Australian Rap, Radio 4, Thursday
Jon Ronson On...Radio 4, Tuesday
The Prelude, Radio 4, Sunday

Dust off the didgeridoos, the outback just got urban

It's easy to see rap as just one more weapon in America's battle for the hearts and minds and wallets of the world.

But it's not become a musical lingua franca for nothing, with its strong, simple structure that'll withstand anything you throw at it. There are even rappers in Bhutan, for goodness' sake.

So, it's almost inevitable that Australian Aboriginals, with their rich storytelling tradition, should turn to it, despite initial scepticism from traditionalists. The likes of Monkey Mark won them over: "I can rap in my grandmother's language – that excited the elders." The wonderful Australian Rap perfectly illustrated how rapping's a political act.

The highlight was the Wilcannia Mob, five lads who in 2001, when aged from nine to 14, went to a workshop run by the Sydney rapper Morganics and produced an account of how they spend their time. The resulting "Down River", with its hypnotic alignment of didgeridoo and beatbox (that's making percussion sounds with your mouth, grandad), became a national hit and was used by MIA on one of her albums. Both versions are on YouTube and are fabulous.

You'll also find on YouTube some of the weirdest music you'll ever hear, played by four sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire, who in the oddball Sixties were taken out of school by their bonkers father, given drums and guitars, and effectively locked in the basement to rehearse for five years before he unleashed them on the world. He called them The Shaggs.

In Jon Ronson On ... the eponymous negotiator of life's stranger byways caught up with them. As he put it, "they were like a girl group of Kaspar Hausers, inventing music from scratch". They seemed to have hated it, mostly, and when their dad died of a heart attack it was all over – until they were rediscovered and lionised by the likes of Frank Zappa, who called them "better than The Beatles".

It was clear these sixtysomethings had spent the rest of their lives putting it all behind them. They took Ronson to their old house, which was razed when neighbours bought the land.

"When they burnt it down they saw a face in the window," one of them said.

"Did they think it was your father?" Ronson asked.

"They did."

"That's the last thing you want," he said. They laughed.

I usually can't bear actors reading poetry – they ham it up, wringing significance from every syllable. Poetry doesn't need to be acted, it just needs to be read. But Sir Ian McKellen pitched it just right in The Prelude, a mesmerising reading of what William Wordsworth described as "a poem on the growth of my own mind".

His decision to use common lingo, nothing high-flown, was reflected in Sir Ian's cool, almost conversational delivery. And Jon Harle's subtle musical touches, and the unobtrusive natural-sound effects, were dead-on. This wasn't really a programme to listen to while you were doing something else: you had to sit down and give it your full attention. I did, and it was radio heaven.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?