The Devil’s Music

BBC Radio drama from 2008, written by Alan Plater in three 45 minute episodes. The description can be a bit misleading, being about a modern day Welsh jazz musician who is told a tune she believes she is improvising actually dates back generations — a hook suggesting (at least to me!) maybe some sort of supernatural mystery (particularly with that title!) But it’s actually a sometimes light-hearted generational drama, the tune simply turning out to have been passed down through the family (so she realizes she must’ve just heard it as a child). And so she ends up learning about her unconventional family line (each woman in the family named Meghan — she’s Meghan V), and their association with music.

It’s basically a way of touching on 19th/20th Century history (post-slavery, suffragettes, unionism) and the roots of jazz as it relates to these women (the credits even acknowledge the script is based on historical research!) even getting into discussions of modern race relations. Funnily, Rakie Ayola — who appealingly voices Meghan V — is black but I was beginning to assume she was supposed to be playing a white character (being radio) since there was no mention of colour — until the final act when it is mentioned she’s black.

Despite some obvious, self-conscious earnestness, and quasi-educational aspects — it actually works as a kind of charming, low-key, quirkily light-hearted multi-generational drama, with a denouement that effectively brings things full circle. It actually held my attention better than some more obviously “dramatic” stories — perhaps helped by a good tempo and pacing and, as I say, a good-hearted charm. The likeable cast also includes Margaret John, Don Warrington, and others.