing” they brought with that reminds them of home. In this first of several stories from the series, the Sher Ali family, a mother and nine children, was the first Afghan family to be resettled in Amarillo, Texas in 2000. They fled the Taliban in the middle of the night with only the clothes they wore. Their one thing was a photo of their father. (Produced for Weekend America w/ photo gallery.)
The stories of Burmese refugees, the Karen people, recorded in the camps on the Thailand-Burma border, and in their new American homes. Thru it all their music preserves their culture. Part of The Mountain Music Project.
The One Thing for the Augustin family was their home movies. Their religious beliefs forced them out of Iraq: Mom Nujood is a Chaldean Christian and Dad Abdullahad is a Latin Catholic. The Augustins left a comfortable life in Baghdad for Jordan, where limited opportunities siphoned much of their savings. They arrived in Detroit, where son Arkan takes pre-med courses at the local community college, while working part-time at a grocery store. (Produced for Weekend America: From Iraq to Detroit.)
Starting with the fall of Saigon in April 1975, refugees from Vietnam awaited approval to move to the US and other countries. By 1979, there were almost 62,000 Vietnamese in refugee camps, with more than 140,000 people displaced from Cambodia and Laos. Portland, Oregon, was one of the medium-sized US cities that dealt with the relatively sudden influx of every major ethnic group (Vietnamese, Lao, Hmong, Mein and Cambodian) from Southeast Asia. More than 25 former refugees were interviewed for radio piece, and movie below.
A quest for amnesia victims — it happens a lot more in movies, books and TV shows than real life. An attempt to find someone who has really had amnesia, to give someone amnesia, and to get it. Aired on This American Life “Get Over It!” and “The Friendly Man.”
A sonic journey documenting one woman’s loss of reality and descent into mental breakdown; a first-person account, with the voices of her friends who witnessed her collapse. Available as an audiobook: “Breakdown and Back.”
Interviews with Merry Pranksters Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) and Hardly Visible (George Walker); mixed with audio from the Prankster archives and other 60s esoterica. Produced for PRI Weekend America. (Above photo: courtesy of Zane Kesey.)
The legend is of a shadowy soul traveling the countryside as singer, preacher, outlaw, teacher, of a hard boozin’, brawlin’, womanizin’ Blues Man. Well, that man had a name: Charley Patton, born around 1890 in the heart of the delta.
Mormons believe Native Americans are descendants of the ancient House of Israel. It’s a Mormon mission to bring them back to the Kingdom of God. So they brought children, mostly Navajo, from their reservation homes, and placed them in Mormon foster families across the West. From 1954 to 1996, more than 20,000 kids went through the Indian Student Placement Program. Producer Kate Davidson spent a year interviewing people about their experiences. Her story, edited by Deb George, ran on the Worlds of Difference series from Homeland Productions.
“Take the road toward the top secret army base. Go past Muskrat Spring until you get near Salt Mountain.” A statue of a Hawaiian chief overlooks the Utah desert, with a plaque reading: “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,” the motto of the kingdom of Hawaii: “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” A tale of two states, lost tribes, and the Polynesians of Skull Valley who named their town, Iosepa, after Joseph Smith III.
Song & Memory: Rebel Chef Anthony Bourdain is known for his raucous ways in the world of the professional kitchen, detailed in his book “Kitchen Confidential.” We asked him to put away his pans and think back to when he was a kid — is there a song from childhood that brings it all back? Bourdain can pinpoint his desire sex-drug-rock n’ roll start to a single song: “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians. (The Song & Memory series was produced for PRI Weekend America.)
Musicians in their own words:Trudy Pitts and her husband, drummer Bill “Mr C.” Carney do a first-person duet. Trudy is an unsung hero of the Hammond B-3 electric organ. With her husband, Mr C, they’ve played with the Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry and Pat Martino. Their 50s R&B band, the Hi-Tones, featured a young sax player: name of John Coltrane. Their most rewarding musical partnership, though, is the one they share with each other. (MITOW stories were produced for NPR and are archived at PRX)
The Maddox Bros. & Rose were America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band. In the 1930s, 40s & 50s, the four brothers and sister/singer Rose paraded thru America in their colorful Cadillacs and cowboy outfits. “Their costumes make Liberace look like a plucked chicken,” said Tennisee Ernie Ford.
Born to sharecroppers in Boaz, Alabama, they rode the rails and hitch hiked to California in 1933, where they formed the band. Their sound was both old-timey and western swing; their rhythms helped plant the roots of rockabilly. Ginna Allison’s sound-portrait features interviews with Rose Maddox, Tennesse Ernie Ford, Cliffie Stone, and her co-prodcuer on this piece, TJ Meekins of KVMR-Nevada City CA. (Images: Maddox Bros. & Rose: Myspace, Rockin’ County Style)
A preacher’s son, met in a North Carolina thrift shop, comes over the house to play guitar, and talk Jesus, G chords, and Gilligan’s Island. Carmen’s grandmother would not approve. Produced by Jay Allison for This American Life (PRX).
For Veterans Day, Vietnam, Korean, and World War Two vets, recorded by StoryCorps, along with a Marine Sergeant’s recent “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” discharge. And we plug into the iPods of active-duty troops in Iraq (photo gallery), asking them what they’re listening to, and what their lives are like:
Bob Harlee served as an Army Chaplain for 18 years. In 1965, Harllee was sent to Vietnam, and he had to leave his wife and three children behind. One of those children, Carol, now 47, recently asked her father about his life in those days. As part of the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Ky., Harllee had to reconcile his role as a spiritual guide within a unit whose job it was to destroy the enemy. Still, Harllee says, his task was clear: “to encourage everybody to keep their faith strong, even though they’re in the midst of the most terrible thing that mankind can bring upon itself.” Bob Harllee died in Charlottesville, Va., several months after his interview session. He was 73.
Soldier Soundtrack, Iraq- Song: “Send in the Clowns” by Barbara Streisand from The Broadway Album. “They’re not really geared towards a democratic or republic sort of society… the biggest issue will be trying to keep Iran or Syria from moving into the power vacuum when we leave…”
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson publicly debates FOX News host Sean Hannity. The spectacle took place inside a chasm called Us versus Them. Produced in 2007 for This American Life; music: Rickie Lee Jones, “Nobody Knows My Name” from Sermon On Exposition Boulevard.