across the pond

h, second semester at Duke.

An absolutely hectic pace before returning all too quickly to the semester routine. Fewer parking spaces, fewer class spaces, fewer moments of sanity. And a whole lot more juniors.

January marks the time when a few hundred students come back from abroad to a Duke campus whose quirks everyone else-even the freshmen-has already adjusted to. By all accounts, we abroad types feel a little out of it.

But when a friend of mine asked "Didn't you feel so out of it being abroad without knowing the American music scene?" I had to admit it... not really. Yes, a lot of U.S. music travels worldwide (after all, all the post-Mickey Mouseketeers are very internationally friendly). However, unless it's dance, techno, U2 or the revived British Invasion, not many international bands receive American attention. While abroad, regardless of country or continent, Duke students were exposed to great music last year-from Australian social anthems to an Italian teen-pop phenomenon.

As I attempt to re-discover the oh-so-exciting American mainstream, here's a sampling of some of the more popular bands who are famous in their home countries but still relatively unknown here.

THE WHITLAMS: One of Australia's biggest bands, the sound is basic pop-rock, but with an Aussie edge and socially provocative message. Their latest album, Love this City, features "Blow Up the Pokies," a song about gambling addiction. The song has struck a chord throughout the country, especially in Sydney, where numerous poker machines have become a social controversy. Thus, the disc is a two-in-one deal-listen to good music and learn about the social issues of Australia. is still under construction, but you can listen to samples and order CDs (and the CD single) through

LUNAPOP: Move over, Backstreet. These five boys from Italy have the provocative/scruffy/cute look down cold. A cross between Oasis and New Kids on the Block, Lunapop also have the necessary ubiquitity factor, playing constantly on the radio and stores throughout Florence. A few Duke students studying there went to the show, and reported the standard screaming teen girls, remarking how fun it was to sing along to Italian pop. And I highly recommend their's in Italian, but the pictures will speak to anyone...hmmm....

BLK SONSHINE: Internationally influenced harmonies with a decidedly African soul. Blk Sonshine's self-titled CD, released last April, captures the free-spirited passion of their live performances. With only their acoustic guitars and voices, the duo blends the depth of Ben Harper and Tracy Chapman with the fun funk of reggae and hip-hop. Speaking their message of universal love and friendship in English, Chicewa, Zulu and Italian, this band is truly unbelievable. Already gaining immense popularity in South Africa, one reviewer said of Blk Sonshine: "[I am] prepared to bet my soul on the fact that this seed will grow beyond our shores." I would too. The CD is not available on Amazon yet but as is so often the case, our pals at Napster should be the ticket for now. Definitely worth the effort.


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