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Devendra Banhart Makes Imaginative Folk Music With a 1960s Sound

Also: A question from China about how Americans find jobs. And a Web site that tries to get people to think big. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


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

We play music by Devendra Banhart …

Answer a question about finding a job ...

And report on a new Web site that gets you to “think big.”



Where can you go to listen to a cook, a senator or a scientist talk about important subjects? is a new Web site created to provide discussions between world experts and Internet users. Subjects discussed on BigThink include the environment, music and questions about happiness and personal identity. The Web site has been called a YouTube for thinkers. Faith Lapidus has more.


Victoria Brown and Peter Hopkins created They see the Web site as a social project that permits Internet users around the world to share a discussion space with experts. Miz Brown says that people need an international stage on which to exchange, discuss, and debate the important ideas of our time.

If you visit the BigThink Web site, you will find a series of subjects listed on the left side of the page. There are “meta” subjects that deal with general ideas like faith, love, life, death and justice. And there are “physical” subjects like art, culture, technology, history and politics. When you click on a subject, you find a video of a person talking about his or her ideas. For example, you can listen to United States Senator Ted Kennedy talking about education and civil rights.

SENATOR TED KENNEDY: “We want to try and free ourselves from the forms of discrimination and bigotry which exist in our nation.”

Or you could listen to the musician Moby talk about his work and ideas for young artists.

MOBY: “My advice to other musicians first and foremost would be to make music that they love.”

Among other "big thinkers" are the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and French cook Jacques Pepin. Under their videos, you can read the comments and questions written by other visitors to the Web site. More than one hundred experts express their ideas on the Web site.

BigThink also has an important list of financial supporters. These include Peter Thiel who helped create the PayPal company; Larry Summers, a former United States secretary of the treasury, and David Frankel, a businessman from South Africa.

BigThink’s creators started the Web site by first getting famous people to agree to be videotaped. They began by interviewing several well-known professors from Harvard University, which they had attended. Then they used the names of these professors to gain the trust of others and get them to take part in the project.

The Web site says BigThink belongs to everyone. Its motto is: “We are what you think." So, go online and start thinking big.

Finding a Job


This week’s listener question comes from China. Eric wants to know how Americans find jobs. Experts say that January is the top month for getting a new job. Many Americans make a promise that they will find a new or better job in the new year. And many businesses decide to fill empty positions this time of year.

There are many ways to find a job. It can be as easy as walking into a neighborhood store to look at its announcement board. Local stores often have areas where people can put small signs telling what kind of service they need or can provide. Such services include caring for children or cleaning houses.

Or, job searchers can look in the newspaper. Local newspapers have employment announcements placed by companies seeking workers.

Another popular tool for finding jobs is the Internet. For example, people in four hundred and fifty cities around the world can use the Craigslist Web site to buy objects, meet people or find a job. Craigslist says that it receives two million new job listings each month.

Another useful way to find a job is through a college or university. For example, students at the University of Texas in Austin can go to the Career Exploration Center to get help in finding a job. People who graduate from universities can also use alumni groups and resources. This means that new graduates can get advice about jobs from older graduates. Each American state also has an employment services office that can help people train and look for jobs.

Of course, looking for a job requires knowing what kind of work you want to do. For example, there is a book called “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles. This book has been helping people choose a career since it was first published in nineteen seventy.

Some experts also help people find jobs. Susan W. Miller owns a company called California Career Services in Los Angeles. She says her company helps people find jobs by first helping them understand their strengths, goals and interests. Then she provides them with methods and resources to help them find the right job.

Devendra Banhart


Devendra Banhart is a musician who creates imaginative folk songs that take you back to the sounds of the nineteen sixties. The twenty-six-year-old singer and songwriter recently released his fifth album, called “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.” Critics say this album is his strongest yet. Mario Ritter has more.



That was the song “Sea Horse”. It is a good example of Devendra Banhart’s emotional voice and dreamy songs. It is not often clear what his songs are about, but they are always interesting. Rolling Stone magazine listed this record as one of the top albums of two thousand seven.

Devendra was born in Houston, Texas and grew up in Venezuela. He started playing music at the age of twelve. He began his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, but dropped out of the program and moved to Paris, France. During this time Banhart made recordings of his music by borrowing recording devices from his friends. After returning to the United States, Devendra Banhart was discovered by the owner of Young God Records. Here is the sensual beat of “Rosa”, which he sings in Portuguese.


Devendra Banhart is also a skilled artist. He currently has a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Thirteen of his drawings are shown along with the works of the famous artist Paul Klee. The show explores the relationship between art that you look at and art that you listen to. We leave you with Devendra Banhart's “Lover.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Dana Demange wrote and produced the show. Transcripts and MP3 files of our programs are at

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