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Global Hit

For 22 years, the Farm Aid concerts have raised awareness about small family farms.

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And they've raised funds to help keep small farmers doing what they've always done: grow food.

Though the shows have mostly been about American farmers, there's a growing realization within Farm Aid that the fate of small farms is an international affair.

Musically, that was obvious this weekend outside Boston where Farm Aid held its 2008 edition.

That's Farm Aid co-founder Willie Nelson introducing Nation Beat, one of the many acts on Saturday.

Surrounded by artists like Kenny Chesney, the Pretenders, and Arlo Guthrie, Nation Beat stood out.

For one thing, a lot of their songs are in Portuguese. Nation Beat is led by Scott Kettner. He used to study jazz with drummer Billy Hart. And Kettner says that some years ago, he began looking at idioms beyond jazz.

Kettner: "I asked him I said Billy I'm getting really interested in Brazil. Is there anything else besides samba and bossa nova? And he says, yeah there's this rhythm called maracatu, you really gotta check it out. And I said well here, show it to me, and I pointed to his drum set, show me the rhythm. And he says, I don't know how it goes, I just know that it's a bad ass rhythm, and you gotta go learn it and teach it to me."

Scott Kettner did learn maracatu. And when I met him on Saturday, he just happened to have a drum head to demonstrate on.

Kettner: "Well it's kind of hard on this, but it's DUM...du-koom-du-koom, DUM."

This is Nation Beat, off their newest recording "Legends of the Preacher."

And for those of you who know Willie Nelson, the tune should sound familiar.

That's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Willie Nelson heard that version just over a month ago.

Nelson: "My manager was listening to the radio, and he heard some of their music. And he played me their music and I started talking to them, and they were just a fantastic group. And asked them if they wanted to come in and be on Farm Aid. It was really that simple."

Kettner and Nation Beat then segued into "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," this time with Willie Nelson joining lead singer Liliana Araujo on vocals.

Coincidences aside, a Brazilian band on the Farm Aid bill is a musical tip of the hat to how small farmers around the globe all face the same issues.

Most family farms are just scraping by. And both Scott Kettner and Willie Nelson are aware of that.

Nelson: "Farmers are farmers all over the world and none of them have ever made too much money. I became aware of that fact in my hometown in Abbott, Texas, where I grew up. I worked on farms and ranches around there when I was growing up, trying to make some school money."

Kettner: "We're here to represent the American family farmer, but also the Brazilian family farmer. We live in the world. Whatever happens in any part of the world it's going to affect us here as well. So we have to go for the family farmer all over the world because it's not just here that the family farmer is struggling. It's all over the place."

Nation Beat shed a little light on that struggle at Farm Aid on Saturday.

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