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Mix Caribbean, West African, Pop and Hip-Hop, What Do You Get? Akon

Also: a question from Vietnam about the life stories of Helen Keller and Sally Ride. And we check out the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about two famous American women …

Play music by Akon …

And tell about a craft show in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Craft Show


Where can you go to see and buy the work of one hundred twenty of America's best craft artists? In Washington, D.C. you can visit the yearly Smithsonian Craft Show. For twenty-five years, some of the finest craft artists have gathered to show their expertly made objects at this special event. These objects include beautiful jewelry, wood, paper, glass, ceramics and more. Faith Lapidus tells us about it.


The Smithsonian Craft Show is held every year for four days in late April. Going to the craft show is an exciting activity. As you visit the many craft artists' show areas, you feel like you are taking part in a celebration of artistic skill and invention. But not just any artist can take part in this event. More than one thousand people from all over the United States requested to be in the show. But only one hundred and twenty were chosen. They were carefully picked by a jury of craft experts.

The Craft Show is organized every year by the Smithsonian Women's Committee. The event helps raise money to support education and research programs for the nineteen museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution.

This year, for example, visitors could see the graceful ceramic works of Jennifer McCurdy. Her finely formed white clay containers have a fluid sense of motion. Or, visitors could play with the detailed and imaginative toy machines made by Bill Durovchic.

Holly Anne Mitchell showed her wonderfully creative jewelry made out of folded pieces of newspaper. Joh Ricci received the Best of Show award for her colorful art objects made by tying thin pieces of cloth cord into detailed forms. And, if you wanted to wear a piece of art, you could buy a hat by Joan Hammerschmidt. Her wildly colorful and inventively shaped hats would make everyone look at you with a smile.

Helen Keller and Sally Ride


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The students of Nguyen Thanh Duc at the Marie Curie High School want to know about two famous American women: Helen Keller and Sally Ride.

Helen Keller was born in eighteen eighty in a small town in Alabama. She developed an infection when she was nineteen months old. She lost the ability to see and hear.

When Helen was seven years old, her parents hired a special teacher for their daughter. Anne Sullivan taught Helen the names of things. She formed letters with her fingers in Helen’s hand to spell out words. She taught Helen sign language, and how to use her voice.

Later, Helen Keller learned to read Latin, Greek, French and German. She completed her studies at Radcliffe College with honors in nineteen-oh-four.

Helen Keller worked for many years for the American Foundation for the Blind. She met with presidents and traveled to many countries. She wrote books and articles. And she showed other disabled people that they, too, could succeed. Helen Keller died in nineteen sixty-eight. Her life story has been told in books, plays and movies.

Sally Ride grew up near Los Angeles, California. She studied science in college. In nineteen seventy-eight, she was one of the first six women to be trained as an astronaut. She also earned a doctoral degree in astrophysics at Stanford University in California.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. She was the flight engineer on the Challenger space shuttle in nineteen eighty-three. She was thirty-one years old, the youngest American astronaut ever to go into orbit.

One year later, she was a crew member on another space shuttle flight. And in nineteen eighty-six, she was a member of the presidential committee that investigated the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle earlier that year.

Sally Ride left NASA to teach at Stanford University. Since nineteen eighty-nine, she has been a professor at the University of California at San Diego. She has also written science books for children and directed education projects designed to interest young people in science.



Senegalese-American singer Akon has a musical sound that is different from current popular artists. He has had several hit songs. Barbara Klein tells us about him.



That was Akon singing his hit song "I Wanna Love You" from his latest album, "Konvicted."

Akon's real name is Aliaune Thiam. He is the son of Senegalese jazz drummer Mor Thiam. Akon grew up listening to jazz and other kinds of music, but he especially liked hip-hop.

When he was a teenager, Akon was arrested and sentenced to three years in jail for stealing cars. During his time in jail, Akon wrote songs. Those songs became part of his first album, "Trouble," released in two thousand four. Akon sings about his arrest and jail experiences in this song, "Locked Up."


Music critics say Akon is popular because his music offers something new. His creative sound combines Caribbean and West African singing with popular music and hip-hop beats. Akon has performed and recorded songs with many kinds of artists. They include rapper Snoop Dogg, singer Gwen Stefani and the South African singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

We leave you with another hit song from Akon’s latest album, "Konvicted." This is "Don’t Matter."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Lawan Davis, Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Send your questions about American life to Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.