North Fayette man's New World Buzz helped bring world music to Pittsburgh

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Martin Curti wasn’t expecting to interview a Latin Grammy Award winner in a parking lot in September, but that’s where Cuban-Canadian musician Alex Cuba was ready to talk.

With traffic whizzing by in the background, Mr. Curti stood outside posing questions to Mr. Cuba, who discussed his music and career before hitting the stage at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

The public can listen to that conversation — along with dozens of interviews with other artists and hundreds of songs from around the globe — on New World Buzz, a free, online radio station for contemporary and traditional world music.

Mr. Curti, 39, is celebrating 20 years since he founded the station from his home in North Fayette.

“It gives me a good feeling of accomplishment that it has come this far,” Mr. Curti said. “Time does fly when you are having fun.”

Listeners from more than 70 countries visit for on-demand interviews and live, around-the-clock music.

Mr. Curti features world music, or international music, by established and emerging artists from nearly every continent, especially Africa and South America.

The occasional modern take on a classic song encourages listeners to make connections with sounds they hear in pop tunes.

For example, the station might play “Oye Como Va” by the original artist, Tito Puente, an American with Puerto Rican roots, and then play the widely known version by Mexican-American Carlos Santana.

"When you think about it, everything is world music,” Mr. Curti said. “It's a world of music.”

Mr. Curti grew up in a household full of music, from jazz to rock to rhythm and blues.

His father, Bob Curti, a disc jockey on WISH 99.7 FM, has been a radio announcer and record collector for more than 50 years.

His mother, Antonia, was born in Spain, and she introduced her son to that country’s flamenco music. She also taught him how to speak Spanish, a skill that has helped Mr. Curti meet and interview musicians while visiting family in Spain.

New World Buzz grew from Mr. Curti’s interest in English musician Peter Gabriel, the ex-Genesis singer who later founded the Real World record label to promote world music.

As a music lover and class clown at West Allegheny High School, Mr. Curti was drawn to Mr. Gabriel.

"He was strange and unique as an artist,” Mr. Curti said.

In September 1993 — the year after Mr. Curti graduated from high school — Mr. Gabriel held his three-day World of Music, Arts and Dance festival in the U.S. for the first time, at the Western Pennsylvania amphitheater then called Star Lake.

Mr. Curti encountered people of different nationalities, cultures, religions and politics.

“I was just really blown away by this melting pot of all these different people together, and they were all just enjoying music,” Mr. Curti said.

During one of the performances, Mr. Curti recognized Mr. Gabriel in the audience, and he introduced himself. They talked about world music, and soon New World Buzz was born.

"That just left a big mark for me,” Mr. Curti said. “That gave me the initial idea to share that kind of music."

Seeing no major outlet for world music in the Pittsburgh area, Mr. Curti set about developing and experimenting with ideas for broadcasting the latest, hottest world music in the same way other radio stations treated contemporary music.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Curti discovered Internet radio, and he uploaded his first programs with a dial-up modem connection. Today, the online station offers multiple audio players, top-30 charts and interview archives, as well as the Facebook page NewWorldBuzz.

Mr. Curti's ongoing job involves adding to his more than 60 artist interviews, selecting singles for song rotations and updating the station’s top-30 album and track charts, which he prepares himself based on research and the preferences of New World Buzz listeners.

Mr. Curti has interviewed Indian sitar musician and composer Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the late Ravi Shankar, the sitar master who had coined the term “world music” and was known for working with George Harrison of the Beatles.

The radio station plays the title track from Ms. Shankar’s latest album, “Traces of You,” which features Ms. Shankar’s half-sister, Norah Jones.

New World Buzz features a long list of international musicians who have performed in the Pittsburgh area, such as French Canadian Spanish vocalist Boogat; Ugandan musician Samite; the Washington, D.C., funk/soul/reggae group See-I; singer Khaira Arby from Timbuktu, Mali; Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars; Brazilian singer-songwriter Luisa Maita; Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo, formerly of the Buena Vista Social Club; and American singer-songwriter Martin Sexton.

In the past month, the station has logged more than 3,000 listening hours from around the world.

As Mr. Curti moves into the next 20 years of his online radio station, he hopes to expose New World Buzz to a local audience and promote world musicians when they come to town.

“World music is really growing here in Pittsburgh, and I’m noticing a lot of world music acts that have been coming recently,” Mr. Curti said. "Pittsburgh is a strong city for music.”

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

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