• jamesroriston

'Music Planet': The world in music on BBC Radio 3

Those who know Andy Kershaw, might also know that he hit the airwaves in later times with the sounds of Zimbabwean song, Chilean pipes, Australian clap- sticks and a whole plethora of other sounds to the weekend and Friday night airwaves.

Well that's a few years back now and since then BBC cuts has meant that world music offerings on BBC Radio 3 is substantially less than a decade ago.

It was perhaps initially alarming then that a press release on the BBC website said that 'World on 3' would be ending earlier this year. A new programme would emerge, but what would that mean and how good would it be? Would there be further cuts to ensure world music be truly confined to the radio wilderness?

Thankfully not, but 'world music' does seem decidedly 'niche'. Radio 3 for it's part only attracts just over 1 percent of the listening public according to recent Q2 Rajar figures. If you ask for world music CD's in a local HMV, the store attendant will take you to a relatively quiet area of the store, where you can browse almost undisturbed. It is true that sometimes, world musicians make it to the charts, but rarely. When and artist does, it becomes a worthy breath of fresh air and offers much needed exposure.

So, in early summer 'Music Planet' on BBC Radio 3 launched, bringing in a new era as 'World on 3' ended and here's a review. I believe the name change came about as the BBC needed to make production cuts and so outsourcing meant a new programme title. The two hour slot was retained and Lopa Kothari and Kathryn Tickell continued to host. So how's it gone so far?

Well to be honest, Lopa put it about right when I spoke to her about the programme some time back. 'Souped up' was the phrase and that is an apt description for the new show. New features, new ideas, new energy and the 'best of' retained. .

The live session guests still roll in each week, but we also get a tour around the world with specially made inserts from around the world in the 'Music Planet Road Trip'. Some time ago, Andy Kershaw had special programmes travelling to a new part of the globe. Fast forward and this idea is similar, but more compact and you get a local guide to take you there. Jamaica, Shetland, Norway, Brazil have all featured. It's certainly eclectic and wide ranging.

Another new feature the mixtape. BBC Radio 3's gone all out for mixtapes of late. One on Late Junction every so often, one each night after 'In Tune'. BBC Radio 1 and the Asian Network have their own summer mixes. It seems it's all about the specially curated, unusual then familiar all blended in one stream. It certainly works on 'Music Planet' and they are now appealing to listeners to send in their own ones as well by email.

So there then; new features but what about the content? Well it's not much change and that's a good thing as it was terrific on 'World on 3'. The new releases still feature. BBC Introducing (new artists who've uploaded items hoping for exposure) and the heritage track are still there. Session guests still give over some wisdom and banter in equal measure, give a good set and select a track that explains some of their influences.

It's the live sessions that work so well and makes the programme often. Whilst the 11pm-1am slot on a Friday night might be only for the night owls, it is great that live guests can come over post gig, play a new set and be interviewed live in the studio. There's always BBC iPlayer radio to listen the next day for those non 'night owls' (me included).

So, a positive verdict to this re-imagined late night music slot. Great new features and the lively and familiar style of both hosts Kathryn Tickell and Lopa Kothari. They give a freshness to what can sometimes be a stuffy daytime presentational style on Radio 3.

World Music is still strong on the airwaves and WOMAD has just passed (output was noticeably slimmer than previous years on Radio 3 mind and this is a shame). Thank goodness for government remits to ensure world music survives the schedule chops and budget cuts. Dear listener: keep listening and tweeting... It's #musicplanet

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