When Katharine Emlen attended a village school in Kenya as an 11-year-old, she heard the different songs of her Masai, Kikuyu, and Samburu schoolmates. “They were always singing their different songs,” says Emlen, “and it was beautiful. I just became aware of a bigger world of music that has been a part of my blood ever since.”
WUOT, the Knoxville NPR station licensed to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will bring together Emlen and longtime jazz host John Habel to share their love of world music in a new program, The Sounds Global Show, launching on WUOT-2 at 5 p.m. Sunday, August 23.
They will play traditional, modern, and experimental music from around the world and discuss the artists, instruments, and diverse music styles. “I’ve collected music for 30 years,” says Emlen. “Even if I couldn’t understand the language, I could always understand the emotion they were portraying—the joy and triumph and sorrow. Through sound you can communicate everything.”
That first exposure to global sounds came when Emlen’s father, a field biologist, took their family to Kenya for a year. She grew up in Ithaca, New York, and later moved to Knoxville, playing classical piano and percussion in her spare time and taking ethnomusicology courses as an anthropology major at UT. After graduating in 2002, she moved to Eugene, Oregon, where she