This is the first of a series of posts on gems of Spanish culture I´ve stumbled across whilst living here. Not necessarily things which have crossed borders and have international fame like Almodovar, El Quijote or Flamenco, but things which I think are pretty special and which Spain should be proud of having produced.
I´m writing this post listening to a strange kind of bebop music which the radio presenter has told me is from Miami. And it´s great. Fun, fresh, funky and very, very cool. This isn’t the kind of thing that I´d download, and I´d certainly never tell anyone that Bebop was one of the musical styles that I most love. But when someone with taste and love for music presents you with something they love, there are few styles that I wouldn’t enjoy.
The radio station serving up these joyous sounds is RTVE´s Radio 3. In my opinion, the finest radio station in the world and essential listening for any music fan. As their jingle goes: There´s Radio. And there’s Radio 3.
What´s great about this station is that it plays such a wide variety of music styles, covers so many different tastes in music and allows you to discover new sounds that you never knew existed or would appreciate. What´s more, it´s made by people with an obvious passion for what they are doing and with real knowledge.
So many stations nowadays seem to be based around a target age group, market segment or style. How boring is that? Often the radio is on in the office and I´d swear that it plays The Shoop Shoop Song by Cher twice a day, every day. It seems most stations nowadays are aimed at people who they think want to listen to the same thing every day.
It´s always fun to turn on Radio 3, cause you just never know what is going to turn up. One moment its Brazilian salsa, then Mike Oldfield, then Belle and Sebastian and finish off with some Camaron. Don’t get me wrong, I´ve heard shows where they´ve played three or four consecutive tracks of Kenny G (maybe more, I turned on the ipod! after that) and been talking about how good it is. But the fact that it´s so very hit and miss is part of the charm.
They had a series of programmes across a week that was dedicated to various styles of Icelandic music which was a pleasure. Yet they are not being obscure for the sake of it. It´s always presented by people with an understanding and knowledge of the music they talking about. Passion for music is the key.
I love discovering new bands. And I love discovering new genres that I wouldn’t have known where to start previously. I heard one programme dedicated entirely to an American psychedelic band from the sixties called The Electric Prunes. Discovering “The Prunes” lead me to one of the best albums I´ve ever heard, “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968”, which opens up with their track “I Had too Much to Dream Last Night”.That ked me to investigate even more of this amazing genre of music, and now I can’t live without it.
Their website allows you to drop into the different styles it cover, with menus for Pop/Rock, World Music, Electronica, Hip Hop, Jazz/Blues and live music. Ok, there´s not much country and western or classical but there are only so many hours in the day!
It also covers a lot of Spanish and South American music that otherwise wouldn’t get an airplay, and bands get championed and support from the programmes and presenters. Often you´ll listen to interviews where you can hear real affection between the interviewer and interviewee. So it´s also a great way to discover Spanish music that doesn´t have the marketing budget of X Factor shoving it in your face. And there´s some great stuff at the moment.
Rather embarrassingly it also regularly features Scottish music that I´ve never heard of. The American Bebop music that was on when I started writing has now been replaced by Stealers Wheel, a Scottish band from the seventies which featured Gerry Raffery. The presenter tells me that these guys also did “Stuck in the Middle With You” which featured heavily in Reservoir Dogs and continues to give a history of the band and a summary of the music scene at the time.
Great music I´ve heard first from Radio 3 has been as varied as Jamie T, Concha Buika, Anni B Sweet or Marvin Pontiac, all highly recommended listening in a totally different way. There are many more. And would be more still if I´d been able to get to a pen and paper in time and write down the name of the band. So thanks Radio 3 for giving me the opportunity to discover so much. I´d recommend you give it a go.
You can listen live or try out some of their best programmes in the podcast such as Disco Grande, Siglo 21, Hoy Empieza Todo, Carne Cruda, , Discopolis, or Ruta 61 here http://www.rtve.es/radio/radio3/.