Thursday, 18 March 2010

Tribute to Charlie Gillett

Written following news that Charlie Gillett died on 17 March 

It all started on a boat from Hong Kong to China in 1987. This guy was playing Kassav and I thought it sounded interesting..............roll forward a few months later and we'd just moved into our new flat. A promo came on Capital Radio and it was Charlie Gillett talking about his show later that evening. He was going to play a track by the Jo'burg City Stars (Grooving Jive #1) and I stuck a tape in, turned the sound down and had a listen the next day.

Charlie Gillett 

This was it.......I'd found "A World of Difference." During that period at Capital, Sunday nights became my staple listen and I recorded most of the shows onto cassette. (more on that in a moment...) He introduced me to so many amazing artists from Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens to Youssou NDour to Joe Arroyo y la Verdad....but it was the interesting guests he had on his shows on Capital, plus GLR and BBC London that made those shows so special. Mexican bands in session, an over-enthusiastic Sam Mangwana, it was all in the shows. I still have a signed Kandabongoman CD I won on his show and I have recordings of a couple of times he mentioned my name.

The 'A world of difference' tapes

I was lucky enough to meet Charlie in person. This is the story about those Capital tapes; I had two years' worth of the show on cassette (c60's and c90's). We moved house in 2004 and my wife said they had to go. I was working at BBC London and I instigated a handover moment with Charlie, through his producer Paul Leaper. So I finally got to meet Charlie, even though I'd seen him in the office many times. But here I was handing over his tapes to him. Embarrassingly I used to just write out the names of the artists phonetically on the tape box, so he probably cringed at some of my spellings. Even now I can't find half of the artists on Spotify because I mis-spelt them 22 years ago.

Thank you Charlie

Charlie Gillett didn't just introduce me to world music; he introduced me to many many artists. If there's any way that his family can know how much enjoyment Charlie has dished up for me, then I hope it will help them at this sad time.

Rest in peace Charlie. To me, you made a world of difference.

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