The Week In Radio

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The Independent Culture
FLEAS ON your Airedale? Rub tansy, the bitter Lenten herb, into his coat nightly. You can wash your fabrics in boiled soapwort solution; rinse your hair with a rosemary infusion, and moisturise your hands with crushed marigold petals in petroleum jelly. And mare's-tail on your pots and pans, as any Roman legionary knew, will render them non-stick, as we learnt from Herbs (R4 Sunday).

You might have needed more aromatic herbs fully to appreciate Hair (Opening Nights, R4 Saturday) and although its mixture of hippie anthems and occasional nudity now seems quaint, in 1968 it was a radical departure for musical theatre, accurately billing itself as "The American Tribal Love Rock Musical". Originally a loose collage of topical anti-war vignettes, it transferred from Joseph Papp's Public Theatre to the Cheetah disco on Broadway, whence Otto Preminger fled the auditorium screaming "I want an intermission!" It was then a short but incongruous leap to the plush and venerable Biltmore Theatre. One loved-up reviewer described the performers as "simply beside you, like bears going into a cabin in Yellowstone Park - soliciting love, causing no trouble, doing what they do". Pass the bouquet garni, man.

Meanwhile, a long way from Manhattan, the floodplain of Bangladesh has created a macro-diversity of culture and agriculture, religion and language, evoked in Nightwaves (R3 Tuesday). Auden's observation that "Poetry changes nothing" has never been more wrong than here, a country born in the dispute over the imposition of Urdu from the west on the then East Pakistan, a dispute in which writers and poets were on the front line in a very un- European way. Islam in Bangladesh is lushly cross-fertilised with a Hindu, Sufi, Buddhist, even animistic sensibility, and Richard Coles steered us from the tribal schoolteacher singing in monsoon-spattered forests, to Faridah Parveen and the hypnotic tug of 17th-century devotional chant against the hubbub of a Dhakar rush hour.

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