First published in Radio Active Nov 2001 / copyright PWP Publications 2001
In order to get the most out of Tropical Band listening you need the latest documentation on frequencies and schedules. Although publications like the WRTH have information on times, addresses and other station information, any annual publication is liable to date quickly, so turning to the Internet will give you more up to date information. In this second part of a look at the Tropical Bands we'll guide you to some of the leading websites and other resources, enabling you to delve further into this fascinating world of radio listening.
A Totally Tropical Taste
There are many good lists of frequencies available, all of which cover several pages when printed out. A good website to commence is at Raimo Mäkelä's website http://188.8.131.52/rswebpri.nsf/sivut/tropical.html
This lists all current stations by frequency, covering the 60, 90, 75 and 120 metre bands.
The Tropical Frequency List is a useful tool with a searchable list at http://raven.cybercomm.net/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/~slapshot/troplist.sh
Willi Passmann's Tropical Band List (TBL) can be found at Willi's world leading radio portal; http://www.radio-portal.org
The TBL comes in two versions and formats: as well as the original version which lists Home Services and Clandestine stations up to 7 MHz, there is a new expanded TBL, covering the whole spectrum up to 30 MHz.
This version also offers two different sorting options (by frequency or country), as well as a list of inactive stations. The times for sunrise and sunset are given for all known transmitter sites, to make greyline reception easier. Both lists are also offered as pdf-documents, which can be sent to you as an email attachment upon request.
Another useful facility of the radio portal website is the ability to do a combined search. For instance if you go to the "Search in broad" option and combine the categories "Tropical Bands" with "Domestic Broadcasting", you can create an overview on all tropical band stations with a known web site. This search engine is of course a great tool for all aspects of searching for Internet resources regarding shortwave.
Although you can listen to a number of Tropical Bands stations on a fairly basic short wave receiver, even with just a telescopic aerial, the better your antennae system then the more exotic the DX that you can hope to pull in. The Radio Active bookshelf contains a couple of useful guides to get you started. 25 Simple Tropical and MW Band Aerials by EM Noll is a bargain at £1.95. 25 Simple Indoor and Window Aerials by the same author is another useful book if you are unable to rig up an outdoor antenna.
An indispensable email discussion group is run by the Hard Core DX Group. You can subscribe via their website at: http://www.hard-core-dx.com You can receive the email messages as they are submitted or, as I prefer, all messages together in a daily digest. The down side to receiving a daily bulletin is that any hot tips on good openings or signals might be past their best. Many of the messages submitted by individuals are related to latest DX catches in the Tropical Bands and details of QSL cards received. If you have any questions or unidentified catches you can post your query to the group and the chances are you'll soon receive a considered and accurate answer to your problem.
The Cumbre DX website has stacks of information, with latest listening tips. The extensive audio selection will give you a good idea of the kind of material to be found. and is a way of cross checking what you think you have just heard on the radio is actually what you have heard. Stations such as Radio Brazil Central, Goiania, 4985 khz (excerpt from a Brazil versus Barcelona football match, which is an unlikely sounding fixture to me, it must be said) Houa Phan Broadcasting from Laos on 4691 kHz and Guatemala's Radio K'ekchi' on 4845 kHz http://www.cumbredx.org
Addresses and other station details
The Danish Shortwave Club International regularly publish a Domestic Broadcasting Survey. The most recent, third edition, includes the 29th edition of the Tropical Bands Survey. It is completely updated and sold worldwide in printed or digital (PDF) versions. This 44 page booklet covers all active stations broadcasting to a domestic audience or relaying such broadcasts to compatriots abroad in the shortwave spectrum of 2200 - 30000 kHz. Active Clandestine stations are also included The Survey is based upon many official sources and DX-bulletins and is checked by monitors. Samples are at http://www.dswci.dk It costs £6 from DSWCI, c/o Bent Nielsen, Egekrogen 14, DK 3500 Vaerloese, Denmark
To read more on the type of receivers people were using in Latin America decades ago there are interesting web pages to be found that feature vintage receivers, for instance that of Radio Fides, in Bolivia, http://www.radiofides.com
Look under "Fotocolleccion".
Another interesting page is that of Brazilian collector João Mello, editor of "Antique Radio News". See http://www.bn.com.br/radios-antigos/evento.htm under "Radio Antiqos no Brasil".
Hackmohr's Latin American SW Logs is at http://www.sover.net/~hackmohr/sw.htm
with the latest Latin American logs, as provided by numerous DX clubs worldwide including the World DX Club, DX Clube do Brasil and DX Club Montevideo. Examples of logs follow:
@4732.2 BOLIVIA R (for Radio) La Palabra, Santa Ana de Yacuma [2200-0200](.18-.7) Jul 01
4750.14 PERU R S Fran. Solana, Sondor [0600-1130/2240-0331](.05-.16) Mar 01
4751.9 PERU R Huanta 2000, Huanta [0930-1155/2000-0100](46.4-56.58) Jul 01 B 0100->0138 300 watts
(4754.70 BRAZIL R Educação Rural, Cmp Grande [2205-0920](54.70-55.3) Jun 01
4767.88 ECUADOR R Panamericana, Quero [1100-1145/0130](.79-.88) May 01
4774.94 BRAZIL R Liberal, Belem [2145-0935] Mar 01 B 0302
4775 BRAZIL R Congonhas, Congonhas [0808-1040/2051-0327] May 01 B 0038->0100"
A well known and top quality U.K based site is that of Dave Kernick's Interval Signals. This contains plenty of station updates and audio files including tropical domestics as well as clandestine stations. http://www.intervalsignals.com
QSLing Tropical Band stations is quite an art form. Some DXers have a high success rate, others less so. With the decline in the stations broadcasting there is also a decline in those willing to verify. Tips for achieving a high hit rate include writing a report in the appropriate language (e.g. Spanish for Latin American stations) and describing reception in words rather than using the SINPO code (although I use both). Use the local times as well as UTC.
Sending International Reply Coupons (IRCs), mint picture stamps, postcards of your home town, photos of you and your receiver are other suggestions. Don't get disheartened if your first report to a station is not acknowledged, as a follow up report (sometimes several) can bring the desired result.
Translation software is available on the web, such as Babel or via the http://www.altavista.co.uk site which will translate from English to most other major languages. Radio Netherlands also have useful tips on writing reception reports in foreign languages at their website http://www.rnw.nl/realradio/practical/html/receptionreports.html
A useful article on QSLing Brazilian radio stations by Marcelo Toniolo dos Anjos and a list of the each stations current QSL policy is at http://radiodx.com/qsl-bra.php3
Marcelo divides the stations into three groups, from those that he considers easiest to obtain QSL cards from to those that are more difficult. So for instance amongst the easy to QSL are: 4925 kHz Radio Difusora, 4975 Radio Super Tupí, 4985 Radio Brasil Central, 5035 Radio Aparecida, 5955 Radio Gazeta, 6000 Radio Guaíba, 6010 R Inconfidência, 6020 Radio Gaúcha and 6030 Radio Globo.
His Portuguese Glossary has radio terms as well as more standard words that you would expect to use, such as dates. "Special announcement" translates as "anúncio especial", "Unknown Station" as "estação desconhecida", "My receiver is a…" becomes "meu receptor é um..", "I also use..." is "também uso..." a " Very weak signal" is "sinal muito fraco", "Fade" is "queda", "Weather forecast" is a "previsão de tempo".
Most useful of all is a part-prepared reception report letter in Portuguese with appropriate gaps for you to insert times, dates reception and programme details etc.
Winter Monges has operated a QSL Help Service for those seeking information and QSLs from Venezuelan radio stations for the past 4 years. Full details at his website: http://members.tripod.com/~wintermonges/
For a fine collection of Tropical Band QSL cards, and other shortwave QSLs visit the website at: http://www.antique-corner.com/SWLQSL/
There are a number of historical cards from the heyday of Tropical band broadcasting with some from countries that no longer exist. More recent cards can also be viewed there. If you have any from your own collection that you wish to donate, (by scanning in and sending via email, rather than submitting a prized card that you may wish to keep), details can be found at the website.
From some of the email discussion groups, here are some recent examples of successful QSL reports to give a flavour. Vasily Kuznetsov in Moscow received a QSL card from Sauti Ya Tanzania Zanzibar, designed by Belgian DXer Guido Schotmans. He stated it was a clear example of a specialist's artwork containing all sorts of data including the transmitting power is included.
An interesting discussion arose between Max van Arnhem in the Netherlands and Dave Onley in Melbourne on Indonesian station RRI Denpasar. Dave recently received a QSL letter for a report submitted over 11 years earlier (verification signer Gusti Ngurah Oka, Kepala Seksi Teknik). Sometimes stations have a change of personnel and with it comes the clearing of a backlog of reports or a change in QSL policy, so this is a good example of how perseverance pays off. Max writes that QSLing is difficult with Indonesian stations, and even after visiting station RRI Kupang in person, it still required a couple of follow up letters to secure that elusive QSL card.
A visit to RRI Denpasar in Bali can be seen at http://www.swl.net/radiochina/cooking/bali/bali-rridenpasar.html
Hans van den Boogert has put together a nice set of photos and text from a visit he made there in 1998.
Tropical sounds; some station profiles
A good station for starters is Radio Congo from Brazzaville, heard on 4765 and 5985 kHz. Predominantly French speaking, it has news in English around 1900 UTC.
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service from Freetown in Sierra Leone, can be heard on 3316 kHz (0600-0830 and 1700-2000 UTC). It broadcasts in English and vernacular languages. At the basic but user friendly website you can find transcriptions of historical news bulletins including those following the 1998 restoration of the country's civilian government. http://www.sierra-leone.org/slbs.html
Radio Uganda can be heard on 4976 kHz. Their website lists all stations in the country and states "Uganda has a liberalised communication policy which has allowed the opening of many private FM radio stations in addition to the State Radio - Radio Uganda. Although most of the radio stations that have been opened are in the central region around Kampala, a number are being opened in the rural areas. For example Radio Voice of Toro is based in the western part of Uganda, while Radio Paidha is in the North Western part of the country". http://www.uganda.co.ug/radios.htm
The Amazon DX Club has a number of recordings of Tropical radio stations with recordings including Radio Mosoj Chaski, Cochabamba, Bolivia (3310 kHz) and RadioTampa-Japão (9595 kHz).
Radio Caracol, in Colombia used to be heard on 5076 kHz. If you can't pick it up on shortwave, it and the FM outlet can be heard on the Internet, with a variety of news, sport and local music, at: http://www.caracol.com.co/
They broadcast within Colombia in the major metropolises of Bogotá and Medellín on 97.9 and 90.9 FM respectively.
For a good read and some overall background information, Henrik Klemetz has a series of articles entitled Dateline Bogotá Library. This website contains a lot of first hand information on Tropical Band DXing near the Equator http://www.algonet.se/~ahk/Dateline.htm
The Indonesian DX club lists all the Tropical radio stations that emanate from that part of south-east Asia. With over 13,000 islands making up Indonesia you would expect plenty of radio stations to operate.
2490 kHz RRI Makassar, 2580 RPD Timor Tengah Selatan (Soe), 2695 RPD Ende, 2899 RPD Ngada (Bajawa), 2960 RPD Manggarai (Ruteng), 3204 RRI Bandung, 3214.8 RRI Manado, 3223 RRI Mataram, 3224.8 RRI Tanjung Pinang, 3232 RRI Bukittinggi, 3250 RRI Banjarmasin, 3264.7 RRI Gorontalo, 3265 RRI Bengkulu, 3325 RRI Palangkaraya, 3345 RRI Ternate, 3355 RRI Jambi, 3380 RRI Malang , 3385 RRI Kupang, 3395 RRI Tanjung Karang, 3582 RPD Poso, 3636 RPD Buol, 3904.8 RRI Banda Aceh, 3905 RRI Merauke, 3934 RRI Semarang , 3960 RRI Padang, 3960 RRI Palu, 3976 RRI Pontianak, 3985.7 RRI Surabaya, 3996 RRI Pontianak, 3999.96 RRI Padang, 4000.2 RRI Kendari, 4003.2 RRI Padang, 4606.4 RRI Serui, 4696.9 RKIP Surabaya, 4753.4 RRI Makassar, 4766 RRI Medan, 4777 RRI Jakarta, 4789 RRI Fak-Fak, 4845 RRI Ambon, 4874 RRI Sorong, 4925 RRI Jambi, 4931.6 RRI Surakarta, and 5040 RRI Pekanbaru.
Voice of the Strait Broadcasting is based in China and has a website at http://www.radiohx.com/ It's mostly in Chinese but there are audio clips available. They broadcast on 4900 kHz and any musical programmes always sound exotic.
With thanks to : BDXC, HCDX, Signal DX, BBC Monitoring Service, Henrik Klemetz, Willi Passmann, Graham Powell, Vasily Kuznetsov, Max van Arnhem , Dave Onley