Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"The History of Jazz, Part One"

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

In two thousand one, public television aired a series that told the story of jazz. Filmmaker and writer Ken Burns and writer Geoffrey Ward told how this music developed over the years. They showed how African-Americans created new sounds from their memories of slavery in the South. The filmmakers told how black, Creole, and white Americans created a new musical form.

Today on THIS IS AMERICA, Shirley Griffith and Steve Ember present the first of two reports about the history of jazz.

"Jazz" can mean different kinds of music: swing, bebop, or fusion. Jazz can make the listener feel sad or joyful, quiet or full of energy. It can sound hot -- or very cool.

Performers of jazz create some of the music as they play. They add their own notes to music that is written down. Each time a jazz musician plays a piece, it can sound fresh and new. Jazz musicians surprise listeners by breaking up traditional rhythms. And, they give greater intensity to unexpected parts of the music.


Gospel Singers
Jazz probably had its roots in the nineteenth century. In the late eighteen-eighties, African-Americans began to develop new forms of music. They created blues music from the gospel music and sad songs of their years in slavery.

Ragtime also influenced the creation of jazz. This music first gained popularity in the eighteen-nineties in the South. African-American piano player Scott Joplin wrote many ragtime songs. Listen now as Joshua Rifkin plays Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag."


African-American and Creole musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana probably developed the first true jazz music. This happened during the early nineteen-hundreds. Musicians performing in memorial and holiday parades added their own music to written music. This New Orleans music is often called classic, traditional, or Dixieland jazz.

From New Orleans, musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and King Oliver helped spread jazz to other places. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band plays "Chimes Blues."


Louis Armstrong
Jazz continued to gain popularity as the years passed. During the nineteen-twenties, Louis Armstrong became famous for his performances on the trumpet and jazz cornet. Later his unusual voice became just as famous. Listen as Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five play "West End Blues."


Historians often call the nineteen-twenties the Jazz Age, or the Golden Age of American Jazz. Young people from the Middle West created a new musical form during this time. People called this Chicago-style jazz. These musicians included great performers like Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman.

During this Golden Age, Bix Beiderbecke played cornet solos with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. He also played piano and wrote music. Here he plays "There Ain't No Sweet Man" with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.



Duke Ellington
As time passed, a jazz form called "swing" became very popular in America. People danced to swing music until after World War Two. This musical form got its name from a song by Duke Ellington. Listen as Duke Ellington and his orchestra play "Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing").


Benny Goodman led one of America's most successful swing bands. People called Goodman "The King of Swing." Critics also praised his playing of the clarinet. He was the first jazz clarinetist to play with symphony orchestras. Goodman also presented black and white jazz musicians playing together for the first time. He introduced great African-American jazz artists like Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson.

Other big bands of the time were led by Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey, Earl Hines, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton and Glenn Miller. Fine jazz singers performed with these bands. They included Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday. Listen now as Billie Holiday sings "Solitude."


Glenn Miller
After World War Two, a new kind of music replaced swing as the most popular jazz. Next week, we will tell you about this kind of music called bebop. Until then, we leave you with the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing "String of Pearls."


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Holly Capehart. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for the second part of our report about the history of jazz on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.



1. Jazz music can make the listener ____________________ .
a: joyful
b: sad
c: quiet
d: all three of the above adjectives.

2. The people who created the jazz form ___________________ .
a: were African-American, Creole and white
b: Germans, Italians, and Spaniards
c: Eskimos, Finns, and Latvians
d: dogs, cats, and chickens.

3. The roots of jazz come from the ____________________ .
a: 1800’s
b: 1500’s
c: 1900’s
d: yesterday.
4. Nineteenth-century music that greatly influenced the creation of jazz was________ .
a: the waltz 
b: la macarena
c: ragtime
d: reggaeton

5. The city most people think about as the birthplace of jazz is
a: San Francisco 
b: New Orleans
c: Chicago
d: Dallas

6. An early jazz great from Louisiana was _________________________ .
a: Sidney Bechet 
b: Brittany Spears
c: Leonard Bernstein
d: Paulina Rubio

7. Louis Armstrong, another exceptional jazz performer from New Orleans, was a master of the ____________________ .
a: piano and organ 
b: clarinet and oboe
c: cornet and trumpet
d: violin and cello

8. The Jazz Age, which occurred in the nineteen twenties, was famous chiefly for white jazz musicians from ___________________ .
a: Detroit 
b: St. Louis
c: Milwaukee
d: Chicago.

9.Duke Ellington invented the name for big band jazz in the nineteen forties, which he called _________________ .
a: slide
b: butter
c: swing
d: jelly roll

10. One of the greatest jazz singers or singers of any kind in the nineteen forties and fifties was, ___________________ .
a: Billie Holliday
b: Enrique Iglesias
c: Enrique Caruso
d: Karen Carpenter

Count Basie "Swinging the Blues" Big Band Swing Music, 1941.

The History of Jazz: Part Two

Louis Armstrong - "West End Blues"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Duke Ellington, Part One" from Voice of America

I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about a person who was important in the history of the United States. Today, we tell about the great jazz musician, Edward Kennedy Ellington. He was better known to the world as "Duke" Ellington.


That was Duke Ellington's orchestra playing "Take the 'A' Train. " Just the first few notes of that song are enough to tell any music expert who is playing. It is like a musical sign. The sign says, "Listen! You are about to hear something by Duke Ellington's orchestra. " It was always the first song his orchestra played.

"Take the 'A' Train" was only one of hundreds of songs he played all over the world.


Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April twenty-ninth, eighteen ninety-nine, in Washington, D.C. His family lived in the African-American area of Washington. It was a time when racial separation was the law in much of the United States. Racial laws and racial hatred were to follow Edward Kennedy Ellington all through his life.

Young Edward liked clothes. A friend once looked at him and said, "You look like a duke. " He meant that Edward 's clothes were so good that he looked like a member of a royal family.

Other friends laughed. Yet they all began calling him "Duke. " The name stayed with him the rest of his life.

When he was about seven years old, Duke Ellington began to play the piano. When he was in high school, he began to paint. He became very good at both.

A famous art school in New York City invited him to take classes there. But he had already decided to become a musician. He got his first professional job in nineteen sixteen. He played music at night and painted business signs during the day.

The most popular music back then was called ragtime. Duke listened to ragtime piano players who visited Washington. Then he tried to play as well or better than they did. Years later, he recorded a song that showed how well he could play the piano. It is a ragtime song called "Lots o' Fingers."


Duke Ellington moved to New York City in nineteen twenty-three. He had a small band. Soon it was playing at the famous Cotton Club, where it would play for many years. Duke and his band could play at the Cotton Club. But they could not come to hear anyone else, because they were black.

Duke did not become angry. He did not become filled with hatred toward white people. He let his music speak for him.

In time, Duke Ellington's band got bigger. It was a jazz orchestra. More people began hearing the orchestra's music. They could hear it on a radio program from the Cotton Club. The program often could be heard all over the United States.

At the same time, Duke Ellington and the members of his orchestra began recording their songs. Their first hit record was one of their most famous. It was recorded in October of nineteen thirty. It was called "Dreamy Blues. " Later, Duke changed the name. It is still considered a great blues song and is often played today. It is called "Mood Indigo."


An orchestra is a team made up of individual players. Like any team, the individuals in an orchestra must cooperate to produce good music. The leader of a team, or an orchestra, must learn the strength and the weakness of each member. And a good leader will use this knowledge to make the team or orchestra produce the best result.

In the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties, members of a dance orchestra never stayed with one group for long. Musicians moved from group to group. Yet, when a musician played with Duke Ellington, he usually stayed, sometimes for many years.

This had an effect on the group's music. Duke would write music especially for musicians in the orchestra. His songs used the strengths of one or two individuals. The rest of the orchestra cooperated with them.

This cooperation became the method Ellington used again and again to produce beautiful sound colors. His music could make people feel deep emotions -- feelings of happiness, or sadness, or loneliness, or joy.

Some members of the Duke Ellington orchestra were the best jazz musicians of their day. Their cooperation produced a sound that is almost impossible for others to re-create. To create that same sound, you would need the musicians who first played the music.

One of those musicians was "Cootie" Williams. He played the trumpet in the Duke Ellington orchestra for many years. Duke Ellington used the strength of Cootie Williams when he wrote a song called, "A Concerto for Cootie. " Critics said this work showed the unity between the music writer, the leader of the orchestra, and its members.

Listen as Cootie Williams seems to lead the orchestra. Hear how the other members cooperate with him to produce a very beautiful and special sound.


This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week at this time for the second part of our PEOPLE IN AMERICA program about Duke Ellington on the Voice of America.


1. The best meaning for "duke" is ____________________________ .
a: a tough fighter
b: a jazz musician with real talent
c: a member of the royal family
d: a gang member in New York City

2. In 1916, the most popular form of music was called ________________ .
a: jazz
b: the blues
c: country
d: ragtime

3. Duke Ellington tried to play the piano as well as or __________ other piano players.
a: as good as
b: better than
c: as better as
d: gooder than

4. Duke Ellington's jazz orchestra could be heard ___________ in the twenties.
a: on the radio
b: on television
c: on the internet
d: at Carnegie Hall

5. The original name of "Mood Indigo" was "______________".
a: Lots 'o Fingers
b: Take the 'A' Train
c: Dreamy Blues
d: A Concerto for Cootie

6. Duke Ellington's orchestra was very successful mostly because of the _______________ among the musicians..
a: cooperation
b: guarded secrets
c: equal pay
d: shared opinions

7. The first song Duke Ellington's orchestra always played was ___________________ .
a: Dreamy Blues
b: Walk on the Wild Side
c: Take the 'A' Train
d: Mood Indigo

8. Duke Ellington started out with a small band in the early 1920s __________________ .
a: at the Cotton Club
b: on Broadway
c: at a famous art school
d: in Washington D.C.

9. Cootie Williams ________________ the trumpet in Duke Ellington's orchestra for many years
a: plays
b: has played
c: playing
d: played

10. In addition to being a great musician, Duke Ellington was also _____________ .
a: a carpenter
b: a film maker
c: a clothing designer
d: a painter

Duke Ellington: "Take the 'A' Train", 1943 from Youtube:

Duke Ellington: Part Two

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"The Treasures of Cairo" from Voice of America.

I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today, we continue our travels through Egypt to explore one of the greatest civilizations in human history. Last week, we visited the Nile River valley to see the art and architecture of ancient Egypt.

Today, we explore the buildings of ancient Egyptians in and around Cairo. And, we visit other more modern cultural treasures in the capital city.


Welcome to Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. This huge city is home to about seven million people. Cairo is equally great for its many traditions, cultures, and monuments. We begin our visit in the center of the city on the banks of the Nile river.

(SOUND: Traffic)

Cairo: The Year 969
Looking at the countless buildings, cars, people, and boats it is hard to imagine the historical roots of this modern place. The beginning of Cairo as a city dates to the year 969 when Muslim invaders from Tunisia took control of the area. The word Cairo comes from the Arabic word "al-Qahira" meaning "the victorious."

Many rulers, such as the Fatimids, the Ayyubids, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans, controlled Egypt over the centuries. Starting in the late 19th century, Britain controlled the country for about 70 years. Each of these cultures left its mark on the culture and building design of Cairo.

In the late 18th century, the French general Napoleon Bonaparte briefly took control of Egypt. He brought with him over 150 experts and scientists to document the monuments, arts, plants and animals of Egypt. Over several years, thousands of artists worked to put together the collection of books called the "Description de l'Egypte."

For many Europeans, these detailed descriptions brought to life a culture that was unknown to them and very exciting. By the middle of the 19th century, Egypt became a popular destination for European travelers, writers, and artists. Ancient Egypt influenced European architecture, art and opera. This interest also had some unfortunate effects. European travelers in Egypt often took ancient treasures illegally. Many important objects ended up in the national museums of Britain, France and Germany.

In 1835, the Egyptian government started the Egyptian Antiques Service. Its aim was to stop the stealing of ancient objects and gather a national collection for a museum. Today, visitors can spend many hours enjoying the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It houses an estimated 120,000 objects from all periods of ancient Egyptian history.

One of the most popular rooms in the museum contains the funeral objects of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Last week we visited his burial site. But in the museum, visitors can see the strikingly beautiful objects with which he was buried 3,300 years ago. The skill and imagination of the artisans that made Tutankhamun's treasures are extraordinary.

For example, his detailed death mask weighs 11 kilograms and is made from jewels and solid gold. It gives a stylized image of the young ruler's face.


Visiting the area of the city called Old Cairo provides an interesting lesson in religious history. Before Islam came to Egypt, the main religion of the area was Christianity. Egyptian Christians are known as Copts. You can visit the Coptic religious center known as the Hanging Church. This ninth century structure was built on top of an ancient Roman gate.

Or you can visit the third century Church of Saint Sergius. Many people believe the church is built over a cave where Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus hid while fleeing from Judea. Nearby is the oldest Jewish religious center in Egypt. The Ben Ezra Synagogue dates back to the ninth century.

In another area known as Islamic Cairo, there are many historically important mosques.

(SOUND: Call to Prayer)

For example, the Al-Azhar Mosque has been a religious center and university for over a thousand years. The Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein is one of the most holy Islamic buildings in Egypt. It is believed to be the burial place of the head of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed.

For an unforgettable shopping experience, you can visit the Khan al-Khalili. Since the 14th century, the traders of Cairo have been selling their goods there. Today, you can buy anything from jewelry and belly-dancing costumes to spices and floor coverings.

Inside the market area, visitors can stop at the Mahfouz Café to enjoy some mint tea or smoke a sheesha pipe. The café was named after the Nobel Prize winning Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz who grew up in this part of the city. His stories capture the sights and sounds of Cairo and its people.


No visit to Cairo could be complete without a trip to see some of the most famous buildings in the world. In the area of the city called Giza, three huge stone pyramids rise out of the desert sands. For thousands of years, these extraordinary buildings have served as funeral monuments honoring three ancient Egyptian kings.

The 19th century French writer Gustave Flaubert wrote this about the pyramids after visiting them: "Khafre's pyramid seems to me inordinately huge and completely sheer; It's like a cliff, like a thing of nature, a mountain …"

His words help express the unbelievable size and power of these limestone buildings.

Pyramid at Khufu
The oldest and largest is called the Great Pyramid of Khufu, built as the burial place for this ancient king. This tomb is the last survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World. When it was built 4,500 years ago, it stood 146 meters tall. Experts estimate that about 2,300,000 limestone blocks were used to build this remarkable tomb. And, each limestone block weighs two and one-half tons.
The famous statue of the Sphinx sits nearby. Experts still debate the age and meaning of this ancient statue, which has the head of a man and the body of a lion.

Experts still do not know exactly how the ancient Egyptians were able to build such technically perfect buildings. How were the ancient builders able to move the huge stone blocks from the quarries where they were cut to the building area? How were they able to raise them to the higher levels of the monuments? And what kind of tools did these ancient builders use to cut stone as hard as granite?

Over the centuries pyramidologists have developed many interesting theories about how the structures were built. Some believe they were built with help from alien creatures from space. Others believe slaves of the pharaoh were forced to build these structures. Our tour guide Maher Haggag has a different theory about why workers built these structures.

MAHER HAGGAG: "Slaves could have never ever created perfection like this. It wasn't slavery, it was a privilege for them. People had a passion to build something like this. Just by their own bare hands. No technology had been involved, just faith and they loved what they'd been doing."

Outside of Cairo, the ancient burial area of Saqqara helps explain the development of the pyramid structure. The architect Imhotep designed the Step Pyramid over 4,600 years ago for the pharaoh Djoser. It is the first known stone monument ever built. Imhotep designed it so that Djoser's burial monument would last forever. Before, royal tombs were built with mud brick materials that were easily damaged over time.

Imhotep's idea of stacking layers of stone led to the development of the pyramid tomb. From Saqqara you can look far off in the distance to see pyramids built for a later ruler of Egypt, Sneferu. The Bent Pyramid starts at a sharp angle, then becomes more flat towards its top. Architects did not yet know the correct angle with which to build a stable pyramid. They tried again with the nearby Red Pyramid. This structure is considered the oldest true pyramid in the world.

After a day exploring Cairo, there is nothing more relaxing than hiring a felucca boat to sail you up and down the Nile. As you watch the sun set on this magical city, you can think about its many cultural treasures, old and new.


This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. To see pictures of Egypt, visit our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. Present day Cairo was never under the control of the ________________ .
a: Ottomans
b: Italians
c: British
d: Muslims

2. The goal of the Egyptian Antiques Service established in 1835 is to __________ .
a: estimate the worth of ancient artifacts
b: serve as an auction house for Egyptian treasures
c: collect Egyptian treasures in a local museum
d: place Egyptian treasures back in the tombs from which they were taken

3. A tour guide, Maher Haggag, believes that the pyramids were built by ________________ .
a: builders who had a passion for their work
b: slaves of the Pharaoh
c: aliens from outer space
d: soldiers who had been conquered and imprisoned by the Pharaohs' armies

4. Before the stone step pyramid was built 4,600 years ago, royal tombs were __________ .
a: built underground
b: built of perishable mud and brick
c: built of gold and other precious metals
d: built with wood taken from forested areas in Africa

5. The head of Muhammad's grandson is believed to be buried at ________________ .
a: the Al-Azhar Mosque
b: the Church of Saint Sergius
c: Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein
d: The "Hanging" Church

6. The name "Cairo" comes from an Arabic word meaning ________________ .
a: The Victorious
b: The Grateful
c: The Sacred One
d: The Divine Ruler

7. Great Pyramid of Khufu houses the remains of _____________________ .
a: The architect, Imhotep
b: The pharaoh, Khafre
c: The pharaoh, Djoser
d: The pharaoh, Sneferu

8. The French writer Gustave Flaubert compared one pyramid to a _______________ .
a: magnificent ocean liner
b: a mansion on the Mediterranean Sea
c: a mountain
d: a skyscraper

9. Another name for this article could be ________________ .
a: "Cairo's Khan al-Khalili and Its Products"
b: "Cairo: The Ultimate Destination in the Nile Journey"
c: "How The Pharaohs Planned for Their Afterlives"
d: "The Love Ancient Egyptians Had for Their Cats"

10. This article is mainly about ________________________ .
a: the amazing buildings and treasures in and around Cairo, Egypt
b: the lives of the Pharaohs: Khafre, Zoser, Sneferu, Tutankhamun
c: theories about the contruction of the pyramids
d: the recent revolution in Cairo

A beautiful, loving photographic essay of the city of Cairo accompanied by sweet Islamic music and singing. Don't miss this:

Read about the demonstrations in Cairo's main Square in July of 2009.