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A video game called Darfur is Dying is trying to bring awareness of the situation in Darfur to a new generation of activists.

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A Short History of Myth
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global hit archives:

September 5, 2005
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Artist: Charming Hostess
Album: Sarajevo Blues
Music available at: Public Broadcasting One

The subject of today's Global Hit is a trio of women who call themselves "Charming Hostess." The name summons up a particular image -- proper, oh-so-refined, and careful not to ruffle any feathers. That's not exactly the way you'd describe Charming Hostess. They're sensual, they're smart, and they're radical. The music of Charming Hostess touches bases from North Africa to Bulgaria to Bosnia. The women themselves are based in San Francisco. Benjamin Temchine of public radio station KALW prepared this report.

The critics have had a hard time categorizing the music of Charming Hostess. Some have called it Klezmer. Founder and lead vocalist Jewlia Eisenberg says those critics are just plain wrong.

Jewlia Eisenberg:
"If they knew anything about Jewish music, they would call it nerdy-sexy-commie-girlie music, which is obviously the genre that it is."

Charming Hostess delivers a rare mix of southern European harmonies, melodies from North African Jews, hip-hop out of Brooklyn, and on their latest album, Balkan poetry.

The trio is very much a product of Jewlia Eisenberg's upbringing.

She was raised in a black-Jewish Marxist commune in East Brooklyn. Eissenberg says she was a true red diaper baby.

Jewlia Eisenberg: "My parents, were very committed to us learning the people's music ... what are people listening to in uprisings in Namibia. This! What are they listening to in Peru? This!"

Eisenberg went on to study music at the University of California in Berkeley. There she became acquainted with the work of 20th century avant garde composers, like Meredith Monk.

Jewlia Eisenberg: "Meredith Monk is one... is one of the first people to use a full body palette for singing."

"It means developing the full range of the voice. So the sounds that the body makes that are sometimes not always considered to be musical: hand claps, heartbeats, sex breath, silence, vocal percussion."

And you can hear that technique in Charming Hostess's music today.

This track, 'The Tunnel' is featured on Charming Hostess' third album, Sarajevo Blues.

The album was inspired by a collection of poems and short essays by Bosnian poet Semezdin Mehmedinovic.

Jewlia Eisenberg: "The book is amazing the minute I read it I knew I wanted to set it; The first several times I read that book, and I read it through several times. Immediately. Because you have this insight into what it means to be under siege, the ways people resist war in very humane ways, with spirituality, and humor and with erotic relationships ...all these different ways that people were in resistance"

Eisenberg has traveled the world recording what she calls "the people's music." During college she harvested the vegetables and the world songs of Bulgaria, and later did a fellowship in East Africa. For Sarajevo Blues, Eisenberg returned to the folk music traditions she studied. All of those traditions, and the melodies of North African and Spanish Jews, find their way into this song, Imam Bey's Mosque.

Imam Bey's Mosque is from a poem about a Muslim religious leader in Sarajevo whose wife was killed just days before their children were killed. In the poem, author Mehmedinovic meditates on what kind of a strange mercy this was. Eisenberg says that when Bosnians see Charming Hostess perform they often feel deeply moved.

Refugees, come up to us they say you understand us. and they are crying. Now I don't understand these people. Because I have not been where they are. but something musical understands them. the music understands them ... there is something in the music that successfully builds a bridge between experiences....

Using music to make connections between the people seen on television in destroyed cities or in ruined refugee camps, and the people who do the watching is central to Eisenberg.

Jewlia Eisenberg: "And that's part of Charming Hostess ion general, but also specifically in Sarajevo blues. how can an observer, be a participant in a helpful way. How can we participate in the best way that we can participate? And that is what the album is about."

Eisenberg is an artist in residence at MIT this fall. On Septemebr 18, Charming hostess is performing at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York in a benefit for survivors of Srebrenica massacre.

For The World, I'm Ben Temchine in San Francisco.

Elsewhere on the Web:

• More World Music at BBC Music Online




online extras

audio Monsieur Chopin Actor, playwright and pianist Hershey Felder shares his vision of Frederic Chopin.

audio Extended interview (16:39 mp3)
audio Barry Manilow's
"Could it be Magic"
(6:39 wma)
audio "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," (1:39 mp3) by Harry Carroll adapted from a section of "Fantaisie-Impromptu"
audio Gershwin meets Chopin (1:16 mp3)
Touring information:
www.monsieurchopin.com
American Repertory Theater
Hartford Summer Stage
Ravinia Festival


American-led forces in Afghanistan say they've killed as many as 20 Taliban militants in the latest clashes in Helmand province. Who are the members of the Taliban and are they still an effective force in Afghanistan?
Read our primer:


audio The World's Franc Contreras reports from Mexico City on Sunday's presidential election.

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Mexico City



audio Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross speaks about the implication of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Extended interview (16:30 mp3)


world features

Israel and the Palestinians: The Key Players
The Israeli government has blamed the Palestinian Hamas movement for the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit.

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Reporter's journal:
The World's Matthew Bell is currently on assignment in the United Kingdom. One of his reporting trips took him to Northern Ireland.

Read his journal



Immigration coverage
Reports from the US-Mexican Border
A series from The World's Patrick Cox.


Immigration Explainer

Inside Latin America





Frontline: The Age of AIDS


Amy Costello's report on South African Play Pump on Frontline WORLD/Rough Cut



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