Seven musicians with sight loss from around the world talk about their struggle to pursue their chosen career
Blind Notes, a seven-part conversation series of radio programmes featuring one-to-one interviews with musicians from around the world – all of whom are blind – begins this evening.
The extraordinary line-up includes Irish "The Voice" winner Andrea Begley, Grammy award-winning American jazz pianist and singer Diane Schuur, legendary record producer Robin Millar, and Scotland’s first blind theatre musical director Sally Clay.
The hour-long shows, often highlighting stories of extraordinary personal resilience and perseverance, are being broadcast on Europe's first radio station for people with sight loss: RNIB Connect Radio in Glasgow.
Presented by Ravi Sagoo, who has keratoconus, the interviews are mixed with examples of the musicians' own music and those that have influenced or been important to them.
Ravi, who also presents on BBC Radio Scotland, said he was keen to explore how living with sight loss has affected them in their work and personal life. "I'm passionate about all types of music and this series has been inspiring," he enthused. "Each interviewee – from different musical genres – has overcome obstacles and managed to pursue their dream of making music for a living."
Andrea Begley relates how she nearly never got onto The Voice after turning up at the wrong time for the audition. Diane Schuur talks about how her rendition of "I Just Called To Say I Love You" at the Kennedy Honours tribute to soul legend Stevie Wonder moved him to tears. Sally Clay recalls how disillusioned she was when she couldn’t get a job in music but kept trying.
Baluji Shiravastav, leader of the Inner Visions orchestra of visually impaired musicians, remembers unknowingly jamming with Beatle George Harrison while working in a music shop in India. Welsh opera singer and lockdown internet sensation, Anne Wilkins, describes being drawn back to music through teaching it.
Ricky McKinnie, leader of the Blind Boys Of Alabama Gospel group, tells how his faith has helped him cope with life’s ups and downs. Gold and Platinum disc-winning producer, Robin Millar, talks movingly about losing his sight whilst producing Sade’s second album Promise and how he tried to hide the fact from the band.
"Although the conversations cover their career and life, it always pulls back to talking about their sight loss and how that has affected their relationship with music," said Ravi. "Some have really struggled with their visual impairment and there have been times that they've been angry, doubted themselves and been affected by other people’s attitudes to them."
Blind Notes has been produced for RNIB Connect Radio by Glasgow-based Demus Productions with the support of the Audio Content Fund.
Yvonne Milne, Station Manager of RNIB Connect Radio, said: "I'm delighted that we have the chance to partner with Demus Productions to broadcast these fantastic shows. They are a great listen for anyone who loves music and demonstrate that sight loss is no barrier to creating beautiful work and achieving great success."
Nick Low at Demus said: “We hear how these talented musicians have all conquered adversity and prejudice to cultivate successful careers in music. This will hopefully inspire a new generation of musicians with sight loss to make music their career as they hear about music being the one constant driving force in their lives.”
Blind Notes will be broadcast on Wednesdays at 18.00 from 21 July, with a repeat on Saturdays at 20.00. It can be heard on RNIB Connect Radio on 101FM in the Glasgow area, and across the UK on Freeview 730 and online.