It’s not every day that your college roommate is host to a national television show. But come Monday night at 10 p.m., you’ll be able to see Marco Werman on public television nationally as he hosts the pilot of “Sound Tracks,” a new show that highlights what’s happening globally with music.
“The whole idea of ‘Sound Tracks’ was essentially to take the ‘Global Hit’ segment I produce for radio — for ‘The World’ — and give it visuals,” Werman said in an interview. “It works extremely well with music that’s happening around the globe because artists tend to occupy spaces that many of us don’t get a chance to see. In radio, you can get transported to those places, but you ‘see’ them in your imagination. On the other hand, radio has the advantage of being the perfect music medium for obvious reasons.”
If you’re scratching your head thinking that Werman’s name sounds familiar, it might be that you recognize it because he now hosts “The World” national radio show 3 p.m. Monday through Friday on public radio stations, including WABE in Atlanta. He’s been with the show since 1997, when he pioneered regular in-depth stories on global music news and trends to an audience that now approaches 3 million weekly listeners. Before joining the Boston-based show, he managed an upstate New York public radio station, produced news for the BBC World Service from West Africa and volunteered with the Peace Corps. He’s even won a national Emmy award for his online reporting on international music and news for PBS’s “FRONTLINE/World.”
Sounds pretty impressive, huh? It’s the natural progression for a guy who started a short-lived alternative paper with me that featured his interview with reggae artist Peter Tosh.
Werman says the new show, which he hopes will be picked up soon for a six-show season, has a big buzz with the bigwigs at PBS. He and his team are excited with a bunch of great story ideas. “The course we’re tracking is to build further excitement among viewers, and as important, funders,” he said in an interview. “We’d love to be shooting some of those stories by later this year.”
For a longtime radio reporter, television is a little different, although Werman and company seem to eschew the make-up and obsession-with-appearance part of TV for the relaxed, third-world reporter look.
“The actual craft of television was a big discovery for me, as someone immersed in radio for so many years,” he said. “Radio, minus the script editing, is basically a one-person operation, and that means as a reporter, you can be pretty self-contained. Like print reporters, you can easily assume the fly-on-the-wall.
“With TV you have to accept that you are part of a larger collaborative effort. I like feeling part of a team. Though in the field, even a three-person crew attracts attention. … There’s more artifice with TV. It’s fun, though, and the teamwork is refreshing. But it’s not radio.”
Stories on “Sound Tracks,” like those of “The World,” may open up a new (pardon the pun) world for many Americans.
“In a very clever and subtle way, stories about why and how people make music around the world go much further than conventional news coverage in explaining why things are the way they are,” Werman said. “Want to know about Nigerian politics? Listen to Fela Kuti. Want to get inside the head of Russian politicians? Find out why they need to be flattered by pop music nymphettes. And so on.”
Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston Currents. He and Marco Werman both attended Duke University. Werman is also a graduate of Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C.
Programming Note: You can watch “Sound Tracks” 10 p.m. Monday on most public television stations. If you don’t get a chance to view the pilot, check it out online here.