Rhythm Planet is a blog written by Tom Schnabel to bring readers the wealth of stories and thoughts that abound in his years of experience. He began producing radio for KCRW in 1977. During his tenure as Music Director (l979-1990), KCRW grew from an obscure college station to become the biggest public station in the US, serving as an influential taste-maker for new and unusual music. He developed the eclectic music format and introduced World Music to public radio. During this time KCRW twice won the College Media Journal’s “Best Noncommercial Station” award (1986, 1989). Schnabel resigned his position as music director in 1990 to broaden his career as a record producer, music consultant, and teacher.

In addition to KCRW, Schnabel has taught world music and other courses at UCLA Extension and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He consults on world music with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, (NARAS), as well as producing world music CD’s: Trance Planet, 5 volumes. (Triloka Records) and Quango World: Voices (Quango/Island). Recently he’s worked as a consultant on the Palm Pictures/National Geographic series, Palm World Voices.

Schnabel has written extensively about music for various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Jazz Magazine (France), Cashbox, Down Beat. Esquire. Buzz, and LA Style. He’s authored two books: Stolen Moments: Conversations with Contemporary Musicians (Acrobat Books 1988). and Rhythm Planet:The Great World Music Makers(Universe/Rizzoli. l998).

Music consulting for film includes work on Ground Hog Day, the Brazilian film, O Quatrilho and Dinosaur. Schnabel was also Music Supervisor of John Sayles’ Spanish-language feature film, Men with Guns.

He continues to work as music supervisor for ads and film. Schnabel also enjoy deejaying various events around the city, mixing hip hop, soul, and tropical music into a tasty dance.

In July l998, Schnabel was honored by the French Ministry of Culture with the prestigious French Medal of Arts, “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres,” for his work in furthering knowledge of world music in America. He’s also been awarded several citations from the City and County of Los Angeles.

Tom Schnabel has served as Program Director of World Music at the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall. In that capacity he helped inaugurate and direct KCRW’s successful World Festival series, featuring top artists like Thievery Corporaton, Willie Nelson, Gotan Project, Zero 7, Gilberto Gil, A.R. Rahman, Carlinhos Brown, Youssou N’Dour, the Buena Vista Social Club, Cesaria Evora, Femi Kuti, Baaba Maal, and countless others. The Walt Disney Concert Hall series has featured Ravi Shankar, Miriam Makeba, Alison Krauss, Osvaldo Golijov, Gustavo Santaolalla, and other top artists.

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  • Larry Stein

    My Guru! thanks Tom

    • tom schnabel

      saw some nice pix of you during a slide show at Sarah Spitz retirement party the other night. sorry to be so tardy in getting back, Larry!

  • David Tutton

    Loving the blog Tom. It's great to get your insightful thoughts on artists you introduce us to on your show. Many thanks, David.

  • Jeannie

    Ola Tom,

    Great Blog! Love to have your wealth of knowledge with me here in Bremen! Warms my heart and my feet.
    xo Jeannie

  • tom schnabel

    thanks Jeannie hope all is well with the Juergenmeister!

  • Halia01

    Hi! How are you? Were you a life guard on the Venice beach in 1975? I was visiting from Canada. You were on your way to Paris. Halia (Holly-ah) (noticed you as I grew up with jazz….)

    • tom

      Dear Halia,
      Hi Halia!
      yes I was a guard on Venice Beach in 1975. I remember you as well. You stopped by my place once but I think I was about to leave……I spent 75-76 in Paris. I met you in 1976 after I returned……I think in the fall of 1976… nice of you to write…….I did this little post on my lifeguarding days:
      This was all before I started my career in music and KCRW. Let me know what you're up to in Canada (where in Canada, I forget!). Best wishes, Tom

  • Leslie Evers

    Hi Tom,

    I am (was) a dear friend of Bruce Tebbe's; I miss him more than I can say. It was an everyday occurrence for him to share his passion for the beautiful things in life. He did have exquisite taste and wanted everyone to experience the joys he experienced. I could just see him bounding into your little cottage to make you listen to a piece of music. He did that to me many times. Was just reading your blog post on Petrov (bruce's son in law, Neal, posted it on FB) and had to write. I am a musician and recording my first album now. Here's to Bruce. pls friend me if you like best, Leslie Evers (@pergamond @mizlesliecarver)

    • tom

      happy to friend you Leslie. thanks for the nice email…..

  • Alec Dempster

    HI Tom,

    I have a son jarocho band called Café Con Pan here in Toronto.

    you may know my friends Cesar Castro, La Marisoul and Martha González over there in LA.
    Martha and La Marisoul recorded on the album we just released here in Toronto last week. I would like to send you a copy. You can also check it out at
    Where should I send it?



    • tom

      send it to my attention @ KCRW, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

  • Adele

    Hi Tom!

    I just discovered this artist for myself. On the page linked below, there are 2 music players that have his albums ready to play, in their entirety. I especially loved the jazz album, the piano solo is also wonderful. I thought you'd enjoy this, so am sending in case you haven't heard yet.

    Adele, West Hawaii

  • tom

    this is really nice…sorry it took so long to get back to you. have you put it out on cd?
    good luck…i love the saz… soulful.

    best wishes,

    Tom / KCRW

  • tom

    would love to know more…thanks Jan!

  • tom schnabel

    i'm familiar with his music, and we have a mutual friend, Laura Hubber.

    Best regards,


  • Dave Weissman

    Hi Tom -
    Thought you might want to know that Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista is making a rare LA-area appearance next Sunday Oct 5 at Pepperdine University’s Center for the Arts – with his amazing band Banquet of the Spirits.
    I bet you and your listeners would love his show – since you mention and play so many artists he’s played with (Caetano Veloso, David Byrne, etc)
    Check it out if you can!

  • Jeff Mazursky

    I am interested in the best recorded Afrocuban jazz luminaries. Could someone recommend for me which to own for my music collection ?

  • tom schnabel

    sure, no problem, just credit me, the rhythm planet blog, and kcrw….also the

  • tom schnabel

    thanks, nice to read these words……..

  • tom

    feel free to share my posts with others…spread the word!