Question Time: Charlie Gillett

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The Independent Online

Work: Presents ‘World on 3’ on BBC Radio 3 and ‘World of Music’ on the BBC World Service

Life: Married with three children and two grandchildren

Balance: Will be appearing at the Womad world music festival on 24-26 July. Co-founder of Oval Records

Charlie Gillett’s Sound Of The World: Otro Mundo compilation is out now on Warner Classics & Jazz

How did you first get interested in World music?

On Capital Radio, in 1982 I started getting a lot of listeners saying they liked the tropical music I’d been playing, the occasional Soca track and JuJu tracks by Nigerian bandleaders. Capital gave me a dedicated slot, and I took a crash course by standing in an African record shop and hearing what people were asking for and recommending.

What would you recommend to a complete newcomer to this type of music?

This gets asked a lot on my website’s forum (, and the most common answer is “Pirates’ Choice” by Orchestra Baobab. Paul Simon’s Graceland was also a big door-opener

Is ‘World music’ a patronising expression?

Most musicians dislike being pigeon-holed but, if there was no such category, shops wouldn’t stock the records, magazines and newspapers wouldn’t make a point of having at least one “token” world music release each issue, and Amazon wouldn’t be able to present a chart of ‘folk and world’.

Who’s been your favourite discovery over the years?

There are lots, but Mariza has been particularly remarkable, going from being barely known in Portugal to becoming the most famous fado singer in the world.

You’re playing at WOMAD this year – who will you be watching out for?

I would be glad to catch Rokia Traore and hope 17 Hippies and members of the Ethiopiques presentation will come to the Radio 3 stage, which I’m hosting on the Sunday. Dub Colossus and Radiokijada are very good too

What are your desert island media?

I read The Guardian, watch Channel 4 News and listen to Mark Lamarr’s God’s Jukebox on BBC Radio 2. My favourite website is