Mouth harps, desert sunrises, and camel polo

I showed up in Dalanzagad, the state center in Ömnögovi (south Govi) province, with the phone number of one person who I was told “might know musicians in the area.” That contact ended up telling us about a local music school, which we drove to and walked into unannounced. After my friend and translator Baagii explained my project, the teacher promptly stopped his lesson and furiously started making phone calls to several local musicians. The three musicians he introduced us to ended up leading us to another eight performers. We left the Gobi with close to fifty recordings.

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Thursday, April 7th, 2016 Slideshow, Thoughts, Video No Comments

The Varied Traditions of Semana Santa

Two years ago, I celebrated Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Southern Spain by marching in the beautiful and solemn religious processions with my favorite community band, the Asociación Musical San Isidro de Armilla. This year, I experienced the Dominican version of Semana Santa in Santo Domingo. Allow me to do a quick comparison:

  • Processions: The processions in Santo Domingo are similar to the ones in Southern Spain, though on a smaller scale. While I didn’t see any of the pointy hats that characterize the dress for processions in Spain, there were people dressed as knights.

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Monday, April 4th, 2016 Thoughts, Video 3 Comments

Settling in Grahamstown, South Africa

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My name is Lena Weissbrot, a rapper and digital media artist, currently living in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Grahamstown is a small college town with passionate students and professors, and a lively nightlife full of music from all genres. For the next 9 months I will research women in Hip Hop in South Africa. I will conduct video interviews with local Hip Hop artists, film live performances, and find other artists to collaborate with creatively. As a rapper, I am interested in making music with other artists. As a digital media artist I have experience creating music videos, animations and graphics for my own music, and would like to create visuals for the artists I meet here.

There is also an academic element to my project. I have been sitting in on an Ethnomusicology course taught by Dr. Lee Watkins at Rhodes University. Dr. Lee Watkins’ body of research focuses on the socio-political power of Hip Hop around the world, specifically in South Africa and China. With his guidance, I will be writing a thesis examining the challenges in visibility and inclusion for women in Hip Hop in South Africa. I began my research at the International Library for African Music (ILAM), to collect different sources for my thesis. ILAM has a collection of many beautiful traditional African instruments. I also found some great books to begin my research.

African drums

An assortment of African drums at ILAM.

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Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

Eagle Hunters and Folk Music in Western Mongolia

A late-January trip to Bayan-Ulgii, Mongolia’s western most province, led to one of my most productive recording trips yet. I was able to capture close to 50 recordings as I traveled through the snow-covered Altai Mountains. This is a song performed by a Kazakh herder, Esilbek, where he sings about the love he feels for his mother.

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Thursday, March 17th, 2016 Slideshow, Thoughts, Video 1 Comment

Records Across Former Yugoslavia


Former Jugoton record store

In Yugoslavia, record labels and stores were run by the state. There were numerous labels based around the country including Jugodisk from Belgrade, Diskoton from Sarajevo, and ZKP RTLJ from Ljubljana. The oldest and largest was Jugoton from Zagreb.
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Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 Thoughts, Video No Comments


In partnership with Fulbright