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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
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Adam Yauch’s Buddhism in Two Tracks

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

I’d like to send you off this Saturday with a pairing of tracks from the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication: “Shambhala” and “Boddhisatva Vow.” After I read Tricycle's interview with Adam Yauch about his life and his commitment to Buddhism in the mid-1990s, I came across this photo and caption by an Aussie, Julian Wearne:

A tribute to Adam Yauch

I woke up this morning to hear the sad news about Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch’s passing after a three-year battle with cancer. I felt the only appropriate thing to do was put Paul’s Boutique on the turntable, turn it up, and enjoy one of the finest hip-hop albums ever released.

I’m not religious at all, and I’m not at all educated on the teachings of Buddhism, but I do think MCA’s interpretation of Buddhism can teach anyone a lot. From his song “Bodhisattva Vow”:

A Strength From Within To Go The Length
Seeing Others Are As Important As Myself
I Strive For A Happiness Of Mental Wealth
With The Interconnectedness That We Share As One
Every Action That We Take Affects Everyone
So In Deciding For What A Situation Calls
There Is A Path For The Good For All”

I’ve listened to these tracks so many times but had never really thought about the lyrics and what they said or whom they came from. It should’ve been obvious, but it took an Aussie’s photo on Flickr to shine a light on them in a new way. I hope you take a few minutes to listen to these tracks and remember the life of MCA, a phenomenal artist and a fine human being.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Detroit Summer” by Invincible

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Invincible calls out the crowdInvincible on stage at center. (photo: David Smith/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the stars in the constellation of Grace Lee Boggs’ world of change is hip-hop artist Invincible, whom the Village Voice calls Detroit’s "femme-emcee extraordinaire." Invincible (aka Ilana Weaver) is a rapper and spoken word artist who leads workshops through the Boggs Center’s Detroit Summer project. 

In one of these workshops, she leads kids in collecting and studying interviews with community members. They use these conversations as the source for their own hip-hop pieces and brainstorm alternative solutions to the problems raised by their interviewees. She says this about her friendship with Grace Lee Boggs (whom you’ll hear in our podcast this Thursday):

“Grace doesn’t talk down to you; she doesn’t come like that to young people. She comes to you with questions rather than lecture to find out what’s relevant to you and tries to relate to it… My whole life has been transformed by my work with Detroit Summer. First of all as an artist I ground all my art in a larger purpose and vision for community change that’s led by the community.”

Enjoy the tune inspired by Invincible’s transformative work with Detroit Summer, and look for a Grace Lee Boggs cameo in the video.

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Brother Ali and A Day of Dignity in North Minneapolis

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Twin Cities Day of Dignity posterThe hip-hop artist Brother Ali's lyrics are infused with notions of community, family, and serving one another. And, today in the blocks surrounding his mosque in North Minneapolis, Masjid An-Nur, he is putting on this cool community get-together and outreach effort, which they're calling the Twin Cities Day of Dignity: A Celebration of Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

The north side, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas of the city, was devastated by a tornado in May of this year. The natural disaster left the neighborhood in tatters, but the community also united in the clean-up effort. To celebrate, they’ll be closing down the streets and offering free health care services and medical supplies, haircuts, winter clothing, food, and school supplies to people and families in need. And, to round out the day’s celebration, a free performance by Freeway and Brother Ali:

"But this event has a particularly special place in my heart because it’s in my particular space in the community, but then it’s also such a service to humanity. It’s not just a show. All different parts of the Twin Cities community get to come together to actually help people, help people in need, and to be a part of that, to be able to have this music here to celebrate the cultural side of it as well. It’s a beautiful thing."
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Snoop Digs the Kosher Doggs
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This altered scene of The Last Supper is popping up in the strangest places and all over Tumblr. Here, Snoop Dogg warms up the room before the main act takes the stage. You know Jesus is big when Snoop’s just the opener!
Snoop Digs the Kosher Doggs
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This altered scene of The Last Supper is popping up in the strangest places and all over Tumblr. Here, Snoop Dogg warms up the room before the main act takes the stage. You know Jesus is big when Snoop’s just the opener!
Snoop Digs the Kosher Doggs
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This altered scene of The Last Supper is popping up in the strangest places and all over Tumblr. Here, Snoop Dogg warms up the room before the main act takes the stage. You know Jesus is big when Snoop’s just the opener!

Snoop Digs the Kosher Doggs

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

This altered scene of The Last Supper is popping up in the strangest places and all over Tumblr. Here, Snoop Dogg warms up the room before the main act takes the stage. You know Jesus is big when Snoop’s just the opener!

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The candles of the city shine to tell the world what we want,
The candles of the city won’t rest and won’t give up,
The blood of the fighters is our own,
We won’t surrender until the regime falls.
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Hamza Sisi, from his lyrics to the rap song “Shamat Al-Medina” (or “Candles of the City”), which was translated from Arabic into English:

"Two young Libyans whose rap music is being broadcast to the front line by rebel Benghazi radio hope they are helping to maintain the morale of fighters outgunned by Gaddafi forces.

'Rap does not physically change things, but it invigorates the soul of people fighting and sends a message to all Libyans,' 16-year-old Imad Abbar, sitting perched on a paint can in the patio of his home in Benghazi, told AFP news agency.”

Now this is an inventive and positive force of hip-hop that’s exciting. Non?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Tagged: #Libya #rap #music
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Sara Sarasohn, my editor, compared the chase to the Israelites rising up and following the cloud over the Tent of Meeting. In the Torah, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, there was a cloud over the Tent of Meeting, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. When the cloud lifted and moved, the Israelites would see it and know that it was time for them to move as well in their journey through the desert. It was like the presence of Hill was this cloud that we could see in the distance, and we were trying to follow it, and finally, we got to the Tent of Meeting.
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Lauryn Hill at the Harmony Festival—NPR’s Zoe Chace, from her piece about pursuing and interviewing rapper and singer Lauryn Hill for NPR’s “50 Great Voices” series.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this analogy but have to appreciate the ability of Chace’s editor to bring biblical story into reflection on radio production. Take a listen to her report; I’d love to read your perspective. And, full disclosure here, I’m pretty jazzed about seeing Ms. Hill perform at First Avenue in Minneapolis this month.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Public Radio Rap Video = Hilarious, Geeky Fun

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

OK, if you dig our program, you like public radio. And so there’s really no reason you won’t hit the replay button on this ode to public radio. And, yes, I was looking for a mention… Doh! But The Splendid Table made the list. Yeah!

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Moshe Levy’s Time to Shyne, But How Does His Conversion to Orthodox Judaism Fit In?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Shyne Studies TorahDominick Brady got it right. The photo heading The New York Times profile piece of Moses Levi (or is it Moshe Levy Ben-David?), the hip-hop star known as Shyne, is a great photo. But, when it comes to the whys and the hows of Mr. Levy’s path to Orthodox Judaism and his ongoing relationship with the faith — as the headline exploits — the article itself falls short. You’d be better served reading David Brinn’s initial piece or more recently published long-form profile in The Jerusalem Post. Or watching the video above.

Dina Kraft has tapped in to something in the American psyche though. Her article is rapidly spreading online and, as I write this post, it’s the third most emailed article on the Times website. Even several colleagues approached me Thursday wanting to talk about it and proposed posting this pull quote:

What I do get is boundaries. Definition and form. And that is what Shabbat is. You can’t just do whatever you want to do. You have to set limits for yourself…All these rules, rules, rules…But you know what you have if you don’t have rules? You end up with a bunch of pills in your stomach. When you don’t know when to say when and no one tells you no, you go off the deep.

This is one of those articles from The New York Times that is so full of promise but leaves the reader with a string of anecdotes and very little understanding. There’s mostly back story; Orthodox Judaism is used as a hook but rarely followed up on here. As I was reading it Wednesday night, I found myself wishing Kraft’s editor would’ve been more generous, and more pressing.

And I found myself feeling a bit empty. Left wanting. Wanting to hear more about the convicted felon’s path to Orthodox Judaism in prison and outside. Wanting to understand why he chose the Orthodox tradition instead of a version of Conservative or Reform Judaism. Wanting to know how the language of the yeshiva is informing his lyrics. Wanting to know more about his Ethiopian Jewish heritage. Wanting to know how he’s living differently because of his new-found faith. Wanting to know more about his current relationship with his father in Belize and his interactions with Jewish communities after being deported from the United States.

We’ll put out a request to get these and other questions answered. And, if you have any of your own, offer up a comment.

(photo: Ricki Rosen for The New York Times)

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K’naan Waves His Flag

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Some of the best story lines coming out of this year’s World Cup aren’t about sport at all. They’re about people rising above their circumstances, creating something new, defying their genre, being recognized for their talents.

Such is the case with K’naan. The poet and hip-hot artist’s song "Wavin’ Flag" is now the official theme song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

A Somali-born Canadian who grew up in Mogadishu before immigrating to North America at the age of 13, he takes an unexpected tact tack when writing lyrics. K’naan doesn’t see much sense, he says, in glorifying the violence and strife that surrounded him in his childhood like many American rappers:

"There wasn’t a voice that understood the, ya know, the gratitude that comes from survival. There wasn’t a voice in music that was doing that."

There’s much more to K’naan’s story, his art, and his approach to life. Here are three strong pieces I found helpful in learning more about him. Over at Sound Opinions, he demonstrates some Somali poetry styles to Greg and Jim and talks more about his responsibility in addressing the violence and reality he witnessed.

Also, this 2005 profile piece by Sue Carter Flinn in The Coast covers a lot of ground. And it’s fair and thoughtful in the language chosen and scenes described. It has just a little bit more. For example, read Eliott McLaughlin’s description of a story K’naan often tells:

"At age 11, he accidentally blew up his school with a hand grenade he mistook for an old, dirty potato."

Now read Carter Flinn’s account:

"One day after school, at age 10, during the daily ritual of washing the Qur’an lessons off an ancient wooden slate, he uncovered a live grenade that exploded and destroyed half of his school."

And, giving CNN its props, check out the video to the right. I enjoyed watching K’naan just actually sit and talk about his work and how he’s processing his recent success, especially his song being honored at such a big event.

I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday video snack.

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