Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit - Firewater and Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra

Performing music that's unfamiliar to you is all about exploration and discovery. And traveling around the world to do it can take you even further from your comfort zone. Well, two new releases from American musicians show it's well worth the trip. The World's Marco Werman has today's Global Hit.

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Shawn Lee grew up in the plains outside Wichita, Kansas, and now lives in London. The songs on Lee's new CD "Miles of Styles" read like an itinerary of where he's been and where he wants to go. The multi-instrumentalist has titles like "Heist in Helsinki," "Tokyo Dancer," "Prague Rock."

And this song called "Brazilian Bubble" that will fool you into thinking "Sergio Mendes." Shawn Lee has an ability to zoom-in seemingly to any place on the planet, and cherry-pick that country's identifiable pop sounds. Lee is also a mad collector of instruments.

So he brings to this music his chops on such out-there instruments as a Chinese zither called the Gu-zheng and a harmonium from India.

The other American world traveler who's been out there recently is a New Yorker who goes simply by the name Tod A. He leads a post-punk band called Firewater.

Tod A says he was angered by American foreign policy so he decided to go out in the world and see what effect that policy was having.

He began that two-year trip in 2005.

In a YouTube video chronicling his travels, Tod A explains that the results of his interaction with people and musicians he met along the way was the basis for Firewater's new CD, "The Golden Hour."

�The original idea was to travel from Delhi in India, to Istanbul in Turkey, overland. And I wanted to record along the way. So whatever musicians I met, I basically recorded them for the record.�

The musicians on the tune "Paradise Comes with a Price" hail from Pakistan and Israel. But visa restrictions prevented them from traveling to each others' country. So Tod A taped them separately, and brought them together with the help of his backpack studio. It shows that even when artists are not in the same place, music can help erase the borders.

Tod A and Shawn Lee know that from experience.

For The World, I'm Marco Werman.