Duty called in 1941, and duty called again in 1964. But what happened when music came to be a weapon in the information wars of the Cold War?
Leo Sarkisian signed up and in 1965 created Music Time in Africa, which has continued for more than 50 years. Christopher DeCou follows Leo’s story to examine how entertainment can be caught up in political conflicts and asks the question, what makes propaganda?
The adventure began in 1961, when Leo Sarkisian and his wife Mary were living in West Africa. They traveled across the region documenting traditional and pop music for Tempo Records. But one day, Edward Murrow came to Guinea and asked if Leo would be willing to join the Voice of America.
Christopher DeCou is a second year PhD student. He typically works on histories of science, technology, and East Asia.
Episode Producer: Christopher DeCou
Voice Actors: Talitha Pam, Teyei Pam, and Taylor Sims
Host and Season Producer: Allie Goodman
Executive Producer: Gregory Parker
Editorial Board: Alexander Clayton, Henry Cowles, Christopher DeCou, Allie Goodman, Gregory Parker, Hannah Roussel
Special thanks to season two producer Hayley Bowman and season two editorial board members for their work on this episode.
Image: Leo Sarkisian, Leo Sarkisian VOA African Music Collection, Sound Recordings, University of Michigan Music Library, UM Tape 0015
Music and Sounds
Musical selections and images come from the Leo Sarkisian Archive: Voice of America African Music Collection and the British Library Sounds Archive. Sounds in order of appearance:
- Anno Domini Beats, Drop
- Sue Moran, Broadcast for Nov. 27, 1977, MTiA Archive
- Lisa Mullins, “The Legacy of Leo Sarkisian, American Broadcaster Devoted to ‘Music Time in Africa,’” WBUR, July 10, 2018
- Yenovk Der Hagoopian, “Dulhey”
- Leo Sarkisian, Leo Sarkisian VOA African Music Collection, Sound Recordings, University of Michigan Music Library, UM Tape 0226
- Orchestre de la Garde Republicaine – 1er Formation, Leo Sarkisian, Syliphone Record label recordings from Guinea.
- Sons Nouveaux d’une Nation Nouvelle, Tempo 7012.
- Voice of America, “Voa’s First Broadcasts: ‘The News May be Good or Bad, We Shall Tell You the Truth”
- Louis Armstrong, “Louis Armstrong Sins VOA Station ID”
- Leo Sarkisian, “Yoruba High Life,” Leo Sarkisian VOA African Music Collection, Sound Recordings, University of Michigan Music Library, UM Tape 0149
- “Writing with Pencil 2,” FreeSound
- Leo Sarkisian, “Heartbeats,” Leo Sarkisian VOA African Music Collection, Sound Recordings, University of Michigan Music Library, UM Tape 0015
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