About Jacob

I am an Ethnomusicologist, music producer, writer and researcher with an insatiable curiosity for the diverse ways in which people express themselves through music. My search for exceptional musical talents has taken me to Cuba, Brazil, Greece, Mexico, Turkey, Colombia, Australia, India, Jamaica, Israel and dozens of other countries, not to mention hundreds of the world’s greatest international music festivals. You could say I have a one-track mind…I love music and all of its variety and pretty much everything I do revolves around it (although I do have an enormous collection of toothpaste from around the world as well).

Since 1998, I have been the music researcher for the compilations label Putumayo World Music, contributing songs and liner notes to over 100 Putumayo collections. In 2006, I started my own record label, Cumbancha, whose artists include Malian star Habib Koité, Israel’s cross-cultural mavericks The Idan Raichel Project, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Desert blues/rock phenomenon Bombino and the late Garifuna music advocate Andy Palacio among others. I have been blessed to work with some incredibly talented and fascinating people.

In 2009, I embarked on a new adventure, signing on to be the host of a television program distributed by American Public Television to PBS and CreateTV entitled Music Voyager. The ongoing series invites viewers to discover the exciting sounds of the planet, and I get to be the lucky fellow who travels the globe uncovering the sights, tastes and sounds of our colorful and fascinating world.

Most recently, I have been hired as guest speaker for National Geographic Expeditions / Lindeblad Expeditions, one of the world’s top adventure travel companies. I am joining the National Geographic Explorer ship for a month as it travels up the coast of West Africa, from Cape Town to Dakar. Along the way I am arranging intimate and educational musical experiences with Freshlyground in South Africa, Wyza in Angola, Lelou Lelou in the DRC, Grupo Tempo in São Tome, the Gangbe Brass Band in Benin, King Mensah in Togo, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars in Sierra Leone and more.

Always scouring the planet for new sounds, I probably listen to more world music CDs than anyone else in the USA and, possibly, the world. I dig up as much music as I can, then review it to uncover those truly great artists and songs that rise above, and that appeal to both fans of world music and neophytes who are just interested in hearing something they like. I often tell people, ‘I suffer so you don’t have to!’ What I mean is I have to listen to a lot of pretty banal stuff to find those musical diamonds, but as a result I’ve gotten to know some pretty special artists and musical movements and had some amazing experiences along the way.

I believe exposure to music from different parts of the world can help open a doorway to other cultures. Listening to music is an excellent way to make a connection with people who are very different from you, and it can create a common ground that overcomes some of the barriers that separate people of different walks of life.