Five musical postcards from your next holiday destination
Looking for holiday inspiration – or just to escape the Top 40? Look no further. If you want to discover the world this summer, start with Music Planet: Road Trip, Radio 3's world music podcast.
Our podcast is founded on the principle that there's no better way to experience a culture than through its music. Each episode comes from a different location and is hosted by a local music lover who reveals the traditional beats and new sounds lighting up the scene in their part of the world.
From Finland to Israel, Ghana to Greece, Japan to Jamaica and beyond, this collection of musical postcards give an insight into music scenes around the globe. There's no passport required: just headphones. Here are five of our favourite episodes so far this summer.
1. Shetland, Scotland
You don’t need to travel far to discover new music. Staycation instead in Shetland, where the singer and multi-instrumentalist Inge Thomson took us on an evocative road trip through the Northern Isles, starting on Fair Isle where she grew up.
“It is a magical place, and every time I go home I feel that tired spot in my soul healing again,” she says. “All the worries of the greater world evaporate, and what we’re left with are the important things: people, close community, the immediacy of the elements, the sea, wind, salt, and the nature that we share the island with.”
Like many islanders, Inge grew up with music an essential part of her life. Playing tunes together was normal, and dances held at the locals were (and still are) attended by all. Fiddle is king in the Northern Isles, and while Shetland has exported internationally successful players, the tradition remains strong at home, too, with a newfound surge in popularity for fiddle-playing among the island’s youth.
Hear more in Music Planet’s Road Trip to Shetland.
2. Kingston, Jamaica
“The experience of living in Jamaica is one of complete and utter seduction,” says DJ and broadcaster Alex Jordan, who presents a recent episode from Kingston. “The energy and vibes of this population is irresistible. Life is supported by a contant theme tune, and Jamaicans are an inventive, creative and passionate people.”
Music in Jamaica doesn’t begin and end with Bob Marley. Kingston is the beating heart of an island music scene that brought the world everything from classic ska and rocksteady to dub, reggae, and reggae’s naughtier younger cousin, dancehall. And now a new generation of young artists is taking that cultural heritage and fusing it with musical traditions from around the world.
“Everyone in our generation, regardless of their country, has grown up with many influences because of the internet,” says producer/songwriter Tessellated, whose track Pine & Ginger (above) features in the podcast. “Growing up in Jamaica, it’s the same thing: we’re rooted in dancehall and reggae, but at the same time there are so many influences like hip hop, RnB, jazz, all these styles from around the world.”
Hear more in Music Planet’s Road Trip to Jamaica.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
NB: This episode may induce involuntary dancing; take care if listening on public transport. We’re on a road trip to Rio with music journalist and author Silvio Essinger, who takes us on a tour through time. We start in the 1950s with a classic track from Moreira da Silva (the “grandaddy of Brazilian rap”) before speeding into the 1970s with the sunny sounds of Dom Salvador E Abolição’s Guanabara, which incorporates elements of samba, jazz, and American funk.
No trip to Rio would be complete without a passing visit to the baile funk for which the region is famous. We start with 1994’s Rap Da Felicidade – MCs Cidinho and Doca’s unofficial anthem for the city, which tells the story of life in the favelas, and the pride of their inhabitants. Then we jump forward to 2015 with a track by Anitta, the Diplo-produced Queen of baile funk who has brought the genre into the present day.
Hear more in Music Planet’s Road Trip to Rio de Janeiro.
4. Barcelona, Spain
“Despite the last ten years of crisis, Spain’s music and cultural scenes thrive: we’re living in a very, very powerful time”. The words of Max Moya, former percussionist with the cult "jipjop flamenkillo" group Ojos de Brujo, who dialled into a recent episode of Music Planet: Road Trip from Barcelona.
This episode introduces some of the artists adapting Spain’s venerable flamenco tradition for new audiences in Spain and beyond. “Flamenco manages to jump from one generation to another,” he says. “We know that it’s a very old, traditional art form. Spanish artists either rebel against it or they honour it, but it always adapts to modern times.”
Rosalía is one of those voices. Just 25 years old, her music speaks the language of flamenco but also to young Trap fans, bridging the gap between urban sound and traditional roots. Max’s other top tip, the singer Sílvia Pérez Cruz, represents the fusion of Mediterranean style with flamenco and more. And Diego Guerrero combines flamenco with Afro-Cuban and jazz elements, a reflection of the music and rhythms continually exchanged between Spain and Latin America.
5. Athens, Greece
“Tradition functions like an anchor when currents make the sea turbulent – and when the boat is a nutshell in socio-economic storms…” The words of Giorgos Markakis, our correspondent in Athens for a fantastic episode on traditional Greek music.
Songs about immigration have always formed part of Greek culture; both for city-dwellers cut off from traditional rural life, and those displaced by Greek diasporas from the 1920s to the present day. “These songs keep out nation’s values alive,” says Giorgos. “Even those born on a rocky infertile island dream of return to the homeland.”
This episode introduced us to a whole range of authentic Greek voices, from Melina Kana (one of the most popular Greek singers of the past 30 years) to Giannis Kladakis, the stripped-down, minimalist musician who chose his traditional profession as an olive farmer over a potentially lucrative career in the music industry.