Ned Wharton

For over a decade, arts journalist Betto Arcos has been a familiar voice to public radio listeners, bringing them the sounds of the world — be it from a samba school in Rio or an amphitheater in Colombia, profiling artists who play unusual instruments or create cross-cultural mashups. More than 140 of those reports are collected in his new book, Music Stories from the Cosmic Barrio. Arcos spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about learning in his travels how music creates community, and vice versa. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

Imagine being able to lay down your burdens and fly away from Earth — to a place of harmony, where discrimination is left behind. That dream is the basis of the song "Blackstronauts" by Britton & The Sting, a standout entry in this year's Tiny Desk Contest. Britton Smith, who wrote the song, tells Weekend Edition he wrote "Blackstronauts" while thinking about one particular burden: the need for affirmation.

Linda Ronstadt — the chart-topping, Grammy- and Emmy-winning Rock & Roll Hall of Famer — is due to be honored again this week. This time, she'll receive a Hispanic Heritage Award, in recognition both of her pop music and her smash-hit mariachi albums. Ahead of the virtual ceremony, which will be broadcast by PBS on Oct. 6, she joined NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro to talk about the role of her Mexican-American identity in her career and what music she's been listening to lately.

This year, many people have been turning to music for catharsis, but Mama Haze, aka songwriter Meaghan Maples, has been tapping into music's healing powers for a long time. Before pursuing music full-time, the Oakland, Calif.-based artist was a doula and caregiver, often prescribing music as an antidote to patients' pain.

This year's Tiny Desk Contest wrapped up at the beginning of August with the announcement of our winner, Linda Diaz, and her song "Green Tea Ice Cream." But NPR Music's panel of judges saw over 6000 entries from around the country, and there was more than one incredible submission.

The band Woods has always incorporated diffuse influences, taking inspiration from lo-fi rock, Ethiopian jazz and psychedelic folk sounds. Guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Earl, who recently became a father, says his group's latest album, Strange To Explain was influenced by something else — a lack of sleep.

"Those first few months or first year of having a newborn kind of put me in a dreamlike state," he says. "And that was my escape: to start writing."

James Taylor has been a household name for a long time now. Taylor was just 20-years-old when he released his self-titled debut in 1968; in the half century since then, he has sold over 100 million albums and cemented his status as one of the most successful American singer-songwriters.

Afrobeat will probably always be associated with one man, one time and one country — Fela Kuti, in late 1960s Nigeria. But for the past 20 years, Antibalas has been establishing Brooklyn, N.Y., as a new center of the Afrobeat universe. The band's seventh studio album was just released and it has a name that calls back to its martial arts origins: Fu Chronicles.

Olivier Latry, one of the chief organists at Notre Dame Cathedral, was the last artist to record on the famous instrument before the catastrophic fire on April 15 that damaged the church and caused its spire to collapse. This pipe organ is the largest in France and dates back centuries. Though it was spared from the flames, it will still require extensive renovation.

Named after the beloved Professor Longhair song, Tipitina's is a famous club that the New Orleans band Galactic has frequented for over 25 years. Now, the longstanding funk band out with its 10th album, Already Ready Already, owns the place.

It all started with a tweet from Phil Collins.

In a now-viral post from earlier this month, the musician suggested people cue up his song "In the Air Tonight" so the iconic drum fill rings out at midnight on New Year's Eve.

In true 2017 fashion, the tweet lead to a meme, and the Twitterverse lit up with other ideas for climactic musical moments to ring in the new year.