Miracle at CBC Radio
Be still, my heart. Last night while listening to “Here and Now,” CBC Radio One’s drive-home show in Toronto, they played a piece of music that wasn’t Latin or jazz.
Normally I drive to and from work with one finger poised over the “off” button on the radio (contravening some crucial part of the Highway Traffic Act, I’m sure), ready to switch (read: pound) off when the inevitable shooby-dooing or Cuban poolside ensemble revs up, like clockwork, at 25 and 55 minutes after the hour. “Metro Morning” is by far the worst offender in this regard, but “Here and Now” runs a very close second.
But last night I was pleasantly surprised – nay, shocked near unto death – to hear a heart-stopping a capella piece called “Wang’ Thatha”, (pronounced Won Tata, I think) by a Toronto group called Soul Influence. I put my eyeballs back into my head (the MTO frowns on driving with them hanging out) and instead of smashing my radio into silence as I usually do, I actually turned it up and (tell no one) hummed along. It was one heck of a good tune.
According to the website for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, with which the group apparently does a lot of work, the band “began humbly, with only three members in March, 2003 and is presently composed of 7 young people originally from 3 different countries in Africa: Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe with a vocal combination of Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.”
Go here for a quick listen to their music, and be prepared to be bowled over.
All kidding aside, what a crying shame that moments like this are so rare on CBC Radio. Given the preponderance of Latin and jazz on the network of late, it has occurred to me to wonder whether our national public broadcaster is, in fact, so short of funds that they actually own just two music CDs, one of jazz and one of Latin, that some hapless intern ferries breathlessly from studio to studio as needed.
(The two exceptions to this are The Sunday Edition, whose host, Michael Enright, plays nothing but jazz, and Go, hosted by superannuated teenager Brent Bambury, who loves nothing better than firing up a home-burned CD of some obscure Eastern European garage band and trying not to break a hip as he “rocks out.”)
Surely, in this Information Age, it should not be news to the CBC brass (brass band?) that there is a veritable cornucopia of other musical genres from which to choose – classical, rock, gospel, polka, marching band, soul, hip hop, country and western, cow-punk, just to name a scant few. Hell, I’d listen to my neighbour’s kid learning the trumpet if it meant a break from Buddy Sinus and his Drippers every once in a blue moon.
But I guess when you’re the only commercial-free game in town, you can do whatever you want, and nertz to the rest of us poor Latin- and jazz-weary schmucks. (Aside: Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey wrote a piece last year in which she confessed her loathing of jazz. The column is no longer available, but for a rollicking good time, simply Google her name and “jazz” and see what hilarity ensues when you kick that particular hornet’s nest!)
Anyway, ultimately there is clearly just one solution to my dilemma, and that is to start my own pirate radio show, on which I will play nothing but music that I like. I will call it Radio Smiter (call letters CROC – what else?) and I will play almost nothing besides Steve Earle. No jazz, no Latin, ever.
Until then, however, I will grudgingly continue to listen to Radio One (see “only commercial-free game in town,” above) in hopes that someone sends them an HMV gift card so that they can buy more music from the likes of Soul Influence. Hell, maybe I’ll do it myself.
And as always, I will keep one scaly, Smiter-y claw poised over the “off” switch. Stay alert for the swerving car with the shrieking, gesticulating alligator at the wheel.