Every new music artist wants to be discovered. No matter what genre they’re in, that’s the ultimate goal. Radio and television shows such as NPR’s “World Cafe” offer an opportunity for such artists to be noticed.
Raina Douris, host of “World Cafe,” will give her lecture at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 in the Amphitheater as part of the Week Nine Chautauqua Lecture Series, “A Vibrant Tapestry: Exploring Creativity, Culture and Faith with Smithsonian Folklife Festival.”
“I’m going to be talking about how music discovery has changed,” Douris said, “some of the trends in folk music specifically, and where ‘World Cafe’ has helped move those changes along.”
“World Cafe” is a nationally syndicated artist interview and discovery show that has been on air for over 30 years. Douris, only the third host in the show’s history, looks at the trends in the world, including what folk music means, what qualifies as folk music and how technology and the pandemic have changed music.
But, Douris does not only work with “World Cafe.” From 2017 to 2019 she served on the jury for the Polaris Music Prize, one of Canada’s highest music honors.
“You get to see this different array of musicians that often don’t get any promotion, or any real exposure in mainstream media, other than when the Polaris Prize happens,” Douris said. “It’s such a valuable, special thing.”
The Polaris Music Prize names the best Canadian album of the year, but isn’t based on album sales. It determines its winners based on artistic merit. There’s two rounds and a final shortlist before the winner is announced, often including underground artists who wouldn’t typically be discovered.
“I think it’s one of the most important music things that happens in Canada,” Douris said. “I was so proud to be a part of that, because I think it does something that is really difficult to do: shine a light on artists who don’t maybe have a full promotional machine behind them.”
Douris’ work on “World Cafe” allows her to connect with new artists like the ones eligible for the Polaris Music Prize, as part of her job is conducting interviews.
“I love getting to have conversations with people,” Douris said. “I love talking with people (and) I love getting to find the human side of an artist.”
Douris said she loved music and performing from a young age. She would make mixtapes and insist her mom listen to every song all the way through in the car. Douris turned this passion into a career.
“When I realized radio was a way to (get involved in the music world), it was really exciting,” Douris said. “That was when I started to intern at a rock station in Toronto.”
“World Cafe” is pre-taped, but since it is produced daily, they’re always creating something. While she loves the “go, go, go” aspect of journalism, Douris said sometimes she needs to sit back and reflect.
“I’m often very tired after the day,” Douris said. “By the end of the day, you’re talking so much (music), sometimes I just have to listen to silence.”
One of her favorite aspects of the work is when people are influenced by “World Cafe” shows.
“I really love it when someone’s like ‘I discovered this band because of “World Cafe,” they’re my new favorite,’ ” Douris said. “That is the best feeling ever.”
Music is incredibly valuable in her life, and Douris hopes others feel the same.
“I always hope that people take away a greater appreciation for music,” Douris said, “and take away a desire to listen more carefully, more actively, to engage in the music around them.”