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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Rhythms Del Mundo

Air Date: Week of March 23, 2007

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CD cover (Courtesy of Artists' Project Earth)

The spicy world rhythms of the Buena Vista Social Club meet pop hits in a new album to raise money and awareness about climate change. Host Bruce Gellerman talks with Kenny Young who produced the album.

Transcript

[MUSIC: Coldplay “Clocks” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: You’ve heard it before but probably not like this.

[MUSIC: Coldplay “Clocks” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: It’s Coldplay’s smash hit “Clocks,” mashed up with the rhythms and arrangements of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. It’s on a new record of hits and standards given the Buena Vista treatment. The album is called “Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba and it’s a benefit for climate change awareness and natural disaster relief.

The record features the familiar sounds of artists like Sting, Jack Johnson, Radiohead, the Arctic Monkeys and the Buena Vista Social Club’s own Ibrahim Ferrer all with the Buena Vista’s now famous Cuban flair.

The project was brought together by songwriter and producer Kenny Young. You might remember him for the old Drifters song “Under the Boardwalk.” He joins us. Kenny Young, thanks for being here.

YOUNG: Thank you.

GELLERMAN: Well you have worked in the past with some amazing you know celebrities, incredible talents: U2, Paul McCartney, Sting, Pink Floyd. How do you get these people to work with you? Did you have to call in any favors?

YOUNG: I don’t do anything for them. I don’t make them crocheted hats or anything. I just ask them nicely and I don’t take no for an answer, basically.

GELLERMAN: Well what is the role of an artist as an activist? Is there a responsibility of the artist in society to play a role?

YOUNG: I think so because artists relate to the mainstream and the mainstream is who we’re really trying to reach. It’s one thing to preach to the converted like so many of my colleagues are. But we have to get to the people, the masses. That’s the way we have to work. That’s the way I feel I have to work. Although a lot of musicians are hesitant to commit themselves. And that’s because, I think, a lot of famous musicians are not given the sort of leeway they should have because the people behind them tell them, you know, “This is not good for your career.” I think that’s why you don’t have more famous artists sticking their necks out.

GELLERMAN: So Sting is on the album. How did you do this? Did you take his lyrics out and then apply it to the Buena Vista Social Club? How did you do it?

YOUNG: Well, Sting is an interesting, an interesting one I had stings vocal track and guitar, and just the vocal and guitar. We worked the track around there, just those two elements.

GELLERMAN: Let’s listen to it a little bit, ok?

YOUNG: Great.

[MUSIC: Sting “Fragilidad” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]


Kenny Young is the co-founder of Artists' Project Earth and producer of the CD "Rhythms Del Mundo."
(Courtesy of Artists' Project Earth)

GELLERMAN: You know, Kenny Young, I think I like this version better.

YOUNG: (laughs) I do to actually.

[MUSIC: Sting “Fragilidad” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

YOUNG: I ran into him in, in Brazil of all places. We were both working on rainforest conservation and ah, I asked him if he would let us have Fragile. He promised to send me the track and he said, yes you could use it. And then came this project and I thought immediately, that was the first artist I thought of because I remembered that that track would be perfect to do with musicians from Buena Vista Social Club. And I thought as I’m doing this project, “Let me see if I can work that song in.”

[MUSIC: Sting “Fragilidad” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: Where does the money go? You don’t pay the performers, so what happens to the money?

YOUNG: Well, the money goes through Artist Project Earth, which is a foundation that will raise awareness of climate change and it’s for natural disaster relief. So, all the money that comes into the charity is going to go to different projects. And we have a board of advisors and experts, and we’re going to have people sending all sorts of proposals on our website, which is apeuk dot org, which stands for artist project earth UK dot org.

GELLERMAN: So, how much money can an album like this raise for global warming?

YOUNG: Well, if we sell a million copies we’ll probably raise about three and a half million dollars.

GELLERMAN: You have a song by Ibrahim Ferrer actually you have it twice on the album and he of course recently passed away. Why did you choose this song?


(Courtesy of Artists' Project Earth)

YOUNG: I don’t know. I always wanted to record As Time Goes By with a Spanish sort of salsa rhythm or a Bolero type rhythm. And I kept trying to get in touch with Ibrahim but Ibrahim was not too well. And he was just coming off his tour. And as a result I had to wait. And then I sort of got a hold of his itinerary and found that he was going to have a couple of days off from his tour in Barcelona. So I called up his manager and his record company and I begged them to let him come into the studio just for an hour or two. Finally, ah, I got the ok and Ibrahim came in.

He was very humble and very just you know a true professional. He loved the idea of doing this as a cause. And he gave an amazing performance and it only took two or three, going over the song two or three times. And um about a little over a week after he did the vocals I had heard that he passed away. I was in New York and found out. It was an incredible shock to me. Um, but he, this served as a wonderful tribute to him. It was a great performance.

GELLERMAN: Let’s listen to a little bit of it, ok?

[MUSIC: Ibrahim Ferrer “As Time Goes By” from: ‘Rythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: Boy, is that beautiful?

YOUNG: Isn’t it just beautiful.

GELLERMAN: Don’t you run the risk of people saying, “I love the music, what was the cause again?” You know?

YOUNG: Um, well, you know people, if people don’t know about global warming then it’s their problem because it’s going to face every one of us more severely every year in the future unless we do something really. Unless we stop wasting energy, unless we start using public transportation and get energy-saving light bulbs. You know things like that, turning off lights. We have to be conscious. We have to change our consciousness about what we’re doing on this planet.

GELLERMAN: Do you have a favorite on the album?

YOUNG: Um, well I’ve gotta say that Clocks is still my favorite. I also like the Arctic Monkeys.

GELLERMAN: Tell me a little bit about it.

YOUNG: Um, I wanted to get this track. I listen to the Arctic Monkeys because you know, I come from England and this band you know, I’ve heard it for quite a long time. I listened to their album and I thought, “I’ve got to get them on the album somehow.” I listened to ah Dancing Shoes and I thought that would lend itself well to a Latin feel. Alex, who’s the lead singer and guitarist he loved it. And he said, “Yes please, do Dancing Shoes.” And we did. We went into a studio the musicians, the Cubans, loved the track. They just had a laugh about it. And um the result is what you hear. I think it worked fantastically well.

[MUSIC: Arctic Monkeys “Dancing Shoes” from: ‘Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: So, Kenny Young is your foot going up and down?

YOUNG: (laughs) Yeah, I never get tired of that track.

GELLERMAN: It’s really terrific.

YOUNG: It’s been a pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I hope some people don’t take me lightly when I talk about um climate change but also, you know, keep a smile on your face and keep dancing (laughs).

[MUSIC: Arctic Monkeys “Dancing Shoes” from: ‘Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba.’ (APE Vision and Universal Music TV – 2006)]

GELLERMAN: Kenny Young is the producer of the new benefit CD Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba.

 

Links

Artists’ Project Earth

 

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