Post: The music lottery

Picture the scene: You are in a car. The road is rough. You still have a long way to go. The driver moves his hand towards the radio switch… An explosion of thoughts occur in your head (possibly the most active your brain has been for a long time). What will he put on? What type of music am I gonna be subjected to?

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE for the love that everything that is holy, let it not be Celine Dion!!!

It really is one of the Russian roulettes of life isn’t it!?

Firstly you need a car that will have a radio. Let’s just say the cars I travel in for work and travel are solid, honest, cars. That generally means they are there to get the job done, and have no luxuries or comforts. Radios are obviously seen as a luxury. However if the car does by miracle have one, it will be quite old and battered (and will ALWAYS have the wrong time!). Again, submitting myself to the electronic gods, if the radio does appear to work, most of the time you’d rather they didn’t because the quality of the equipment will subject you to more static than your ears can bear. You might be having suicidal tendencies after 12 minutes of white noise.

However, on the off chance that the radio station has enough reception you could be subjected to a cornucopia of musical options

Firstly, we have the incomprehensible gibberish of an often excitable character screaming in the local language. More often than not, the driver will raise the volume and laugh at inexplicably random times (during the silence for example). If you are committed, you might try to catch the odd word or two. In East African countries, they talk a lot about football, so the words “Arsenal” and “lose” seem to be together quite often (but that’s a different story altogether). There are also the banalities about the next African election, or more recently the North African revolutions. In this case, the already excited radio announcer might invite a phone-in from the public, which NEVER works. Finally, the adverts between programmes are laughably loud, quite stupid and usually talk about paint.

Verdict: interesting for about 20 mins

Secondly, we have the Western music playing, either through the radio or a CD player. Now, as I have alluded to earlier, I have had nightmares with Celine Dion tracks playing when trying to get some sleep after the overnight flight from London to Entebbe in Uganda (I listen to it often enough when singing along to Titanic…). For some reason, Phil Collins is always on as well. I suppose I do like the music, and will probably sing it really badly if pushed at a Karaoke with my friends, but not in  blooming Africa. There is a time and a place for these things. I wouldn’t be saying these things if Pink Floyd or the Beatles came on, or if they play the latest drum and bass song by my DJ Seba, but that’s not the point…

Verdict: depends what mood you are in, but most likely you’ll have a cheeky smile when remembering memories associated to the song. You will keep it to yourself though…

Finally, we have the local music. In general, these songs last for about 27 minutes and have the same chorus over and over. Now, I’m  all for repetition (Dangerous by Michael Jackson does this fabulously well), but 52 times the same chorus will get on my nerves, and I’ll start wondering if the radio has broken down. However, if I like the song, I’ll be tempted to ask the driver to turn the volume up, and ask him who sings it and try to find it in a record shop at a later date. Rare, but not impossible..

Verdict: Personally, I love the local radio music. The songs will infuse your journey with a richness appropriate to your surroundings and add depths to your thoughts about the country you are travelling in, and the people you see going about their daily business. Celine Dion just cannot do that…

Let me know what music you might have heard on your travels that make them an unforgettable part of your experience?


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