Home Reviewers






BBC Radio 3: 90 – 93 FM


World Routes 10th Anniversary


BBC Maida Vale 3


November 26, 2010








A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

An exclusive 10th Anniversary concert celebrating BBC Radio 3’s World Routes programme was staged in their Bing Crosby Studio in Maida Vale before a selected audience of press, invited guests and 120 music lovers fortunate enough to have been allocated tickets in their random draw.  Prior to the concert, press and guests attended a reception, where a short film designed to offer an idea of the beauty and diversity of the upcoming BBC One series, Human Planet was shown.  The first airing of the weekly, eight part anthropological series ‘celebrating man’s remarkable ingenuity in using and adapting to his environment,’ will be on January 13th, 2011, and it will immediately be followed by Radio 3’s new companion series, Music Planet, presented by Andy Kershaw and Lucy Duran, which will allow listeners to hear music and sounds from the same remote destinations shown on Human Planet, music so rare, it has ‘hardly been heard outside of its own locality.’ These programmes will offer rare opportunities for greater understanding between cultures, making the lives of little seen worlds and the work of seldom heard World Musicians more accessible to television viewers and radio listeners than ever before.  Music Planet will air on Thursdays at 9pm on BBC Radio 3 (90 – 93 FM) to be repeated 3pm Saturdays.

At the reception prior to the concert, there was disappointment coupled with sympathy at the news that Senegalese star Youssou N’Dour had been forced to cancel his appearance due to a family tragedy.  But there was a buzz of excitement as we joined the throng heading into the gold plaqued Bing Crosby Studio, (where he made his last recording ‘Little Drummer Boy’ with David Bowie), for the celebratory concert, as we’d been told that the bill would include musicians from many different parts of the world.

First up in part one, recorded for BBC 3’s popular World Routes (to be broadcast Dec. 11th) was Turkey’s Selim Sesler, consisting of its’ namesake, whom the Guardian dubbed the ‘Coltrane’ of clarinet, Bulent Sesler on centries old qanun, Ozean Ozkurt on violin and Salhattin Kocan on darbuka, and a very beguiling set it was, representative of, as presenter Lucy Duran stated, ‘music you can only hear if you travel to a place.’ To my ears, Selim Sesler’s music was exotic, and to my sensibilities, free flowing. Clarinet, the entrancing, harp like qanun, violin and hand drum, at one point exchanged for a larger drum played with sticks, this Thrace Roman music, ‘Turkus’ (Turkish folk songs) or whatever you would prefer to term it, from this group, is a hypnotic outpouring well worth linking into. For more information visit: http://www.myspace.com/selimsesler

As is typical with World Routes, between live sets, listeners were treated to snippets of music and information about musicians destined to delight foreign ears, meaning our formerly unenlightened ones.

In his thrilling UK debut, Manuelcha Prado of Peru captivated the crowd with the grace and dexterity of his guitar playing, which almost sounds like a call and response between the instrument and its’ player, so intricate is its execution. I’ve heard a lot of great guitarists in my time, among them masters of world renown like the late Spanish virtuoso Segovia, and most recently, Malian maestro Djelimady Tounkara, but I have to say that Prado’s nimble and expressive style of playing took my breath away! To hear a shining example of Prado’s guitar wizardry, listen to this clip of him playing on Peru TV via his very humbly constructed facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=165698230123221.

The vocalist in Azerbaijan’s Turan Mugham Ensemble, Gochag Askarov, has one of the greatest vocal ranges I’ve ever heard utilised by a singer live, apart from possibly, Pavarotti, as I’m too young to have heard the legendary great Caruso, though Askarov’s impassioned voice is not only distinctly different from those famous operatic stars, but definitely, in a class by itself, particularly in terms of drama. Animated accompaniment was provided by Malik Mansurov (tar/oud), Elmur Mikayilov (kamancha) and Shukur Aliyev (percussion). You can have a listen here: http://womad.org/artists/gochag-askarov

The interval found us talking about the groups we’d already seen, as well as looking forward to the next.

Seckou Keita Quintet featured two great musicians I’d already had the pleasure of hearing live (and reviewing) at Europe’s 1st African Kora Festival in Brighton on August 21st, Keita himself, a sublimely gifted kora virtuoso/ singer and his cousin, Surahata Susso, also an excellent kora player/singer, who on this occasion handled percussion. The talents of this twosome were enhanced by the warm, enriching voice of Keita’s sister, Binta Suso, on both solo singing and duets with Keita, as well as Davide Mantonvani (double bass) and Samy Bishai (violin).Keita also plays a double necked kora, with twice the usual amount of strings, at 42!  The violin and bass made an interesting contrast to the harp like kora and Keita and his sister sang harmoniously. One number, on which Keita pounded a rhythm on his kora, had a flamenco flavor, while another featured Celtic sounding violin and Keita’s kora playing, as ever, bright and clear as sunlight on a stream. In the true spirit of peace on earth, goodwill towards men, 50% of the proceeds of the sale of Seckou Keita’s latest CD, The Silimbo Passage (2009), recorded with the Quintet, will be donated to The International Committee of the Red Cross. To purchase this stunning CD and find out more about Seckou Keita, his music and his campaign to give something back to those who’ve helped so many in need around the world please check this link: http://www.seckoukeita.com/

Mongolia’s Khugugtun, in gold, fur rimmed robes and high, mustard coloured boots, featured Chuluunbaatar Oyungerel (fiddle/voice), Batzorig Vaanchig (fiddle/voice), Aruinbold Dashdorj (double bass/voice/guitar), Amarbayaagalan Chovojoo (zither), Ulambayar Khurelbaatar (dombor), Adiyador Gomboauren (drum/flute/voice) and what an intriguing music they made! Throat singers all, whether they sang together or individually while some played horsehair fiddles, (with horse shaped heads) and other instruments not very well known to many of those listening, the group simply had to be experienced to be imagined! The result of their musicianship seemed in turns to be wild, funky and strange, and in the final analysis, their group efforts could only be summed up as getting down, Mongolian style! At times, some of their singing seemed bird-like, while deeper voices blended with bass sounding instruments. The momentum of their music and song would often build, only to unexpectedly change direction.

In addition to being rare and hugely enjoyable, this unique concert offers* listeners a cross-section of new and intriguing World Routes leading them through the ever expanding byways of our Music Planet.


BBC Radio 3 World Routes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnmp

BBC Radio 3 Music Planet: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sggq0

For more information on Human Planet: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00llpvp



* Editor’s Note: Tune in to BBC Radio 3 World Routes on December 11th and 18th to listen to parts 1 and 2 of this compelling concert. The major new eight part series, Human Planet begins on BBC One on January 13, 2011, immediately after which you will want to tune into the accompanying series on BBC Radio Three Music Planet on 90 – 93 FM at 9pm on Thursdays, to be repeated on Saturdays.





Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved





Home Reviewers