NPR Staff

Beirut, Live In Concert

Sep 29, 2015

How does a band return from a recording hiatus that could have permanently displaced it from the audience's eye? If you are Zach Condon and Beirut, you just go about your business and pick up where you left off three years earlier. The group's First Listen Live show at Brooklyn's intimate Bell House on a rainy September night, a concert debuting many of the songs from the brand new No No No, its first album since 2011, showed that Beirut works through its obstacles.

It's difficult enough to start an orchestra, but Zuhal Sultan founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) as a teenager in the middle of a war. She brought together 40 young musicians from different Iraqi cities and sectarian backgrounds in an effort to unify a divided nation. Now, six years later, the Euphrates Institute has named her Visionary of the Year.

Some pretty horrible things befall astronaut Mark Watney in the new movie The Martian: sandstorms, explosions, extreme isolation, even frustrations growing potatoes. It's a series of unfortunate events that's at once highly scientific and very entertaining.

The Martian is the brainchild of author Andy Weir, who wrote the blockbuster novel that inspired the film. As Weir tells it, he'd always longed for some science fiction with greater emphasis on the science.

Liz Vice didn't grow up with gospel music, and she never really thought of herself as a singer. Things change: The 32-year-old from Portland, Ore. has now released an album called There's A Light, whose songs and sound challenge many of the stereotypes about Christian music.

The British band The Selecter began singing about race, gender and politics in the late 1970s. They were part of a musical moment that came to be known as 2-tone, which combined elements of early Jamaican ska with the styles that were bubbling up in the UK at the time.

Khaled Alkojak is one of the few Syrians to have made it to the U.S. since the start of the Syrian civil war. Even here, though, the 31-year-old remains in limbo, unsure of how long he'll be allowed to stay.

For now, Alkojak lives in Southern California. When he spoke with NPR's Arun Rath, Alkojak spoke of his life in Syria before the war.

"Nothing special," Alkojak says. "I'm just like any Syrian guy from Damascus. I work with my father; we have a family business."

He helped run his family's Internet cafe, at the same time attending school to study computers.

If anyone has the credentials to write a book called The Art Of Language Invention, it's David J. Peterson.

He has two degrees in linguistics. He's comfortable speaking in eight languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Esperanto, Arabic and American Sign Language) — plus a long list of others he's studied but just hasn't tried speaking yet. He's also familiar with fictional languages — both famous ones like Klingon and deep cuts like Pakuni (the caveman language from Land Of The Lost).

Years ago, in the small town of Maiden, N.C., a man named Shannon Whisnant bought a storage locker, and in it he found a grill. When he took both of them home and opened the grill, he discovered something he hadn't been expecting: a mummified human leg.

Most people — one presumes — would've have wanted to get rid of the leg as soon as possible. Whisnant, however, wanted to keep it. Trouble is, the original owner of the limb, John Wood, wanted it back. He'd had to have that leg amputated years earlier.

Human smugglers prey on the desperation of people who flee war and oppression. They've made millions moving people across borders, without regard to safety. Thousands have died, locked in packed trucks or trapped in sinking ships — like the "ghost ships," crowded with Syrian refugees, which have been set on course to crash into the Italian coast.