Friday, March 03, 2006

Help from above (one) - Listening to the Radio

It's a few months now, since my pocket radio died. She had been my loyal travel companion for years, speaking silent words when I had breakfast. The last program I listened to was from Austrian radio. I put the volume so low that the voices were hardly audible; the sound transmitted the image of a Kaffeehaus in Vienna and the murmuring of its guests.

Now that I'm in Italy, I hardly listen to FM radio. It is a saddening experience - presenters are either hysteric, too loud, too unbearably funny or talking in their sleep without giving the slightest hope that they'll ever wake up. In Germany I listened to Funkhaus Europa until too much ethnic music and information about recently discovered minorities made my head as heavy as an anchor sinking to the bottom of the sea.

I don't carry a laptop with me, nor some radio connected to satellite. Maybe this is a blessing. The temptation to find exotic sounds from Sudanese wedding bands or Pygmies chatting and splashing in the jungle would take too much time away.

A recent discovery is a program on AM 747, to be received in western Europe. Between 7.00 and 8.00 P.M. Wim Bloemendaal, a veteran of Dutch radio, presents music from all over the world. He doesn't play world music, it's radio music. Sometimes from the very beginnings of recording, sometimes from the deep south of the U.S., always informative and with unexpected sequence. Since it is a transmission on AM other radio stations come to visit - the German chancellor, Spanish medieval songs, a melody from the voice of Russia put on 'repeat'.

Then, what often happens when you recommend something to a friend, dear old Wim seemed to shy off. He played extremely boring music from Israel and South -Africa. It remembered me of a routine visit to a girlfriend's uncle in Amsterdam. I entered a house that smelled of a life that was not mine.

Yesterday it was great again - five different versions of Sloop John B in a row.

Wim Bloemendaal:


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