Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Humid late summer nights on shortwave

Extract from my monthly column Long, Medium and Shortwaves, Broadcast Matters in Radio User, September 2012, www.pwpublishing.ltd.uk  

If I have a quiet summer’s evening at home a typical post sundown pattern of listening for me covers a variety of stations. It’s usually around 2000 UTC (2100 BST) that I might settle down with a pot of Earl Grey and tune around the bands. We are still a little spoilt for choice and although there may be some signals that I identify and then move swiftly on from, there are many that I linger with, enjoying the programme content.

There have been two stations in the 60 metre band that have fought for my attention from 2100 to 2200 UTC over the past few months. First up from the horn of Africa is Channel 1 of Radiotelevision de Djibouti on 4780kHz. It plays some exciting local music using instruments such as the tanbura, bowl lyre and oud. In between the music the languages of Afar, Arabic and Somalia can be heard. The best signal that I have coaxed out of my radio with its simple telescopic aerial is a SIO 353. For me, a station like this demonstrates the magic of shortwave listening.

At the same time just along the band is the Voice of America. Not a great catch perhaps, but the fact that this transmission comes via Sao Tome, an African island off of Equatorial Guinea, makes it a little more exciting. There is usually a music programme on at this time, on 4940kHz, for instance on Saturdays we have Music time in Africa. This is a lively request show with some eclectic music that runs until Voice of America signs off at 2100 UTC. You can contact the programme by email musictime@voanews.com  

A more mainstream broadcaster in the 1900 to 2100 UTC time slot is the Voice of Russia, a steady signal on 12040kHz, usually a 444 SIO. Ever since they revised their style a year or two back, there is a more energetic feel about the station from the music bed underneath news items and trails through to actual programmes themselves.
I enjoy the In Focus and Press Review programmes which deal with serious issues, but to juxtapose that are items such as beach football. Russia recently defeated the Netherlands 2-1 on a Moscow beach to qualify for the 2013 Beach Football World Championships. Music and history often combine to make a must listen programme. A case in point being opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin (1873 to 1938). His rendition of the Volga Boatmen song is well known globally but a few minutes of this show made me realise there was more to him than that.

I often turn to All India Radio in the evenings for some interesting commentaries on world situations and the Indian Press Review gives a different perspective too. Interspersed with a healthy mix of classical Hindustani music I am left with a warm glow that only shortwave can bring. 7550 and 11670kHz are good frequencies.

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