The World

M-F 3-4pm

A one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe.

Mostafa Kishavarzi looks over the 10,000 watches crammed into his tiny store wedged between dozens of similar retailers in the jewelry section of the Tehran Bazaar.

Every watch in his store — and most of those sold by his competitors — come from one place, and it’s not Iran. It’s China.

Kishavarzi sells everything from knock-off Rolexes to nothing-fancy, off-brand watches. He flies to Shenzhen, China, several times a year to buy the timepieces and makes a tidy profit selling them back in Tehran. 

The town of Chahuites, Oaxaca, is a sleepy little village surrounded by mango farms. A line of train tracks cuts through the southern edge of town.

Chahuites is in an isolated part of southern Oaxaca, about 170 miles north of the Guatemalan border. Migrants from Central America used to just pass through town riding on top of La Bestia, the train migrants traditionally traveled on across Mexico. But now immigration agents patrol the train, forcing migrants to walk northward along the railroad tracks. 

This small French city wants to be a good home for refugees

Dec 27, 2017

Saint-Nazaire is famous for its shipyards. Last year, workers completed the largest cruise ship ever built, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas.

But the small city on the coast of Brittany in western France is also known for something else — the welcome it gives to refugees.

Around much of France anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise. But Saint-Nazaire, a mostly working-class city that is a stronghold of the left, is bucking that trend.

Catcalls. Obscene gestures. Inappropriate touching. And in some cases, physical and sexual assault.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll that surveyed 143 countries, almost 40 percent of women reportedly feel unsafe walking home alone at night. 

When Christylez Bacon performs, he often mixes beatbox with music styles from around the globe, including bossa nova or traditional Irish tunes.

You might think these styles and beatbox wouldn't mix, but Bacon says they do. There are similarities. For example, he combines beatbox with classical Hindustani music.

"This music from the 12th century has a lot in common with modern music as far as how it swings, how it regulates the energy," he says. "So many things in common."

'Letters from Iraq' told through music

Dec 27, 2017

We're excited to share a new collaboration today. We're calling it "FutureFolk." The series is in partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

To help kick things off, we turn to Rahim AlHaj, an Iraqi-American composer and oud player. He has a new album out called "Letters from Iraq."

AlHaj lives in New Mexico now, but the songs on the album are inspired by actual letters sent by people in Iraq.

The Wabanaki people are taking back their narrative

Dec 27, 2017

Cultural preservation is self-preservation for Native communities. An upcoming film from the Upstander Project, "Dawnland," explains just that.

The documentary, now in post-production, follows the journeys of those involved in a truth and reconciliation process in Maine involving the Wabanaki people. The documentary examines the history and the implications of the removal of Native children from their homes in the US.

MC Afrikan Boy's 'Wot It Do?' is a call to action

Dec 27, 2017
Derrick Kakembo 

MC Afrikan Boy, Olushola Ajose, returns with his latest track, "Wot it Do?" It’s a danceable, club-ready track that aims to bring people to the dance floor.

The Southeast London Afrogrime musician bursts with energy, pairing neatly woven references to childhood nursery rhymes with a range of influences within grime, early afrobeat and Nigerian juju.

KOKOKO! makes experimental afropop with found objects

Dec 27, 2017

A-side B-side is a recurring segment on The World that compares the sounds and ideas of two songs, albums or artists. On the A-side: a folk or traditional selection; on the B-side: a contemporary selection.

There’s a repetitive ringing, smacking, clunking and zinging when you use a typewriter. It turns a a writer’s thought process into a percussive rhythm. That familiar, vintage sound has been repurposed now — by the Congolese musical collective, KOKOKO!

Algodón Egipcio’s “La Estrella Irregular” is an electronic-pop lullaby that explores a medley of dreamy, bright and chopping tropical sounds. But for some, the song also gives a poetic and experienced perspective on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

A Jewish folk song is preserved in a Japanese video game

Dec 27, 2017
Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters

In the world of video games, the journey ahead might last days or it might last just a few hours, but the soundtracks to those passing hours are often so integral to the game — and steeped in the intensity of a quest — that the music is timeless. 

In 1996, Konami released the video game “Sexy Parodius” and the soundtrack is everything you’d want from an anthropomorphic world inhabited by scantily dressed women, flying pigs, kissing penguins, dragons and mythical humanlike beings. The soundtrack is fun, bright and delves into 8-bit wonders.

Concrete walls topped with concertina wire is what most South Koreans only ever see of the Yongsan Garrison, a sprawling US military base in the center of Seoul.

But as a teenage guitarist in 1955, Shin Joong-hyun remembers the first time he entered the base. He and other local musicians had been hired to entertain soldiers with American songs, which Shin says were all but unheard of to most Koreans at that time.

Our 14 favorite albums of 2017

Dec 26, 2017

There was a lot of great music released in 2017. It was hard to narrow down our favorites, but here they are. 

Marco's picks: 

1. La Vida Boheme, "La Lucha"

Last year when I was walking around Ritsona refugee camp in Greece I heard wisps of music floating up from the dense sea of military tents. As I followed the sound I met a young woman with intense green eyes who invited me to sit with her.

Suham Noh was 23, and before she fled the conflict in her native Iraq, she had been studying Shakespeare at a university in Dohuk. The music came from one of her brothers strumming a long-necked saz as he sang a mournful tune in Kurdish.

In countries near the Arctic Circle, it’s cold and dark for much of the year.

That, as you may have guessed, leads to some pretty specific drinking habits.

Just over a year ago, I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw a picture of  a billboard in Haiti advertising Manischewitz wine. The kosher wine has been a constant in Jewish homes for Passover seders and sacramental occasions.

In Jewish circles, Manischewitz has a certain nostalgic value, but it’s not exactly considered a fine wine. 

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former autocrat Alberto Fujimori Sunday night. Fujimori was serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and human rights abuses.

Days earlier, Kuczynski himself narrowly defeated a bid by Congress to get him impeached.

And behind it all could be the Fujimori children, who are also politicians.

“So what people are now speculating — it’s the obvious theory — is that there was some kind of deal or quid pro quo [between] Kuczynski and the Fujimorista members of Congress,” says reporter Simeon Tegel in Lima.

The president of Guatemala announced Christmas Eve that the Central American country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

President Jimmy Morales announced on Facebook that, after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, he has instructed the chancellor to begin the process of moving the embassy.

What I learned by getting my very first Christmas tree

Dec 23, 2017

I've never had a Christmas tree.

Never bought one. Never decorated one.

I grew up in a Muslim family in Iran and moved to the US about a decade ago. Every Christmas, I watch as my non-Christian friends get in their cars, drive to a Christmas tree lot and pick out their favorite tree. And I wonder why.

When I ask them, they say it's because they want to get into the holiday spirit. Or, that it's pretty and smells good. If they have kids, the answer usually is "the kids love it."

Yared Portillo, a Philadelphia community activist, has four of them: One she built from scratch; two others were secured from renowned artisans; the final one — received broken and in pieces from a friend — she carefully repaired and made whole again.

The repaired instrument isn’t a bad metaphor for the role the jarana has played in the US immigration protest movement for the past two decades. It's a small, eight-string instrument from Veracruz, Mexico, patterned after a 16th century baroque Spanish guitar that is often confused with a ukulele.

There’s nothing overtly religious about the giant Christmas tree at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. It’s got lots of lights and generic holiday ornaments. 

But don’t call it a “holiday tree.”

Back in 2005, the city did just that. The intention was to remove any potentially offensive religious connotations contained in the name “Christmas tree.”

People got annoyed. And the generic name “holiday tree” never stuck.

If you happen to be traveling out of the country through certain US airports during this holiday season, you may have to go through yet another security check at the airport: a facial scan.

In fact, you may already have already been scanned and didn't even know it. That's what happened to Tanvi Misra before she boarded a flight to India from Washington Dulles International Airport.

Christmas trees are beloved in Puerto Rico. Their glowing lights and decorations have long been central to celebrations on the island this time of year. 

But in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the price of imported trees has tripled to about $150  — out of reach for many middle-class residents. 

"They're scarce and the prices are very high," says blogger and marketing executive Edmaris Carazo. "It doesn't feel right to invest $200 on a tree when so many people don't have electricity." 

Some neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side, as with other of the most low-income parts of the US, have an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. It’s a persistent and complex problem that doctors are trying to tackle. But resources can be scarce, so they are thinking creatively, which has led them to look to an unlikely role model: Cuba.

Twenty-eight years isn't very long for a democracy to take root. And you could say, Poland is having growing pains.

The country shed communism in favor of democracy in 1989, but today, critics say that democracy is in trouble. The European Union is among the critics. Poland is a member of the EU, but the union is sanctioning the country and threatening to suspend its voting rights.

How will the GOP tax bill affect Puerto Rico?

Dec 21, 2017

A "big, beautiful Christmas present." That's how President Donald Trump described the tax overhaul that's sitting on his desk, awaiting his signature.

But the GOP tax bill could be devastating for some Americans: those living in Puerto Rico.

When Mosidi Modise was growing up in South Africa in the 80s and 90s, she remembers worshipping the African National Congress.  "We grew up in a house where we ate and we slept ANC!" recalls the 31-year-old business analyst. Modise's mother managed finances for the party during the Thabo Mbeki administration, just after Nelson Mandela stepped down. In those days, Modise says "there was a lot of hope, there was a lot of commitment and (the party) was very inclusive, whether you're black or white."

But times have changed.

Russia thanks CIA for tip that thwarted terror attack

Dec 21, 2017
Courtesy of Creative Commons, user Ludvig14

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that a tip from the CIA had saved “thousands” of lives in Russia.

President Trump appeared to be referring to an alleged plot to attack targets in Russia’s St. Petersburg — including the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, a popular tourist attraction.

At the Chabad of Puerto Rico, a thin crowd sang along with Rabbi Mendel Zarchi as he lit the candles on the first night of Hanukkah. Usually, the rabbi does the rites for hundreds of Jewish tourists on the island, but this year, following the damage from Hurricane Maria, only a few dozen people showed up, including a health insurance executive and a man overseeing oil spill cleanup for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The art made by Guantánamo Bay detainees

Dec 20, 2017

I first saw the ship a year ago, in an abandoned prison cell. 

“Giant” is an intricately detailed model galleon, something that, at a casual glance, you might expect to see in a museum. It's also a dramatic contrast to its surroundings — a decrepit, high-security isolation cell in Guantánamo’s Camp 5. The prisoners were being slowly moved to Camp 6, where the dwindling number of low-security detainees were being consolidated.