It would be the ultimate concert: an American punk firebrand sharing equal billing with Turkish pop’s most famous songbird, the living embodiment of the worldwide Senegalese diaspora, and an opera singer who lived a life more dramatic than her craft. NPR sets this stage, bringing together awe-inspiring vocalists from around the world and across time in the year-long exploration “50 Great Voices.” The multimedia series is an intentional mix of familiar names and surprising discoveries, developed with audience and expert opinion – spotlighting iconic artists that have left indelible impressions on music history.
The profiles begin Monday, January 25, on All Things Considered and continue every Monday, alternating between the NPR newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered. NPR hosts, correspondents and reporters will all contribute pieces. The entire series will also be available at NPR.org:
Each “50 Great Voices” delves into the life and legacy of a chosen voice while examining what makes the person stands out. Though from many different countries and eras, the artists profiled all share an influence on their national cultures and on the musicians who followed. The list of 50 often eschews obvious choices beloved by millions (think Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen or Barbra Streisand), and instead includes singers who are powerhouses outside the mainstream. NPR senior arts reporter Elizabeth Blair offers more detail on the thinking behind the selection process in a series overview already available online.
A new artist in “50 Great Voices” will be unveiled every Monday on Morning Edition or All Things Considered. On Tuesday, audio clips will be posted of the next artist in the series; before the big reveal, audiences are encouraged to guess who is next in the lineup and submit their entries to email@example.com. Every week, one person who guesses correctly will be chosen at random to receive a NPR Music tote bag.
Audience participation is a central component of “50 Great Voices.” In October 2009, listeners and visitors to NPR.org were asked to nominate artists for consideration. NPR and a panel of experts pared the more than 8,000 submissions to a list of 120 singers. Choosing from artists as diverse as Nusrat Fateh Ali, Maria Callas, Nat King Cole and Iggy Pop, visitors then influenced the final 50 by selecting five favorites from an interactive presentation.
“50 Great Voices” continues NPR’s ongoing coverage of music and other arts on-air and online. NPR offers continuous cultural news at NPR Music, which recently featured an extensive look back at “The Decade In Music: ‘00s,” and the arts & life homepage of NPR.org, where the popular round up of The Best Books of 2009 can be found.