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World Service Music Documentaries
27 minutes | Aug 18, 2018
Aretha Franklin: Queen Of Soul
Aretha Franklin, for fifty years the Queen of Soul, with a voice of unique quality and who suffered a difficult and troubled life, has died at the age of 76. Jumoke Fashola hears from musicians, fans and producers from different parts of the world about what made Aretha Franklin’s music special. It Includes contributions from South African singer Lira, American musician Valerie June, record company mogul Clive Davis, producer Narada Michael Walden, singer Sarah Dash and music journalist David Nathan.
50 minutes | Apr 29, 2017
Gabriela Montero: Improvisation Masterclass
Gabriela Montero, the exhilarating Venezuelan pianist, is playing in Miami. She is renowned for her live improvisations, a form of classical music that is rarely heard in concert halls today. Her spontaneous compositions on stage are inspired by musical motifs, sung or hummed to her by a member of the audience, often drawn from the classical repertoire, but also from the local folk traditions of any given audience.
47 minutes | Apr 1, 2017
Get Up, Stand Up: Reggae in Poland
What makes the sweet rhythmical music of a Caribbean island so appealing to young people in the eastern European country of Poland? How did a reggae singer with dreadlocks come to win the TV show Poland's Got Talent? And why is Poland one of the biggest markets for reggae music in the world? Bob Marley's biographer Chris Salewicz reports from the annual Ostroda Reggae Festival where ten thousand Poles gather for three days at a former communist army camp to hear artists and bands like Bednarek, Jah9, Damian Syjonfam and Nattali Rize celebrate the music of Jamaica. Pioneers of Polish Reggae including Robert Brylewski from Poland's first reggae band Izrael and Tomasz Lipinski from the influential punk/reggae outfit Brygada Kryzys explain how the music took root during the 1980s as a vehicle for protest against martial law. London-based Jamaican Norman Grant describes his visits to Poland at that time to collaborate and make records with the traditional Polish mountain musicians Trebunie. Backstage in Ostroda artists from Poland, Jamaica and around the world talk about keeping Bob Marley's spirit alive and discuss how reggae is now seen both as a voice for protest against Poland's current right wing government and as a means of propagating a fundamentalist Catholic message which is at odds with Marley's rasta ideology. At the climax of the festival, reporter Chris Salewicz is invited on stage to act as one of the judges for the annual World Reggae Contest won by Dutch band The Dubeez.
50 minutes | Feb 1, 2017
Van Morrison and me
John McCarthy explores how Van Morrison’s music has influenced people’s lives and Brian Keenan takes John on a tour of Van’s home city of Belfast.
50 minutes | Dec 31, 2016
Steve Earle’s Songwriting Bootcamp
Legendary country singer-songwriter Steve Earle unveils the secrets of composing a great song. Every year he runs a four-day intensive training session in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Journalist and aspiring songwriter Hugh Levinson joined around 100 other would-be balladeers to see what they can learn from Steve and his fellow teacher, Shawn Colvin. Everyone comes for a different reason. Ange Leech travelled all the way from Kalgoorlie in Australia, saying "I want to learn how to really tell a story simply but effectively - pass on a message or ideas through words". Karen Dahlstrom from Brooklyn came looking for "hints, tricks, magic… Steve sets the bar really high and I want to approximate something close to what he does". Steve tells Hugh that he "can't make anyone a song writer who wasn't a song writer before they got here - but they will be better song writers when they leave". And he rebuts the theory that you have to live a life like his – which includes a serious heroin addiction, a spell in prison and eight marriages – to become a great songwriter. Find out if Hugh managed to write a song good enough to perform at one of the camp’s nightly open mic shows. And listen in for stories of dreaming, methadone, guns, jail, death and betrayal. All the good stuff. Image: Steve Earle, Credit: BBC
48 minutes | Dec 14, 2016
Bob Dylan – In So Many Words
Marco Werman investigates Bob Dylan’s work, weighing the evidence on whether he’s a worthy Nobel Literature Prize winner.
49 minutes | Aug 8, 2016
The Caribbean Musical Melting Pot: Keeping it Real?
Gemma Cairney reports on attempts to keep musical traditions alive on both Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. In Guadeloupe – much of the music is driven by a belief in “you have to know where you come from to know where you’re going” and many young people are rediscovering their Creole music and language as a result. Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, they have created their own 'soca' – Reggaeton – which has gained international success, although many of the musicians have left for places like Miami to exploit their commercial success. Left behind is a movement to rediscover the more traditional roots of Puerto Rican music – particularly 'plena'. Gemma interviews the father of Zouk and founder of Kassav, Pierre-Edouard Décimus, Gwoka band Kan’nida, and Guadeloupian singer Tanya St Val. She finishes her journey in Puerto Rico in the land of Reggaeton and visits the studio of Reggaeton godfather DJ Nelson and chats to "Ileana "iLe" Cabra, vocalist of Puerto Rico’s Calle 13, and Puerto Rican Rumba and Bata band ÌFÉ. (Photo: Guadeloupian band Kan’nida in their rehearsal studio)
49 minutes | Aug 8, 2016
The Caribbean Musical Melting Pot: The Rise and Rise of Soca
Music from all over the Caribbean is gaining international recognition as it increasingly draws on influences from all around the world. In this first programme, Gemma Cairney looks at the new sounds of Soca in Trinidad and Barbados, which is a blend of both African and Trinidadian rhythms. It includes interviews with Bajan Soca queen Alison Hinds; Soca producers De Red Boyz; Salt, Bubbles & Nikita at Barbados station Slam 101FM; Bajan Spoken Word artist, DJ and cultural ambassador DJ Simmons; calypsonian Adonijah; Bristol-Trinidadian duo Jus Now and DJ Jillionaire from Major Lazer. The programme reveals how Soca has become integral to the Bajan economy – particularly the Crop Over Festival which Gemma visits. (Photo: Gemma with locals in Bridgetown Barbados at Crop Over Festival)
50 minutes | Jul 4, 2016
A symphony for Syria
A symphony for Syria is the story of how 50 Syrian musicians beat the odds to find their way to Holland to perform together. The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians first played with British songwriter Damon Albarn in 2008. Since then, a civil war has divided their country and forced many to rethink many aspects of their lives. Some have decided to live in Europe whilst others have stayed in Syria and continued to try and perform even as their compatriots have died and lost their homes around them. In a symphony for Syria, Amy Zayed explores their lives through music in Syria and their newly adopted countries. And it puts their music in a rich tradition of Syrian performances dating back three thousand years. We share their emotions as Damon Albarn attempts to reunite his old friends in Amsterdam. Can all the members make it to Holland? Is there time to get the music together? And we follow their first concert and what they hope will be an enthusiastic and emotional reception from a European audience as they attempt to persuade them that Syria is not just about war but amazing musical culture as well.
49 minutes | May 7, 2016
The Secrets of Songwriting
Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, two Liverpool musicians collectively known as Sodajerker, quiz musicians on everything from the instruments they use and where they write to whether they thrive under deadline pressure. Their stellar list of interviewees includes Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (who have written dozens of hits, including You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling); Jimmy Webb; Joan Armatrading; Adele’s songwriter Dan Wilson; Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows and many more.
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