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Jon Batiste on the places and people that shaped his world

A man wearing vintage headphones stands with his head bowed with only blue sky in the background.
Jon Batiste / Facebook

In the press materials that went along with his new album, World Music Radio, Jon Batiste made a simple and insightful point when he asked: “Isn’t all music world music?”

Not all interviews with musicians start from such a philosophical place, but Batiste isn’t just any musician. In fact, he isn’t “just” a musician at all; rather, he intersects with music in myriad ways.

Singer. Songwriter. Composer. Bandleader. TV personality. Grammy winner. Oscar winner. Civil-rights activist. Music director of The Atlantic. Creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

There are barely enough hyphens to keep up with his various pursuits and not enough time in the day for an interviewer to cover all the areas they want to explore. But 88Nine’s Dori Zori fit everything she could into the all-too-brief window she had with Batiste, who delivered thoughtful responses on topics ranging from his boundary-breaking approach on World Music Radio to his own world travels and how they shaped the multifaceted artist — and person — he is today.

You can find a few highlights below and listen to the full interview using the player at the top of the page. World Music Radio is available now on all streaming platforms and also via Batiste’s Bandcamp page.


On the idea that “all music is world music”:

I think when we started to sell music and market music in the industry, we put genres and categories around these expressions. I just love the idea of limitless creativity and the idea of music and people being connected through our cultural expressions. World music — in the best, best definition of that term — really speaks to the beautiful plurality and diversity of human life and expression.

On the lasting impact of moving to New York City as a teenager:

It’s really special to think about New York City at that time for me, coming from New Orleans. These are both very eclectic, very global cities in their own unique ways. I think that really did play a part in me having such a world-music concept, a very open and radically inclusive musical vision. If I had moved to another place, maybe I wouldn’t have fostered that sort of experiential knowledge. I maybe would be more of a different kind of artist.

On working with everyone from K-pop group NewJeans to Kenny G on World Music Radio:

I really am grateful to have so many collaborators contribute and make it be something that’s truly memorable for me. This album was something that could accommodate so much, and really it needed so much to tell the story that a lot of these collaborations fit and a lot of my discoveries of new artists and artists who I never work with. There are a lot of up-and-coming artists I chose to collaborate with on this album as well. It all fit in this world that is World Music Radio.

88Nine Promotions Manager / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee