Harmonizing on Harmonicas

May 21, 2014
Eric Shimelonis

It’s said the harmonica was invented by German instrument maker Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann in 1821. Nearly 100 years later, a man was born who would take his passion for the harmonica to another level… and keep it there for nearly another 100 years.


Rhythm is central to all kinds of music, and a Charlottesville musician thinks it can also play a role in building community. His motto - have drums, will travel. 

A performance by former child soldier who became a musician as a way to tell his story, kicks off a Forum on Global Engagement at Virginia Tech. Internationally known hip-hop artist and social justice advocate, Emmanuel Jal will perform a rare, free concert in Blacksburg. 

Emmanuel Jal was born in 1980s war torn South Sudan. He was swept up into a child soldiers’ brigade before a British Aid worker rescued him and brought to the UK.  What happened to him haunted his dreams until he began to turn it into music.

From Africa to Appalachia

Mar 6, 2014

It’s well documented that the American banjo has its origins in instruments brought to the colonies by enslaved Africans. 

Virginia has a long history with the banjo, and it didn’t start with bluegrass--it started with enslaved Africans. 

As early as 1781, Thomas Jefferson took note of the stringed gourd instruments his slaves played. Over the years, the banjo was transformed from an African instrument, to a predominantly white instrument with the familiar bluegrass twang.

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells & Silent Nights

Dec 20, 2013

It is that time of year—when you just might have a Holiday Jingle Ear Worm….maybe you picked it up in a department store, or from a humming co-worker.  Maybe even from this radio station.  'Tis the season for Christmas tunes.

A writer from Appomatox is actually an expert on American Christmas music and with his just-released book, Ronald Lankford attempts to reconcile the sacred and the profane.  He studies music ranging from hymns to warbling chipmunks.