Radio: marginalised voices

  • 18 October 2006
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Had enough of talk radio by mid afternoon – people moaning to Joe Duffy, Mooney not going wild on one, Sean Moncrief's fast-talking, busy, busy NewsTalk slot? Then switch over to RTÉ's classical music station Lyric FM where John Kelly is keeping the nation sane for two hours of pure pleasure from 2.30pm each day (The JK Ensemble, 2.30 - 4.30, Lyric FM).

Kelly was marginalised in RTÉ after an acrimonious ejection from his old Mystery Train evening slot on RTÉ Radio 1. But his move to Lyric, which came after a period of uncertainty, may be a good one for him. The new show is longer and undoubtedly will raise listenership figures for Lyric FM (given its low baseline this will not be difficult).

Some of the JK Ensemble will be familiar territory for Mystery Train listeners – he still has the courage and panache to play a Myles Davis song that lasts 16 minutes and 21 seconds, to introduce it just by pronouncing how great it is, telling listeners they are in for a treat, and to just kick back and listen.

There is plenty of classical music too, but it is artfully mixed with more popular sounds. On Monday 16 October Kelly played classical tunes alongside the sound track to the film Zidane (composed by rock band Mogwai), Jimmy Scott, who sang Prince's 'Nothing Compares To You', Loudon Wainwright III, as well as a 'diddley-eye' tune.

Keeping mid-afternoon radio listeners' psyche on an even keel is a great new undertaking for Kelly.

Last month Evo Morales held up a coca leaf to the UN general assembly to get them to understand that in his home country, Bolivia, coca is a crop which cures hunger, pain and tiredness. It is green, not white, he said. They don't use cocaine in Bolivia. To make coca into cocaine requires a very sophisticated chemical process, which they neither possess nor want. But the war on drugs lives on in land-locked Bolivia, as the US demands its eradication. Meanwhile at home, Bolivians won't stop chewing it. It contains twice the calcium of milk. Hotels in La Paz recommend a cup of coca tea to settle stomachs. And Morales is campaigning to depenalise coca leaf production. Morales was himself a coca grower became a union leader, and then president.

Rodney Rice presents a weekly documentary (Worlds Apart, Thursdays 8pm, RTE Radio 1) from the developing world where he lets local people tell their stories. On 12 October, Bolivians spoke of their remarkable recent political past, when Morales, their first indigenous leader came to power after the country had been through a water war in 2000 and gas war in 2003, when the people rose against and beat big business and the World Bank. They tell of a country where the marginalised majority have taken control for first time, of Morales' powerful political force, and how they are struggling with their new political vista. On 19 October, the programme looks at the tradition in 28 African countries of female genital mutilation.