29 March, 2010


Charlie Gillett

I "discovered" Charlie Gillett only a few years ago. During a bout of insomnia, I decided to get up for a while and listen to the wireless. Out of laziness more than anything else, my wireless is tuned more or less permanently to Radio 4. During the wee small hours after Kathy Clugston goes to bed, the frequency carries the World Service, and it was there that I stumbled across his World of Music programme. Charlie specialized, though not exclusively, in "world music", that strange non-genre comprising popular music from countries you've almost but not quite heard of and which does fit into any of the standard record-shop categories. Everything from Bulgarian nose-thrampling dirges to Cape Verdean thrash fado. He was instrumental in bringing the likes of Youssou N'Dour and Salif Keita to a world audience.

Charlie died a couple of weeks ago at what these days seems a relatively young age. It is sobering to think that Charlie, just turned 68, was only a gnat's eyebrow over six years older than me. I shall miss his understated style and his catholic musical taste.

I was awake in the wee small hours again last night and turned on the wireless, only to hear Charlie in full flow, presenting World of Music as if nothing had changed. Presumably a show "in the can" from before his death. Or perhaps an old recording while the BBC figures out how to fill the slot. Whichever, it was altogether too creepy by half and I had to switch it off.

So long, mate, and thanks for all the music.

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