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Oran Etkin's global jazz journeys and the magic of Timbalooloo

 Oran Ektin by José De Holanda
Oran Ektin by José De Holanda

"It's really about connections,” Oran Etkin says. "The connections with the people that I meet in different places and creating connections between these different places."

As you can see, Etkin is a musician who doesn’t like to create in a vacuum. The multi-reedist travels the globe in order to have one-of-a-kind musical experiences, and whether it's to West Africa or East Asia, he always finds brilliant musicians to jam with. His curiosity and compassion has resulted in invitations to stay with renowned musical families from around the world.

Etkin stays in their home, eats with them and immerses himself in their local musical traditions. In turn, he offers his clarinet — along with ample musical chops. His talent at improvisation allows him to seamlessly blend into any musical situation, whether he’s jamming with Roma musicians in the Czech Republic or with mbira masters in Zimbabwe.

In this Jazz Night in America episode, we get to know the artist and find out what drives him to make these musical connections. We also learn about his renowned children’s program, Timbalooloo — an innovative music education method that teaches young children through instrument mimicking, fostering creativity and cultural understanding. Etkin shows how music can be a powerful learning tool — and our one true universal language understood by all ages.

Set List:

  • “It Don’t Mean a Thing” (Duke Ellington) (from the album Kelenia)
  • “King Porter Stomp” (Jelly Roll Morton) (from the album What’s New? Reimagining Benny Goodman) 
  • “Nina” (Malian song) (from the album Kelenia)
  • “Gambang Suling” (Traditional, arranged by Oran Etkin) (from the album Gathering Light
  • “Nhema Musasa” (Traditional, arranged by Oran Etkin and Musekiwa Chingodza
  • Pro Carnaval Voltar ” (Oran Etkin ) (from the album Open Arms)
  • “Chaye Shukariye” (Traditional, arranged by Oran Etkin (from the album Finding Friends Far from Home: A Journey With Clara Net) 
  • “Dandini Dandini” (Traditional, arranged by Oran Etkin) (from the album Finding Friends Far from Home: A Journey With Clara Net) 
  • “Protection Song” (Oran Etkin) (from the album Open Arms)

Credits: Sarah Geledi and Simon Rentner, writers and producers; Christian McBride, host; Ron Scalzo, episode mix; Nikki Birch and Mitra Arthur, video producers; Steven A. Williams, executive producer; Suraya Mohamed, executive producer of NPR Music; Keith Jenkins, vice president of visuals and music strategy at NPR.

Copyright 2024 WBGO

Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.
For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.