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BBC Radio 2 – 30 January, 6 February, 13 February 2012, 10.00pm

In the twilight of British colonial rule brass bands were the soundtrack to Empire. But as a new era of Independence dawned, the old military tunes were replaced by more distinctive, local sounds.

In World Class Brass, actor and trumpet player Colin Salmon takes listeners on a journey across four continents to trace the musical legacy of the British Empire and discover some truly unusual and uplifting brass.

Episode 1
The journey begins in the island nation of Malta, fiercely proud of its brass heritage, but with Maltese culture being a mix of British, Italian and North African influences, the country has marched the British brass band to surprising new places.

Next stop are the deserts of Northern India, where generations of brass musicians have played for local royalty. Nowadays, most bands find employment leading the festivities at marriages. British group Bollywood Brass Band travel to India to lend an an ‘exotic’ touch to a high-society nuptial, bringing the story of British-Indian brass full circle.

Episode 2
It’s hard to imagine West African music without brass and in this episode, the journey begins in Ghana, following the sound of the brass band through the Ghanaian military, the church and popular highlife music. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Nigeria, brass rang out both the melody and the rhythm in the afrobeat music of the legendary Fela Kuti.

Episode 3
The final episode begins in the Caribbean. Best known for carnival, Trinidad and Tobago is also the home of calypso. So it’s no surprise that British-inspired military brass found its way onto recordings by legendary calypsonians such as the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener and even the American Harry Belafonte. The Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force Band are also featured, as well as an interview with the much-loved female calypsonian, Calypso Rose.

Meanwhile across the water in New York, a band of eight brothers is moving live brass in a completely new direction with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The finale is a group of youngsters at Britain’s own Notting Hill Carnival, who mash-up vintage Caribbean sounds with everything from hip-hop to English folk, confirming that World Class Brass is alive and kicking in the UK.

Written and produced by Miranda Hinkley and Jonathan Walton. Presented by Colin Salmon. Assistant producers Michele Banal and Imani Wilson. Series producer Miranda Hinkley.

Miranda Hinkley studied Anthropology at Cambridge and Music at SOAS, where she became founding director of OpenAir Radio, a London station broadcasting international music, culture and analysis. After assisting BBC world music DJ Charlie Gillett, she spent several years at Discovery creating digital content and public engagement strategies for leading international museums and heritage sites. Founder of Nightjar, she continues to write, present and produce on a wide range of topics across music, the arts and culture. She recently presented a biography of composer Mikis Theodorakis for BBC Radio 3 and produced the series World Class Brass for BBC Radio 2. Miranda is also a professional presenter and voice artist.

Michele Banal studied classical and jazz music in Italy, as well as Political Science at the University of Milan, focussing on music and political protest in America. After working in human rights, he moved to London, where he completed a Masters in Ethnomusicology at SOAS. He’s working on a film documentary on Malian music and was the Assistant Producer on episodes of the World Class Brass series for BBC Radio 2.



Imani Wilson studied Literature at Columbia University and received an MA in African Studies at SOAS. Based in New York, she is a writer and cultural critic with a special interest in music, culinary arts, faith traditions, fashion and visual culture. In her work as an independent scholar, Wilson has conducted extensive research on global African arts, culture and religion in Morocco, Egypt, Cuba, Brasil, Angola, Portugal, Trinidad and Tobago, New Orleans, Holland and the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Imani was Assitant Producer on Episode 3: Trinidad, World Class Brass.

 Jonathan Walton studied at Oxford, Gnessin Conservatory of Music, Moscow and SOAS, where he was a founding member of OpenAir Radio. Passionate about music and politics, he writes for national press and has reported on music and censorship for Freemuse. Once composer and front-man for Oi Va Voi, he continues to compose and produce music for TV, theatre and film. He has broadcast on the BBC World Service English and Russian services, as well as CBC and Scandinavian television networks. Jon recently produced episodes of World Class Brass for BBC Radio 2.

Paul Ford studied Media Production at Bournemouth University, under the country’s first Professor of Radio, Sean Street, where he presented and produced shows for student station Nerve FM.  He went on to head up the studio team at Antenna Audio, a leading provider of mobile interpretation for the cultural and heritage sectors.  Now running Paul Ford Sound, he contributes the sound design to many of Nightjar’s arts and heritage projects.


Luke Branston is studying History at SOAS. He has worked at the BBC African Service, written for the African Music magazine ‘Africa on Your Street’ and is currently working at SOAS Radio (formerly OpenAir). His musical and cultural interest spans the Afro-Carribean diaspora, stemming from a lifelong fascination with Jamaican Music. He wastes a lot of time searching for vinyl records and occasionally plays the odd DJ set. Luke recently applied his ears and hands to the music selection for World Class Brass.