Traditional Music? Heck No, It's Techno



HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

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

We hear some techno music…

Answer a question from a listener about American states called commonwealths …

And report about a theater festival in the state of West Virginia.

Contemporary American Theater Festival

Shepherdstown is the oldest town in the state of West Virginia. Every summer, it presents the newest American plays during the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Barbara Klein tells us more.

BARBARA KLEIN: Historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is on a hill near the Potomac River. The first Europeans arrived in the early seventeen hundreds. Shepherd College was established in eighteen seventy-one to teach languages and science. The Contemporary American Theater Festival has taken place at the college every summer since nineteen ninety-one.

Four new plays are being performed this month. Three of them are based on the September eleventh terrorist attacks on America or the war in Iraq.

One of the plays is by the famous playwright Sam Shepard. It is called "The God of Hell." A mysterious stranger arrives at a quiet farm in the state of Wisconsin. He questions the farmer's wife. He is looking for a man who is hiding in the house. The stranger is a government agent and the man he is looking for once worked on a secret project. This man later becomes the victim of torture.

Visitors at the festival also saw a play called "Sonia Flew" by Melinda Lopez. An American family is celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah in two thousand one. But the recent attack on America is causing tension.

Traditional Music? Heck No, It's Techno

The college graduate son, Zak, announces that he is joining the armed forces. But his mother, Sonia, opposes this action. Sonia relives her past as a teenager in Cuba forty years earlier when Fidel Castro came to power. Her parents sent her to America against her wishes. She never saw them again.

"American Tet" by Lydia Stryk (pronounced strike) is about a family living on a military base. Elaine is the wife of a retired American military officer who fought in the Vietnam war more than thirty years earlier. She teaches the husbands and wives of soldiers in Iraq how to deal with Army life. Her own son Danny is a soldier guarding prisoners of war in Iraq. He returns home on leave for a few weeks. But he does not want to return to the war.

The last play in the theater festival is "Father Joy," by Sheri Wilner. Abigail, a young female sculptor, is struggling to create work that is meaningful. Her former art professor is a famous environmental sculptor. They fall in love. At the same time, Abigail's father is slowly "disappearing." This play is not about war. It is about the value of art, the power of time and the nature of love.

Commonwealth or State

HOST: Our listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Nguyen Van Kien wants to know why the state of Kentucky calls itself a commonwealth.

Four states in the United States call themselves commonwealths. They are Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. These four are no different from the other forty-six states in the country. The structure of government in a commonwealth is the same as in other states.

They are called commonwealths because this is the official name used in their state constitutions. To understand why Kentucky is called a commonwealth, we need to consider United States history after the American Revolution.

Thirteen American colonies had just won their independence from Britain. Representatives from each of the colonies came together to write a federal Constitution in seventeen eighty-seven. Similar constitutions were being written in each state.

The term commonwealth was popular during this period in history. It described a state or nation where the people come together for the common good. The term dates back to Oliver Cromwell of Britain. Cromwell helped lead a series of civil wars against King Charles the First during the sixteen-forties.

The wars led to the trial and execution of the king. The defeat of King Charles the First briefly ended the royal system of government in Britain. It was replaced for several years with a commonwealth ruled by Cromwell.

Lawmakers in the United States used the word years later to describe their states. Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were former colonies. They wrote constitutions after the American Revolutionary War. Kentucky became a state a few years later. It was created out of Virginia in seventeen ninety-two. It is possible the term commonwealth carried over when the Kentucky constitution was written.

Techno Music

Today we present a kind of dance music that we have never talked about before. Electronic music is very popular in the United States as well as around the world. It is also known as "techno." Pat Bodner tells us more.

PAT BODNER: Techno is not produced by traditional musical instruments. It is made using machines like the turntable, drum machine, and bassline sequencer. The people who make techno music are usually called DJ's. They use these machines to make noises that sound like the drum instrument. To this drum beat they can add repeated sounds. Sometimes DJ's include voice recordings.

Techno developed in many different ways around the world.

Music experts often say the German group Kraftwerk made some of the first techno music. Here is their song "The Robots."


Experts say techno then developed in the American city of Detroit, Michigan. It soon spread all over the world. There are many kinds of techno. Each kind has different influences. Here is an example of "breakbeat" by an American DJ named DJ Abstract.


Another kind of techno is called "trance". This example is by the German DJ ATB.


To listen to more techno, visit Ishkur's Guide on the Internet. The address is

We leave you now with an example of "fusion" techno. This is several kinds of traditions mixed together. Here, the DJ Talvin Singh combines Indian music with the techno sounds of "drum and bass."


HOST: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program.

Our show was written by Dana DeMange, Shelley Gollust and Jill Moss. Caty Weaver was our producer.

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