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BARBARA KLEIN: Welcome to American Mosaic in VOA Special English.
I’m Barbara Klein.
Today, we play music from the new hit album by singer/actress Selena Gomez …
And answer a question about the beautiful Florida city of Key West …
But, first, we remember jazz great Eubie Blake and learn about a cultural center named in his honor.
(MUSIC: “Charleston Rag”)
BARBARA KLEIN:The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center is in Baltimore, Maryland. It is named after one of the most important African American jazz and ragtime musicians of the twentieth century. Before his death in nineteen eighty-three, Eubie Blake was believed to be the only musician still living who had played ragtime music. Mario Ritter has more.
MARIO RITTER: Eubie Blake was born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore in eighteen eighty-seven. He began playing piano when he was about five years old. He was playing professionally by the age of sixteen. In nineteen twenty-one, he and Noble Sissle wrote the musical play “Shuffle Along.” It was the first Broadway musical written, produced and performed by all African Americans.
“Shuffle Along” ran for more than five hundred performances. The musical helped launch the careers of several African American performers, including singers Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson.
Eubie Blake wrote other Broadway musicals during his eighty-year career. He also wrote more than three hundred fifty songs. “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “Memories of You” and “Charlestown Rag" are among his best-known songs. The original sheet music for many of the songs are on display at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center.
The center opened in nineteen seventy-eight. It was part of an effort to bring cultural arts to young people in the inner city of Baltimore. At that time the center was called Gallery 409.
About the same time, Eubie Blake and his wife Marian were negotiating an agreement with the Maryland Historical Society. They wanted to donate several historically important objects.
These included the original sheet music and audio recordings of several Eubie Blake songs. They also included personal letters written by Blake and old pictures of him and other famous musicians. And they included the original government document proclaiming February fourteenth, nineteen seventy-three as Eubie Blake Day in Baltimore.
Part of the collection was put on display at the gallery, which was renamed in Eubie Blake's honor in nineteen eighty-three. Thousands of people visit the center every year, especially young people.
The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center offers classes in dance, music theory, theater and history. There are also live music performances and art exhibits.
BARBARA KLEIN:Our listener question this week is from Lada in Russia who wants to know about Key West. The Florida Keys are a group of islands that extends into the Atlantic Ocean from the southern state of Florida.
The word “keys” comes from the Spanish word “cayos” meaning “little islands.” Many of the Florida Keys are very small. Yet some of the Keys are big enough to support large numbers of people. One of the most popular is Key West. It is the farthest south of the Keys that can be reached by car.
If you cross the bridge to Key West, you can see many boats. Some are fishing boats you can use for the day. Others belong to people who have sailed their boats here from many different places.
In the city, the houses are almost all painted white. A few are pink or light blue. Many houses are very old and very small. Key West is a very old city. Many of the buildings are more than one hundred years old.
Many palm trees grow here. Colorful flowers grow in front of many of the little houses. You can stay in a room in one of these houses for the night. You can smell the ocean on the soft warm wind that blows
There are many things to do and see in Key West. You can visit the house that belonged to the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had many cats when he lived here. He is gone, but the cats remain.
You can visit Mallory Square, the center of Key West’s historic area. Everyone gathers for the Key West sunset celebration that is held at the end of the day if the weather is good. It is really more famous for the unusual people and animals you can see here. For example, you can see people sing or play music. Some performers swallow swords or fire. You can see cats perform tricks. Or you can just watch the beautiful sunset.
From Mallory Square you can walk to Duval Street where there are many restaurants and bars. You can eat a good meal or hear bands playing many kinds of music.
There are many other businesses along Duval Street. Many stores sell clothing. Some stores sell the works of local Key West artists. Duval Street is a lively area. There seems to be a party there until very late into the night.
If you go to the end of Whitehead Street you can see a famous monument. The sign says this is the southernmost part of the United States. The sign says “America Begins Here.” Beyond the sign is the Atlantic Ocean.
BARBARA KLEIN: Singer and actress Selena Gomez started her career at age seven on the children’s public television show “Barney and Friends.” Now eighteen, she stars in a popular Disney television show and also starred in a hit movie last summer. Gomez just released her second album. Faith Lapidus has more.
FAITH LAPIDUS: That is “A Year Without Rain,” the title song of the new record from Selena Gomez and the Scene.
The album hit Billboard Magazine’s top two hundred albums chart at number four. Selena Gomez and the Scene also had good luck with their first album, “Kiss and Tell.” It has sold more than a million copies around the world. Here is “Round and Round” from “A Year Without Rain.”
Selena Gomez grew up in Grand Prairie, Texas. She is of Mexican and Italian ancestry. She was named after the Tejano singer Selena.
Last year, Selena Gomez became the youngest person to be named a United Nations Children’s Fund Ambassador in the United States. She was seventeen. Gomez also has been the spokesperson for the Trick or Treat for UNICEF Halloween program for three years straight.
We leave you with Selena Gomez and the Scene performing “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow” from “A Year Without Rain.”
BARBARA KLEIN: I'm Barbara Klein. Our program was written by June Simms, Shelley Gollust and Caty Weaver, who also was the producer.
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