BRATTLEBORO—In July 2017, Dummerston-based musician Derrik Jordan began hosting “The World Fusion Show,” a music and interview program on Brattleboro Community Television featuring regional and international artists.
Less than a year later, “The World Fusion Show” reaches audiences in 16 states on 67 community stations, including those in major markets such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Boston.
BCTV broadcasts a new episode of “The World Fusion Show” every two weeks and reruns shows nearly every day. All 23 episodes are available for viewing on BCTV’s website, www.brattleborotv.org, and on the show’s YouTube page, and Jordan has more shows in post-production, soon to be aired.
Each show lasts just under 30 minutes. About half of the time, Jordan interviews the guest, and the other half is a musical performance, often with Jordan accompanying the artist.
Both are equally important, Jordan said.
“I want to let the artist tell their story. It gets people interested in their music,” he said.
The interviews are recorded live, and Jordan prepares his guests ahead of time by letting them know what he’ll ask and learning what he shouldn’t ask. This helps minimize the time and money spent on editing, he said.
During filming, Jordan’s videographer records three musical performances, often with Jordan accompanying the guest. He includes two of them in the episode, and reserves one for what Jordan calls “the sampler shows.” These consist of musical numbers by six artists, with no interviews.
A lifelong composer, musician, producer, and music teacher, Jordan admitted “I never had any idea I’d be a television host.” But a few years ago, Jordan said, he “got the hare-brained idea” to create a show about his passion: music. Especially music from around the world.
Jordan, a member of numerous bands including Simba, the Impulse Ensemble, Moonlight Davis, and Tony Vacca’s World Rhythms, said he started his career as a pop musician and composer.
Raised in Millburn, New Jersey, Jordan moved to Vermont to attend Bennington College, where he studied with avant-garde jazz pioneer and drummer/percussionist Milford Graves.
After Bennington, Jordan moved to New York City, primarily to continue studying with Graves at his home in Jamaica, Queens.
Through his professor, Jordan’s musical world expanded. “Milton Graves was my mentor,” he said.
In New York, Jordan found success as a jingle singer — and that was the extent of his television experience prior to “The World Fusion Show."
“I’m as surprised as anyone that I can do a television show,” Jordan said.
But, he noted, he learned skills in other realms to prepare him for this. In addition to his experience as a musician, Jordan taught music for 14 years at the Greenwood School.
“I can talk in front of people,” he said.
To figure out how to conduct interviews, Jordan studied the professionals. “I watched YouTube [videos] of Katie Couric and Larry King,” he said.
When asked why he chose television as his medium, rather than radio, Jordan said, “Because you can see the cool instruments!"
He doesn’t expect viewers to keep their eyes glued to the screen, though. “You can listen while you do the dishes, and look over when you hear something interesting,” Jordan said.
Lots of options
Jordan finds many of the show’s guests through his extensive contacts in the music world, and many of them have performed in music venues in and around Brattleboro.
Sometimes, a guest will suggest another musician. At least once, Jordan found a musician “seemingly randomly, through Facebook,” he said.
The list of local and regional musicians who have appeared on “The World Fusion Show” include Jed Blume, Aliya Cycon, Eugene Friesen, Julian Gerstin, John Hughes, Stephen Katz, Jim Matus, Todd Roach, Eshagh Shaoul, Tony Vacca, and the band Natural History.
The show has featured notable international guests such as Bideew Bou Bess, a rap group composed of three brothers.
“They are superstars in Senegal!” Jordan said. “When they were on the show, they covered ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5. It’s world fusion, coming back at me.”
Another artist Jordan described as a Senegalese superstar is Massamba Diop, who appeared on the show’s 16th episode. Diop also appeared on the soundtrack of the film “Black Panther,” lending his talents on the tama, or talking drum, to various parts of the score, including during the fight scenes.
Episode 21 features Abiodun Oyewole, a founding member of The Last Poets. The group, which formed in Harlem in 1968 when Oyewole was 19, is considered by many to be the first rap group.
In the show’s description, Jordan wrote, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of their performing together. He is a songwriter and a hard-hitting spoken word artist. He is also a great lover of humanity. This episode (Part 1) includes his deeply moving song ‘Pelorinho,’ shot on Goree Island, the ancient slave port in Senegal, West Africa.”
“This guy is a piece of Black history,” Jordan told The Commons.
“I look for eclectic musicians,” who play music outside of the typical world genre, Jordan said. “I want them to combine traditional styles with other types of music. To me, it’s about the fusion.”
“There’s such diversity in world fusion. And the emphasis is on diversity through inclusiveness,” he said, noting that he chooses musical guests from “everywhere in the world.”
Although Jordan selects the artists and conducts the interviews, he delegates all of the video production to others. If he had to do it all, “I would have no life whatsoever,” he said.
Ezlerh Oreste has served as the show’s producer since episode 10. Before that, Wyatt Andrews produced the program.
Jordan noted Andrews also designed the show’s visuals, including the set and the logo. Alan Stockwell provides audio engineering. “He’s my insurance,” said Jordan, who noted, “he makes everything sound great."
Jordan said he is surprised by how many community television stations picked up “The World Fusion Show.” Nearly all Vermont public access stations, 20 in Massachusetts, at least one in every New England state except Rhode Island, one in Maui, another in Grand Rapids and Durham, and a handful of California stations broadcast the show.
“I only directly contacted 15 stations. All of the others found me,” he said.
Jordan said that without BCTV, he probably wouldn’t have created “The World Fusion Show."
“They’ve far exceeded my expectations,” he said. “They are an exceedingly competent, professional, supportive group of people."
Funding for “’The World Fusion Show’ comes out of my pocket,” Jordan said. “It’s not sustainable, and I’m trying to figure out the next step. It’s not expensive, but it’s not cheap, either. It adds up.”
“But, I make money in other ways,” he noted. Jordan sells his music for use in film and television scores, he operates a recording studio near his home in East Dummerston, he produces albums for other artists, and he performs with a number of bands.
Jordan has tried to solicit donations to support the show, but so far has been unsuccessful.
“It’s basically a philanthropic production,” he said.
Still, the show must go on.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” Jordan said. “I wake up every day and say, ’I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I get to do this.’”