Banging a different drum

June 27, 1997

A LEADING writer and broadcaster from outside the academic world has been appointed to head the first world music department in a British university.

Simon Broughton, a BBC music producer and editor of the Rough Guide To World Music, takes up the post at Thames Valley University in August and promises to create a two-year diploma course that will be very different from more traditional academic-based ethno-musicology courses.

The creation of the department reflects the explosion of interest in ethnic music from around the world, sparked in the 1980s by the work of performers such as Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel.

"The outlook will be practical rather than ivory tower," said Mr Broughton, who assisted the London College of Music and Media to devise the course. The first 50 students will be accepted in October by Thames Valley.

When first approached, Mr Broughton had no plans to leave the BBC. "Then I realised that I had helped to create my own dream job so I decided to apply. I know very little about the education world and I face a steep learning curve," he said.

He has secured a number of commercial partners to support the course, including the National Sound Archive, Womad, the world music promoters set up by Peter Gabriel, and the recording companies Real World and Nimbus. The partnerships will give students practical experience in archiving, recording and concert promotion.

After studying music and Russian at Durham University, Mr Broughton worked in radio for ten years and then in television for the past six years. He also edited the Rough Guide, which has become the bible for all world music enthusiasts. "It was the hardest, worst paid but most interesting thing I have ever done," he said. "The book will effectively be a primer for the course."

Alistair Creamer, the dean of the London College of Music and Media, said: "We wanted to create an accessible course, not a degree in world music which would require A levels and which cuts out a whole level of people. It is a creative and practical course rather than academic and reflects what is happening in the music industry."

Year one of the course will offer an overview of music's role in different societies. It will explain how music does not exist in isolation but is a product of history, culture and environment. Three musical traditions - African drumming, Indian music and gamelan from Java and Bali - will also be studied.

Year two will include a module on the music of the Caribbean and emphasise practical skills. "How to make field recordings, how to mix in a studio, how to manage a concert tour if you are bringing a band over from West Africa are all the sort of things which will be covered," said Mr Broughton.

"What I hope to communicate is a passion and an enthusiasm," he said. "The course is not about passing on second-hand information but about inspiring people."

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