Music – desert island discs

Music – desert island discs

10 note pentatonic xylophone from Ghana, with hardwood keys, gourd resonators and beaters made from old tyres. also known as Balafon or Marimba, t
10 note pentatonic xylophone from Ghana, with hardwood keys, gourd resonators

I love music and have never learnt to play a musical instrument, but I do like to beat out music on this machine bought from Oxfam. The beaters have rubber ends made from recycled tyre rubber.

I was interviewed last week on 2NVR, one of the wonderful community radio stations  we have up here. Elizabeth, who presents ‘Turning Pages’ every Friday morning from 11am asked me to select 10 pieces of music. I thought back to my childhood in England, my parents listening to Roy Plomley’s Desert Island Discs (a success from 1942 and still going), and me thinking what boring music most people choose to take with them away for the rest of their life.  Check out the archive here (some of over 1,500 episodes).

This is not a list of music I play the most, but music that is important for its variety, its passion and for the memories it conjures. On another day it would be a different list. I am listing them chronologically of when I first came across them.

  1. Small Faces, Itychcoo Park (written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane). The first song I ever loved, August, 1967. I’d sing along with a little radio aged 12, then enjoyed their psychedelic album ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’.
    Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
  2. Led Zeppelin, ‘Led Zeppelin’, 1969. I was headbanging to this in a private school in England – kept me sane. What a band – and I never saw them live. . .
  3. Can, ‘Future Days’, a German band popular at uni. Hitchhiking to Mali but the border was closed (war with the Polisario Front) so we cruised around Morocco, were picked up by Germans in a VW kombi –(RIP) . . . spaced out listening to this as we sailed  past the Caravanserai. I owned their Limited Edition LP, I think it was a special at 99p and featured a weird assortment or previously unreleased tracks,The funny things I have never met  German who has heard of them.
  4. Shostakovich String Quartets, perhaps the 8th (it could have been Bartok or Janacek). String quartets cut through to an essence of music. I have lost my Emerson boxed set, but have the Borodin – either if you have them. I grew up with my parent’s old Romantic classics, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on the old record player .
  5. I discovered World Music at Bristol Record Library – Pygmy music is simple and wonderfully joyous. (If possible, ‘Pygmy music’ ocm07854440 Musiques de l’Afrique traditionnelle ; v. Recorded Central African Republic). The first Womad at Shepton Mallet in the Royal Bath and West Showground 1982 was an amazing ear/eye-opener.
  6. Michael Nyman, ‘The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’, Track 8. Steve Reich gave a concert at Uni in 74 and got me interested in minimalism beyond Terry Riley. This is a chamber opera based on Oliver Sachs book. I think it’s marvellous (I dislike the melodrama of Italian operas, love Satie).
  7. Perez Prado, – once discovered (on a bus in the Yucatan) never forgotten – that old cassette I bought is not yet on CD unfortunately.
  8. Thomas Mapfumo. Food and music are two great travelling treats.  I heard him play live in a black township outskirts of Harare, a wild 4 hour concert. Many of the songs played were  released as ‘Chamunorwa’ in 1991.
  9. Henry Threadgill, RIP in Feb, a great individual – if possible something from ‘Too much sugar for a dime”, I love jazz, am surprised only one jazz track herein the list.
  10. My favourite Australian band Severed Heads, ‘Dead Eyes Open’. I caught them a few times in the eighties, a ground breaking band.

I should include the music of birds – say the Pied Butcherbird. They have several calls but the piping haunting chorale I hear every morning – a wonderful music. And Satie should be here, I have made a short video with John Laidler of his extraordinary career, but the short pieces have been damaged I fear by advertising.


Alternate 10:

Purcell, Dido’s Lament or the music for Queen Anne

Okapi Guitars, anything (they are friends and I have rapped a poem out with them on a few occasions)

Maravishnu Orchestra, Hope or The dance of Maya

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Mercy Seat

Eno, Driving me Backwards or Third uncle

Carla Bley, anything from Escalator over the Hill, or    Tropic Appetites

Robert Wyatt, anything from Rockbottom

Guillaume de Machaut (not the masses)

Godspeed Black Emperor, Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, EP

Arvo Pärt, Fratres

The latest Australian National Geographic arrived today with an article, ‘Why we love music’: “Music is an organised flow of sound waves or vibrations of differing frequencies. But that description is entirely inadequate in explaining why singing in a choir, listening to a Beethoven symphony, drumming in a jazz combo, dancing in a trance club or being at a rock concert will trigger the rush of amazing effects that music is known to have on the brain. Why does music make us feel anything at all?” Who knows? It is a complex phenomena, all kinds of brain areas are working when we listen to music.






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