Big Music From the American Heartland



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

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

We hear music from groups taking part in concerts called "Big Noise From Springfield, Missouri"…

Answer a question from a listener about the Voice of America's broadcasts …

And report about the upcoming Labor Day holiday.

Labor Day

Monday, September fifth, is Labor Day in the United States. In most nations, Labor Day is celebrated in May. Faith Lapidus explains.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The first day in May has been the traditional day to celebrate spring since ancient times. It also is the day to honor workers in almost every industrial country in the world except the United States and Canada. The first link between honoring workers and the ancient May Day celebration was made in eighteen thirty-three. The British social reformer Robert Owen chose that day as the date for the beginning of a period of joy and hope for the world.

In eighteen eighty-nine, the first Paris workers convention declared a great international workers demonstration on May first. Since then, the International Labor Day has been celebrated on the first or May. The United States chose another day for its labor celebration. New York labor leader Peter McGuire is said to have suggested that the first Monday in September be a holiday to honor labor. He said it was a nice time of the year for a celebration. He proposed public parades to show the strength of labor organizations. And he urged that people end the day with outdoor parties.

The first American Labor Day celebration was held in New York City on September fifth, eighteen eighty-two. About ten thousand workers marched through the streets. Then everybody went to a nearby park to eat a meal and hear speeches and a concert. The idea quickly spread throughout the country. In eighteen ninety-four, Congress approved a bill declaring Labor Day a national holiday.

For many years, the first Monday in September was a day when American workers demonstrated for better working conditions and pay. Over the years, however, the condition of American workers improved. Such demonstrations are no longer common.

Now, Labor Day weekend for Americans is a time to celebrate the last days of summer. Many towns still hold special events. People throughout the country enjoy outdoor activities. And for many American students, Labor Day means it is time for school to begin again.

You can learn more about the history of the labor movement in the United States Monday on the Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.

VOA Broadcasts

HOST: We have two listener questions this week about the same subject. Nguyen Ngoc Lanh of Vietnam wants to know if Special English programs can be heard in the United States. Frank Liu who is studying in Portugal wants to know about an American law called the Smith-Mundt Act and how it affects VOA.

The Voice of America broadcasts more than one thousand hours of news, information, educational and cultural programs every week. Programs are sent by shortwave, AM and FM radio, satellite radio and television and the Internet. VOA broadcasts to more than one hundred million people around the world.

Voice of America programs are meant for listeners outside the United States. In nineteen forty-eight, the United States Congress passed the Smith-Mundt Act. The main purpose of the law was to create a permanent oversees cultural and information program of the United States government. It was meant to provide information about the United States to people in other countries. The Smith-Mundt Act bars information produced by VOA from being broadcast or given out in the United States.

At that time, American news media expressed concern to Congress about having to compete with government news agencies, including the Voice of America. By the time the Smith-Mundt Act was passed, VOA had been broadcasting for six years. People in the United States with short wave radios could listen to the programs. They still can.

The Smith-Mundt Act is still in effect. So VOA and Special English do not broadcast their radio or television programs in the United States. But what about our programs on the Internet? The law bans VOA and Special English from sharing information with listeners inside the United States. But it does not tell listeners what they may or may not do to receive our programs.

After the Internet was created, VOA began using it to reach more listeners around the world. That technology made it possible for almost anyone with a computer to log on, listen, read or watch Special English programs. Even people in the United States.

Big Noise From Springfield

Four groups of musicians from the state of Missouri are performing around the United States. This traveling show is called "Big Noise from Springfield, MO." These four music groups perform the rock, country and blues sounds that are deeply rooted in their area of Missouri. Barbara Klein has more.

BARBARA KLEIN: The area around Springfield, Missouri, is rich in musical traditions. In the nineteen fifties it was an important city for country music. Today, many musicians from all traditions still play in the area.

Four of these musical groups or bands are performing in cities across America until the beginning of October. They are the Morells, the Bel Airs, the Domino Kings and a musician named Brian Capps.

The Morells are well known in the music life of Springfield. They have been recording music and playing there since nineteen eighty-two. Here is a song from their latest rock album called "Think About It." It is called "Nadine."


The Domino Kings have a more country sound. Here is the song "Pain in My Past" from their album called "Some Kind of Sign."


The Bel Airs have been playing together for more than twenty years. They mix country sounds with those of the blues. We leave you with a song from their last album, "Got Love". It is called "The Blues Is Walkin'."


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

Our show was written by Lawan Davis, Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Mario Ritter was our producer.

Send your questions about American life to Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., 20237, U.S.A.

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