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On Ondara's New Album, He Shares 'Tales From Isolation'

Ian Flomer
Courtesy of the artist

In 2013, Ondara got a green card. He packed up his things in Nairobi, Kenya, where he grew up and moved to Minnesota, because that's where his hero, Bob Dylan, was born. In the years since, Ondara — formerly J.S. Ondara — examined the United States from an outsider's perspective through his music, releasing his debut, Tales of America, in 2019 to great praise and even earning a Grammy nomination for best Americana album.

After an exciting year of touring with bands like The Lumineers, Ondara was planning a second album — but not quite like this. His new record, Folk n' Roll Vol 1: Tales from Isolation was not what he had planned. It was written and recorded entirely during the pandemic shutdown — but before the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd – and touches on many of the anxieties and experiences he and many others experienced during that time.

In this session, Ondara joins me to talk about the album and to give his perspective on where America is today. We begin with "Lockdown on Date Night Tuesday" from Folk n' Roll Vol 1: Tales from Isolation. Listen in the audio player above.

Copyright 2020 XPN

Since 2017, John Myers has been the producer of NPR's World Cafe, which is produced by WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Previously he spent about eight years working on the other side of Philly at WHYY as a producer on the staff of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. John was also a member of the team of public radio veterans recruited to develop original programming for Audible and has worked extensively as a freelance producer. His portfolio includes work for the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, The Association for Public Art and the radio documentary, Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. He's taught radio production to preschoolers and college students and, in the late 90's, spent a couple of years traveling around the country as a roadie for the rock band Huffamoose.
Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, comes to World Cafe from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), where she was host and writer for the daily live, national morning program Mornings on CBC Music. She was also involved with Canada's highest music honors: hosting the Polaris Music Prize Gala from 2017 to 2019, as well as serving on the jury for both that award and the Juno Awards. Douris has also served as guest host and interviewer for various CBC Music and CBC Radio programs, and red carpet host and interviewer for the Juno Awards and Canadian Country Music Association Awards, as well as a panelist for such renowned CBC programs as Metro Morning, q and CBC News.