British violinist Nigel Kennedy says that he pulled out of Classic FM show because he wasn’t allowed to perform his Jimi Hendrix tribute

Nigel Kennedy
(Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

Classic FM is being forced to make plans without Nigel Kennedy, with the offbeat British violinist saying that he’s pulled out of a gig that the UK radio station is hosting because his proposed Jimi Hendrix tribute was deemed to be unsuitable for the Classic FM audience.

The Guardian reports that Kennedy had planned to collaborate with Chineke!, an orchestra of young black and ethnically diverse musicians, on a performance of Hendrix’s Little Wing at this Wednesday’s Royal Albert Hall concert.

However, Classic FM is reported to have objected to his choice of material, with the violinist alleging that they wanted him to play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons instead.

In response, Kennedy argued: “This is musical segregation. If it was applied to people, it would be illegal. If that type of mentality is rampant in the arts, then we still haven’t fixed the problem of prejudice. This is much more serious than my feathers being a bit ruffled. Prejudice in music is completely dreadful. They’re effectively saying that Hendrix is all right in the Marquee Club, but not in the Albert Hall.”

Kennedy’s love of Hendrix is well-documented. In 1999, he released The Kennedy Experience, an album of improvisations inspired by the guitarist’s recordings. He had planned to interpret Little Wing in the style of English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams.

Kennedy said that he had waived his fee to work with Chineke!, though they would have been paid. He also objected to being told that he had to perform with a conductor, which he says he’s never done, and claims he wouldn’t have received adequate rehearsal time.

Chineke! Founder Chi-chi Nwankoku, meanwhile, sought to distance himself from the row by saying: “We had nothing to do with Nigel pulling out of this. It’s not up to us what we play in the Classic FM concert. It was decided by Classic FM, who rightly insist that repertoire played at their annual Royal Albert Hall concert is familiar to their loyal listeners. They did not want Jimi Hendrix on Classic FM. No blame should be laid at our feet.

“We were so keen to do the concert with Nigel and had agreed to his request not to have a conductor for The Four Seasons and an extra rehearsal. We’re proud of our collaborations with other genres, including Carl Craig and Stormzy.”

Classic FM is yet to comment.

Nigel Kennedy will release his memoir, Uncensored, on 4 November, alongside a CD box set of his work.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.