Lockdown Listening

Here’s what we’ve been making time to enjoy over the past few weeks in the British Council’s Music team. There's a selection of tracks in our Lockdown Listening LP, our recommendation for podcast of the month and three things we think you'll love to watch. There should be something for everyone below!


For the ears: Our Lockdown Listening LP

First up, we’ve compiled an LP’s worth of lockdown listening for you – find out who chose what and why below and carry on for our pick of what to watch at the moment.

Warning: contains some strong language.

Player not showing? Access the Lockdown Listening playlist on Spotify here.


Beatrice Dillon – Workaround One

Workaround is a really strong debut album from the London-based electronic producer Beatrice Dillon. It’s quite understated in places but the whole album twists and evolves in such an interesting way; it keeps drawing me back. I also think the album title takes on extra (and probably unintended!) meaning given the current Covid-19 circumstances as we’re all having to find our own workarounds at the moment.

– Tom Sweet, Music Programme Manager


Onipa – Yenimno

In lots of ways We No Be Machine is the complete antidote to these troubled times. Released on 20 March on Strut Records, this debut album from afro-futurism outfit Onipa, brings African grooves, wonky bass-driven electronic soundscapes and life-affirming vibes. Perfect for dancing round the kitchen to burn off some of that cabin-fever lockdown energy. Other favourites on the album are ‘Fire’ and ‘Onipa’.

– Grace Pitkin, Music Programme Co-ordinator


Anna Meredith – Inhale Exhale

Anna Meredith’s second album released in November last year (which feels now like another world away) is a genre-fluid irreverent work of experimentation – and it’s just great.

– Michael Duffy, Music Programme Manager


Riz Ahmed – Fast Lava

Contains strong language

Known primarily for his acting work – Star Wars ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Four Lions’ to name just two – Riz is also an incredibly talented rapper. Working with long term music partner Tom ‘Redinho’ Calvert (an alumni of our Musicians in Residence Brazil programme with PRS Foundation), The Long Goodbye sees Riz emoting his personal critique on current British society with razor sharp delivery. Whilst Covid-19 has understandably sidelined many conversations in society for now, issues such as these still persist and I think it’s important they don’t get lost. Also check out the accompanying video for the album – ‘Fast Lava’ features prominently as the tension ramps up - but be warned, it is fierce and brutal.

– Tom Sweet, Music Programme Manager


Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch – Minnesang

My choice is Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and her track Minnesang. She’s a French pianist-composer, based in London. I turn to piano-led music whenever I need to concentrate but want something calming in the background. In this particular moment, with this new routine of working from home, I need a bit more incentive to concentrate and a bit more encouragement to be calm. The strings on this make me think of spring and the transformation that brings to our natural environment outside and moods inside.

– Katie Weatherall, Selector Radio Programme Manager & Music Programme Manager


Lianne La Havas – Bittersweet

Oh dear. Rather than joyous escapism I seem to have headed straight to the centre of lockdown misery with Lianne La Havas’ latest single. But I just can’t put it down! That cycling chord sequence, that downbeat groove and her voice at full stretch – Jamz Supernova gave this a spin to open up Selector Radio at the start of March and it’s stuck with me since. Then it was just a love song, when ‘hanging around’ and ‘going nowhere’ could be shrugged off as cliches, but now they feel inescapably literal and true. Great song though.

– Stephen Bloomfield, Music Marketing Manager


Tirzah – Holding On

I have been drawn back to this song again and again over the past weeks. Tirzah is a name firmly stamped onto London’s underground scene – listening to her feels private with a peculiar sort of shared intimacy. The unguarded vocal delivery on this track, partnered with the breezy mechanical beat and brassy synth loop, brings melancholy and optimism all at once.

– Grace Pitkin, Music Programme Co-ordinator


Malojian – The Singularity

We’re staying home, and music is everywhere; my husband has rediscovered old sheet music collected over the decades and has taken up practicing piano daily. The piano is in the middle of the house. It is quite loud, so listen we must! My favourite, this week, is the piano part (though not the spectacular Liszt arrangement) of Schumann’s ‘Widmung’. Meanwhile, my son has unlimited time to play guitar - Lee Sollory’s breezy ‘Mountain Song’ for the now virtually-conducted lessons, then cranking out The Black Keys’ ‘Lonely Boy’ or dabbling in some Loopstation layering for fun. As for me, I’m restless and not sure what I want to listen to, but a solitary, socially-distanced walk around the block is a chance to hear the most glorious spring bird song. Some days, this, or silence, feels like the Very Best Thing. That said, I’ve also fallen for the bittersweet melancholy of Malojian’s new track, ‘The Singularity’ written on Friday 13 March. I’ve loved Stevie Scullion’s song writing since being introduced by colleagues in Northern Ireland. The late great Lyndon Stephens also recognised this talent and had only recently taken on a management role. RIP, Lyndon.

Malojian on ‘The Singularity’ from YouTube: ‘It has helped me to forget, at least for a while, about all the madness going on right now and shown me that being stuck inside can be hard but life can still be beautiful if you free your mind. If you'd like to have a go at making your own version, you can also download the parts that I sent to Jason. There's a solo vocal and solo piano so you can mute me and do some karaoke. If you feel like doing something we'd love to see it so just tag it #JasonLytleChallenge.’

– Leah Zakss, Music Programme Manager


For the ears: our current podcast pick

That Classical Podcast

I have been listening to this podcast for a long time now and at the moment it’s definitely my podcast of choice during these isolation days. Kelly Harlock and Chris Bland are the wonderful hosts and the heart, together with co-host Sascha Kelly, of this absolutely hilarious podcast. Would you have ever associated ‘fiery cosmic eggs’, ‘lobster debts’, ‘death chocolate’, ‘musical pizza’, ‘cat role plays’ and ‘infant body-builders’ … with classical music? Believe me, they all make sense once you listen to the episodes. No wonder, most of the genius classical composers the hosts discuss in their podcast were quite meschugge to say the least, so there is no lack of stories. Classical music is not boring at all! The recent mini-episode ‘That Classical Isolation: Our Current Faves’ was recorded over a hangout platform of a ‘not too well known tech company’ but this particularly nerdy episode is available for a limited time only! Enjoy listening.

– Anna Bliner, Music Programme Co-ordinator


To watch: three adventures in music

The Opera Machine – Royal Opera House

This is an incredible, multi-angled view of the intricate theatrical process behind Act Three of Wagner’s Die Valkyrie and here are three reasons why I spent a recent Sunday evening revisiting this. One is that I love Wagner, and Die Valkyrie is part of the 17-hour-long, four-opera Ring Cycle based on Nordic mythology which was the most ambitious operatic project ever undertaken when it was first conceived in the late 19th century. This manifestation of Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (or complete artwork) was so ambitious he had to build a new theatre to mount it, the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, which still performs his works annually.  The second reason is that the effort, skill, dedication, timing, precision, passion and pace – from an army of people from many disciplines - that is required to put on such a complex opera in a world class opera house is laid bare here for all to see. From footage of the conductor and musicians in the pit, the stage manager, the lighting being cued, the pyrotechnics being prepared and launched, Bryn Terfel arriving on stage with a wave to fellow workers and much more, you get a sense of the adrenalin and raw energy that goes into mounting this most complex of artforms. And thirdly, it reminds me that one day I will once more be able to see a performance live.  It reminds of what we have temporarily lost, and to never, ever take live art again for granted. Wotan’s farewell at the end of the Act remains one of the most moving scenes in the opera repertoire, and I long to see it again on stage. I recommend choosing Our Camera Cut, and Backstage Radio. There are many choices, but this is a good combination to start with. Act Three opens with probably the most well-known piece of opera music – the Ride of the Valkyries (have a listen – it took Glastonbury audiences by storm in 2004!).

– Cathy Graham, Director Music


Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music – BBC

Stewart Copeland, former drummer with The Police, takes the viewer on a fascinating journey which explores the huge power of music on people the world over. He covers many elements including the history, science and psychology of music through a series of conversations with a wide range of musicians from around the world. Stewart’s gregarious personality really draws you in and makes all of the material really easy to digest. Great viewing for a long evening.

– Tom Sweet, Music Programme Manager


Cries & Whispers – Manchester Collective

It’s always a pleasure to be at a Manchester Collective concert. They’re one of the UK’s most exciting and newest ensembles and what they bring to the stage is meticulously thought out and brilliantly crafted. In response to the current restrictions, they’ve offered up the next best thing to a live show, and have made their latest project Cries & Whispers (captured on 14 March in Salford) freely available online. It’s a rich programme of music for string quartet by Britten and Shostakovich, plus an arrangement of a madrigal by Gesualdo. Look out for further content from them over the coming weeks.

– Michael Duffy, Music Programme Manager


More music?

If you want more music from the team, check out our past playlists here: