‘Blind Notes’, a seven-part conversation series of radio programmes featuring one-to-one interviews with musicians from around the world, all of whom are completely blind, begins tomorrow [Wednesday, July 21st].
The extraordinary line-up includes Irish ‘Voice’ winner Andrea Begley, Grammy award-winning American jazz pianist and singer Diane Schuur, legendary record producer Robin Millar, and Scotland’s first blind theatre musical director Sally Clay.
The hour-long shows are being broadcast on Europe’s first radio station for people with sight loss, RNIB Connect Radio in Glasgow.
Presented by Ravi Sagoo, who himself has the sight condition keratoconus, the interviews are mixed with examples of the musicians’ own music and those that have influenced or been important to them.
Ravi, who also presents on BBC Radio Scotland, says he was keen to explore how blindness has affected them in their work and personal life. “I’m passionate about all types of music and this series has been inspiring,” he enthuses, “as each interviewee – from different musical genres – has overcome obstacles and managed to pursue their dream of making music for a living.”
Andrea Begley relates how she nearly never got onto ‘The Voice’ after turning up at the wrong time for the audition. Diane Schuur talks about how her rendition of ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ at the Kennedy Honours tribute to soul legend Stevie Wonder moved him to tears. Sally Clay recalls how disillusioned she was when she couldn’t get a job in music but kept trying.
Baluji Shiravastav, leader of the Inner Visions orchestra of visually impaired musicians, remembers unknowingly jamming with Beatle George Harrison while working in a music shop in India. Welsh opera singer and lockdown internet sensation Anne Wilkins describes being drawn back to music through teaching it.
Ricky McKinnie, leader of the Blind Boys Of Alabama Gospel group, tells how his faith has helped him cope with life’s ups and downs. And Gold and Platinum disc-winning producer Robin Millar talks movingly about finally losing his sight whilst producing Sade’s second album ‘Promise’ and how he tried to hide the fact from the band.
“Although the conversations cover their career and life, it always pulls back to talking about their sight loss and how that has affected their relationship with music,” says Ravi. “Some have really struggled with their visual impairment and there have been times that they have been angry, doubted themselves and been effected by other people’s attitudes to them.”
‘Blind Notes’ has been produced for RNIB Connect Radio by Glasgow-based Demus Productions with the support of the Audio Content Fund.
Yvonne Milne, station manager of RNIB Connect Radio, said: “I’m delighted that we have the chance to partner with Demus Productions to broadcast these fantastic shows. They are a great listen for anyone who loves music, and demonstrate that sight loss in no barrier to creating beautiful work and achieving great success.”
Nick Low at Demus says “We hear how these talented musicians have all conquered adversity and prejudice to cultivate successful careers in music. This will hopefully inspire a new generation of visually impaired musicians to make music their career as they hear about music being the one constant driving force in their lives.”
* ‘Blind Notes’ will be broadcast on Wednesdays at 6pm from July 21st, with a repeat on Saturdays at 8pm. It can be heard on RNIB Connect Radio on 101FM in the Glasgow area, and across the UK on Freeview 730 and online at www.rnibconnectradio.org.uk
For further information, please contact Ian Brown at RNIB Scotland on 07918 053 952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for News Editors:
- Ravi Sagoo is available for interview. Contact Ian Brown above.
- RNIB Connect Radio, the award-winning station run by national sight loss charity RNIB, broadcasts across the UK from Partick, Glasgow. Most of its producers and presenters have sight loss themselves. Its programmes are a mix of news, chat, music, sport and audio-book readings.
- The ‘Blind Spots’ programme:
DIANE SCHUUR- Twice Grammy award winning American jazz pianist and singer
Diane won two Grammy’s which were embossed in Braille and she also won the Helen Keller Achievement Award for the American Society for the Blind.
ANDREA BEGLEY- Irish singer and winner of The Voice UK
Andrea won the UK The Voice, which never nearly happened after turning up at the wrong time to the original audition, but she was given a chance and ended up winning the series. She didn’t realise judges Tom Jones and Danny O’Donoghue had turned round.
SALLY CLAY- Scotland’ first blind Theatre Musical Director
Sally talks about her latest production she has written a funny song addressing her visual impairment and people with good intentions helping her when the help isn’t needed.
RICKY McKINNIE- Member and now leader of Blind Boys Of Alabama Gospel singing group
Ricky started off as a drummer after losing his sight at 23. Remarkable he has continued in music and led his own Gospel singing group and now the Blind Boys of Alabama. He discusses the challenges of being their road manager and how his faith has been the power behind coping with life’s ups and downs, so Gospel music has be crucial in his life and musical journey.
ANNE WILKINS- Welsh opera singer and Lockdown internet sensation
Anne is a classical music scholar and great advocator of Braillie Music. She describes being disillusioned with music but being drawn back through teaching it. Lockdown has made her an unlikely internet sensation singing on her doorstep with her furloughed West End musical actor neighbour Alyn Hawke.
ROBIN MILLAR- Multi-instrumentalist and Record producer with 140 Gold and Platinum discs including 10 million selling “Diamond Life” by Sade
Robin talks about being an apprentice in a French recording studio by an owner who was prepared to give him a chance when others wouldn’t. He reveals Sade’s song “The Sweetest Taboo” was written about him and that being blind and the lack of visual distractions made him a better producer and he teaches budding producers to shut their eyes when listening to mixes.
BALUJI SHIRAVASTAV CBE- Indian sitar maestro and leader of Inner Visions orchestra made up of visually impaired musicians
This Inspirational sitar player talks working with his Inner Visions Orchestra made up of visually impaired musicians is more comfortable for him to play music with than sighted musicians because of their special bond.