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    On Radio: Coldplay Warm To A Newcomer

    absoluteradio.jpgSavers shiver, bankers bluster, politicians prattle.


    Elsewhere in the news, a new music radio station was launched at 7.45 yesterday morning. Absolute Radio used to be Virgin. Virgin, owned and launched by Richard Branson in 1993, has never been a success except to its successive owners. It has changed hands for millions and millions of pounds. In terms of ratings and revenue it's never lived up to its potential.


    It was, after all, the first national commercial pop network, one of the three national stations, Classic FM and Talk Radio being the other two, meant to transform the whole sector. But it was only on crackly old Medium Wave, something Branson swiftly complained about once the franchise was his. The old Radio Authority, scared, gave him an additional FM frequency in London. But, like his ventures into the bridal and cola worlds, radio wasn't a big Branson success. Virgin was sold on, and on, and on, acquiring a digital identity (and thus worldwide reach) along the way.

    Now it belongs to a subsidiary of the Times of India group. It has become Absolute because Sir Richard owns the Virgin name. Absolute will offer what they call "real music," which means they will play classic tracks, exclusively feature lots of top concerts. They went to Munich with Coldplay on Friday and some of the results were on Christian O'Connell's breakfast show yesterday - the whole concert goes out tomorrow at 7pm. Chris Martin told O'Connell yesterday that it wasn't a good gig, it was a great gig. He also said that he'd been listening to Absolute's transition transmissions and was impressed.


    Let's hope the audience is, too. These are hard times in commercial broadcasting. Channel 4 has had to pare back its vaunted ambitions (to change the pattern of commercial radio while breaking Radio 4's strangehold on speech) to the single promise of one music service sometime next year. Credit has to be given, as Chris Martin said, to Absolute for trying something new meanwhile.


    Except this isn't really new, it's classic rock (The Who, Elvis Costello, The Police) beefed up with sessions (The Verve, Oct 7; Police, Oct 8; the Coral 9th October) and chat with band members. They promise not to repeat tracks, to bring you songs built to last, "something to say, not something to sell". Except for itself, and good luck to it.


    All this would have been anathema to Gordon, hero of Silent Nights (Radio 4, Mon) a marvellous comedy by David Nobbs about all the noise of everyday life that drives a person crazy: traffic, owls, train announcements, mobile telephones. Gordon fights back. He invents recorded silence and does well with it, even though he loses his wife to his best friend. Peter Kavanagh directed, with the right light touch and a clear ear to the everyday menace of overwhelming noise.


    Sunday night's play on Radio 3, Season Of Migration to the North, was preceded by warnings of possibly distressing language and images. Dramatised by Philip Palmer, from the a translation of Tayeb Salih's acclaimed Arabic novel, it was more confusing than distressing. It's a complex story, about cultural alienation, erotic ultimates, guilt. To make it into the "thriller" of the billing was a false promise.


    Suleyman (Beru Tessema) goes back to his village in Northern Sudan after being educated in England. There's a stranger in the village, Mustafa Sa'eed (Zubin Varla), who turns out to be more than a simple farmer married to a local girl. He tells his story to Suleyman. But Suleyman doesn't want believe there is someone cleverer and more Western-cultured than he is, especially someone for whom sexual passion seems frequently to be accompanied by death, even murder.


    Mustafa is killed in floods. His young wife becomes the prey of the rich men in the village. Suleyman is charged with the care of his two children, doesn't trust his own longings for the widow. There's the tragedy. She is forcibly married to the most brutal of the suitors. He rapes her. She kills him, then herself.


    Why the warnings? The sex and violence were essential to the situation and characters. The plot skeins weaving together past and present, passion and the climax of mortality were adroit, the performances spellbinding. Compare and contrast with Sex on Fire by the Kings of Leon on Absolute? It wouldn't be fair.




    Source: telegraph.co.uk

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