During the summer I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to broaden my musical horizon and to absorb something more than just the formulaic pop music that seems to be on offer in the UK. While I’m an avid BBC Radio Three listener, the days of me listening to pop music or rock stations are in decline. So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to a range of French radio stations. Starting with:
France Musique is the equivalent of BBC Radio 3, with a wide range of classical music and concerts from around Europe. In the evening the station runs a lot of classic Jazz. My main reason for listening is that the presenters are vey clear and their pronunciation is generally easy to follow. I’ve set myself the task of trying not be so scared of learning the French language, and thought that streaming and listening to French language radio would be a good place to start. So far I’ve found the range of music to be good, with less emphasis on early music than BBC Radio 3. The downside is that I’m not a jazz fan, so I figured out that I would need another supply of French music radio to listen to in the evening, for when Radio 3 runs it’s talk programmes.
So a couple of recommendations from some friends have introduced me to FIP and Le Mouve. FIP has an amazing and eclectic mix of music, that ranges from chanson, rock, hip-hop, world music, classical music, film music, jazz and more. Where FIP stands out it that these seemingly disparate tracks are connected together with a theme. I can’t say I’ve figured out the themes easily yet, but holiday music seems an easy starting point, and a run of tracks extolling the virtues of le vacations. So the tracks and programmes shift all over the place in terms of their music styles, and it really keeps you on your toes because you get very little idea of what might come next. According to the FIP Wikipedia entry “FIP is one of the few stations with this type of programming in the world.” And long may it continue.
Next up is Le Mouv’ which is a youth oriented music station that was initially based in Toulouse, but which has moved back to Paris and shifted largely to a digital output. The station is again a mix of musical styles, but without the strong influence of R&B and dance music. Instead the station offers a mix of singer-songwriter melodic guitar pop and classic French alternative rocks bands. According to the Wikipedia entry for Le Mouv’ “Station director Hervé Riesen declared that Le Mouv’ was “no longer a music station, but musically dominant”, adding it is moving away from its previous 18-25 demographic, now aiming to target 18-30 year olds with more speech and discussion programmes”.
Finally, when I was at a Social Networking conference at the University of Westminster last week, I took my portable DAB with me, and was very excited to find that French Radio London broadcasts across the city. The mix of music is something akin to both FIP and L Mouv’, rather than having heavy presentation led shows, there is an emphasis on the music, supported with news bulletins targeting the French community in London, which is something close to 400,000 people. There’s a good BBC video report which gives a good thumbnail sketch of the station. I’m not sure how the station is funded, as it doesn’t crowd it’s advertising in every two minutes? I had a great day walking around the East End of London looking in vintage shops and drinking coffee in an Egyptian cafe, while watching the anti-EDL protestors demonstrate around the Petticoat and Brick Lane areas, and all while listening to the generally presenter-less music mix of French Radio London. Great stuff to day-dream to and play the role of the bon viveur. As Roland Barthes points out the city is a text, with “signs and inscriptions by human beings in space, so that users, people moving through the city, can be seen as readers of poems…” And radio is one form of the soundtrack to that poem.
So I’m trying to figure out what I like about the stations I’ve been listening to. I think the main issue with FRL, FIP and Le Mouv’ is that I’m hearing something different all the time. It might be an classic chanson followed by a Bob Dylan track, followed by a Trip-Hop track and then an African world music track! The minimal presenter-input also means that the music is on constant shuffle and it flows well. My only problem is that I don’t want to eat up my mobile bandwidth by streaming these stations on my phone, so I’m a little stuck to fixed listening posts when I’m away from London. Better look again at my data usage contract, I think I’m going to be listening to a lot more of these stations.