Big Issue Vendor

Resonance FM: Alexa, shuffle playlist

Cultural knowledge is tied down to Western ideals, politics and limits, argues Robin Ince. Resonance FM has freed itself from these shackles and is truly open to artists from a range of cultural, social and political backgrounds.
A trip to the country Vincent Neil Emerson keeps Robin company in the early hours Image: Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock (11031084ad)

Ignorance is being weaponised again as politicians use the threadbare flag blanket of a culture war to cover up those unsightly protuberances of ineptitude and incompetence which their emperor’s new clothes failed to conceal. When museums and historical institutions have started to make more of an effort to highlight some of the less noble actions of the past concerning slavery, exploitation and exclusion it has been made clear that this is the wrong knowledge and must be discounted as a fever dream caused by Greta Thunberg or a similar teenage activist. 

Those who support the increase in enlightenment of the darker corners of our past will be accused of virtue signalling. Are you going to be on the right side of wrong history or the wrong side of right history? It reminds me of the old club comics who tell stories of audiences heckling, “Tell us one we know!” They wanted the jokes they knew and it seems in the culture wars, there are many people who would rather hear the same old stories over and over and over again, the ones that make it clear who are the goodies and who are the baddies. Do you want your knowledge to narrow or broaden your vision? 

All these tiresome bully-beef discussions remind me of how parochial so much of my cultural knowledge remains. Many of us are brought up with western European art, novels and English language films, anything else is at best exotic, at worst it is declared pretentious to even take an interest. It’s just not normal.

My biro is usually out of ink by the time I have finished scribbling down all the names of artists and ideas covered by a day with Resonance FM

That is why it is time for my regular celebration of Resonance FM, whose independence means they don’t have to shy away from political opinions or fear any barbed wire that fences them into a playlist. 

I started my day at midnight on the dot with Tunes from Turtle Island, a show focusing on contemporary music from indigenous musicians of North America. This is the sort of music that used to be placed under the knitted beanie hat umbrella term of world music as if that were a genre in itself. It carried with it the descriptive limitation of someone saying, “I am a big fan of English music, now that might cover everything from Benjamin Britten to Black Sabbath, but the presumption may well be, ‘Oh, he likes folk music played on a tightly strung lute.’”  As DJ Andrew Graves-Johnston makes clear from the start of the show, the playlist includes rap, rock, indie, country and dance, and he makes good his promise. 

A station like Resonance is part of the journey from a huge swathe of music being elevated from novelty and niche to, well, just being music. By 2.30am, I am in Ross’s Cantina listening to American alt country and just plain country. You can hear this at 8pm, but it feels just right at 2.30am. You can project yourself into the body of an exhausted trucker accelerating across a rocky road in Utah as you listen to Wichita Lineman and songs from Vincent Neil Emerson’s latest release Fried Chicken & Evil Women. By 5am, it is Isotopica – described as “cultural sonic detours”, it is the right noise for insomniacs who have surrendered to the realisation it is dawn and this music is the correct soundtrack for the hypnagogic visions that may well be the most they can expect when it comes to dreams on this night. To offer you some optimism, the host, Simon Tyszko has also got some seven-year-olds (they might be eight or nine, he can’t be sure) reciting the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. This reading is far more than a novelty, it is inspirational at a time when there is a government that seems to see human rights as woke nonsense. The day, or the night, concludes with Debbie Golt’s The Outerglobe, which she presents beautifully as if you are just sat around at her house as she joyously pops her latest finds on for you. 

My biro is usually out of ink by the time I have finished scribbling down all the names of artists and ideas covered by a day with Resonance FM. Why people find culture that challenges preconceptions such a threat I don’t really know. I still like to find myself bouncing between all the varieties of “What the HELL is the noise?” And “What the hell is this NOISE?”