Over 80 years since its doors first opened, ‘Mr Apollo’ Billy Mitchell reveals how the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York became one of the world’s most celebrated music venues, launching the careers of stars like Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5 and James Brown. Shortly after the Apollo opened in 1934, Ella Fitzgerald became the first female to win their renowned Amateur Night talent contest when she was only 17.
Prince Nico Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz’s 1976 recording Sweet Mother is estimated to have sold 13 million copies in markets and record shops across Africa – that is more than The Beatles’ biggest-selling single I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yet outside the continent, it is barely recognised. On the 20th anniversary of Prince Nico’s early death in 1997, DJ Edu tells the incredible story of this one-hit wonder.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, which was released on 1 June 1967, we examine the cultural impact of the album regarded by many social historians as the most important and influential LP ever released. It inspired changes in prevailing political, social and religious attitudes – borne from the ideology of peace, love and true respect for one another.
Actor and singer Clarke Peters follows the croon and practitioners of the art, including Rudy Vallee, Russ Columbo, Al Bowlly and Bing Crosby. He discovers how their romantic style of singing made the ladies swoon but inflamed the critics. In the ’20s and ’30s, electric microphones and amplifiers enabled singers with soft, untrained voices to finally be heard.
Gabriela Montero, the exhilarating Venezuelan pianist, is playing in Miami. She is renowned for her live improvisations, a form of classical music that is rarely heard in concert halls today. Her spontaneous compositions on stage are inspired by musical motifs, sung or hummed to her by a member of the audience, often drawn from the classical repertoire, but also from the local folk traditions of any given audience.
What makes the sweet rhythmical music of a Caribbean island so appealing to young people in the eastern European country of Poland? How did a reggae singer with dreadlocks come to win the TV show Poland’s Got Talent? And why is Poland one of the biggest markets for reggae music in the world? Bob Marley’s biographer Chris Salewicz reports from the annual Ostroda Reggae Festival where ten thousand Poles gather for three days at a former communist army camp to hear artists and bands like Bednarek, Jah9, Damian Syjonfam and Nattali Rize celebrate the music of Jamaica. Pioneers of Polish Reggae including Robert Brylewski from Poland’s first reggae band Izrael and Tomasz Lipinski from the influential punk/reggae outfit Brygada Kryzys explain how the music took root during the 1980s as a vehicle for protest against martial law. London-based Jamaican Norman Grant describes his visits to Poland at that time to collaborate and make records with the traditional Polish mountain musicians Trebunie. Backstage in Ostroda artists from Poland, Jamaica and around the world talk about keeping Bob Marley’s spirit alive and discuss how reggae is now seen both as a voice for protest against Poland’s current right wing government and as a means of propagating a fundamentalist Catholic message which is at odds with Marley’s rasta ideology. At the climax of the festival, reporter Chris Salewicz is invited on stage to act as one of the judges for the annual World Reggae Contest won by Dutch band The Dubeez.
John McCarthy explores how Van Morrison’s music has influenced people’s lives and Brian Keenan takes John on a tour of Van’s home city of Belfast.