Sunday, 16 July 2017

SUNDAY LISTENING

The first was the writer, Vikram Seth. Dad called out to me to come listen. Seth was being interviewed but in between conversation he was picking out tracks of music, and not books. The combination was so much more illuminating and I was hooked. Then came the dancer, Akram Khan, and then the doctor, Atul Gawande... you might think this a particularly Indian immigrant selection, but those were the voices I remember. They spoke to me and drew me in. Now my Sundays are Desert Island Disc days. And oftentimes the discs weave into my weekdays, into the threads of my own narrative. Today, for example, is a John Agard day, moving from Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights' through Bob Dylan's 'Shelter from the Storm' towards the Calypsonian Lord Invader's 'You Don't Need Glasses To See'. And through it all his thoughts on poetry, on being the only Afro-Guyanese Queen's Gold Medal Winner for Poetry, on being part of the GCSE syllabus, on his teachers, his daughters, on being a 'joker' as a young boy...


I stopped listening to, or rather seeking out music, some years ago. Too much of my past is caught up in music and peace of mind is often a choice between memory and silence. I credit these brief interludes with strangers who become anything but in the hour in which they share a loose web of geography, history, parentage or parenting, grief, loss, enormous successes, imprisonment, exile. I have my favourites even though the list keeps growing. The archives are a well of treasure. Dip in! Whose eight tracks would you like to hear while discovering their life story? I love...

Aung San Suu Kyi, the only guest who didn't come into the studio for obvious reasons - something about Kirsty Young being in Myanmar, sharing a moment in exile with the Burmese freedom fighter, makes the entire programme magical...


Alice Walker, one of my earliest literary and poetic heroes, the one who set my voice on its path to claiming a fully formed womanist self...


Dr David Nott, vascular and war surgeon, who made me cry because he cried...


Bryan Stevenson, a human rights lawyer focusing on the brutal percentages of incarcerated black men in the so-called United States...


Poets, activists, philanthropists like Bill Gates (whose choice of wife is really what inspires me about him!), Sigrid Rausing, journalists Alex Crawford and Christiane Amanpour, musicians, physicists... in a world where media is desperately trying to colonise our minds and make us afraid of each other, Desert Island Discs provides a counter-narrative, casting us towards one another rather than isolating us. I find the gift of the Bible at the end an interesting moment - yes, occasionally a Sikh will choose the Guru Granth Sahib or a Muslim will choose the Quran, but no one really resists this aspect of the programme. What does it say about the programme that in a determinedly atheist society, a Holy Book is one all castaways are cast away with?

Have some music while you're here... this is South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba with 'Pata Pata' ('Touch Touch' in Xhosa) and if this doesn't get you dancing with a smile on your face this rainy day, nothing will! Turn that volume up and let's dance!

3 comments:

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a wealth of inspiration! Is this the BBC archives you refer to, Shaista? I would love to listen. I especially adore Aung San Suu Kyi.

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koi seo said...

I especially adore Aung San Suu Kyi.


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