Radio: RECOMMENDED

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY

Cod - A Biography of a Fish That Changed the World (9.45-10am, daily R4). Wars have been fought over it, revolutions triggered by it. The humble cod, in short, has made a whopping contribution to history. A new book by Mark Kurlansky traces its thousand-year story from the Vikings through to Captain Birdseye. And who better to read it than fish chef, Rick Stein.

The Big Hot Summer (2.15-3pm R4). At last, BBC radio remembers its obligation to younger listeners in four afternoon plays broadcast this week. In Bill Taylor's drama, Danny is a private eye with a Chicago drawl who operates out of a tree house in his garden. Nikki, his first client of the summer, climbs up one day and begs for help, but soon discovers she is the superior gumshoe.

TUESDAY

Fag End - A History of Smoking (9-10pm R2). The year is 2098 and things are tense. England are playing Argentina in the World Cup, but nobody is reaching nervously for their softpack because the smoking habit has long since been stubbed out. Unlikely? Consider the facts. Miles Kington, an ex-smoker, conducts a potted social history of the vice: how it started, and why - with tobacco firms bombarded by lawsuits - it will surely dwindle to an end.

WEDNESDAY

Sound Stories: Child Prodigies (11am-12noon, daily R3). Mozart, of course, was the most prodigious of the lot, and there's a chance to marvel at his early compositions (Mon). Less famously, Schubert, today's subject, was told by his first teacher that "lessons were not required", while Britten composed at five, and poor little Fanny Mendelssohn's "Bach fugue fingers" were spotted in the cradle. Tragically, being a girl, she was forbidden to vie with her brother Felix, but some of her songs and piano music are relayed on Friday.

THURSDAY

The Late Prom (10-11.30pm R3). Minimalism in music isn't new. Javanese gamelan, an orchestra of giant chime bars and bronze gongs, has been mesmerising Western composers ever since Debussy heard it at the Paris Exposition 100 years ago. Here, musicians from Java play traditional court music, and British gamelan players respond in kind with a cross- cultural piece composed for The Tempest.

FRIDAY

Strictly Dancehall (11-11.30am R4). In a former red-light zone in Paris lies the splendid Le Balajo, the last of the old bal musette dancehalls. Designed in 1935 by surrealist artist Henri Mahe, today it's run by an ex-wrestler who pulls punters on to the parquet for Sunday-afternoon accordion dances and evening tango balls as well as late-night rock. In the first of three discoveries, Philip Sweeney peers into Le Balajo's shady past, and marvels at how it has maintained its integrity as a corner of le vrai Paris. Jenny Gilbert

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