Goodbye Neighbor, Hello Brazil!

Monday, August 13th, 2012

I've talked about it many times in these pages– one of the great ironies of doing this radio blog has been the fact that where I live and where I write has always been afflicted by pathetic radio reception. OK, the reception itself hasn't always been that bad, but the noise floor on AM and shortwave (the HF bands I discuss here) is often so deep in RF pollution that hearing weaker signals has either been no fun or just impossible. And some more local broadcasting hasn't been immune from some headache inducing artifacts. Occasionally I've found the electronic culprit– typically a new cheaply made power supply or battery charger we've recently plugged in here at the house.

One night when I was the only one home, I went around and unplugged everything in the house, room by room. I was carrying a portable radio around in the dark, trying to pinpoint and identify some of the offending RF. It was hopeless. I made little headway and became convinced that I was stuck in a small flat in a big town where I might never escape so much ripping static on the 25, 41 and 49 meter band, and the phhht…phhht… phhht sound on medium wave, and all those buzzes and crackles distributed across the frequencies, most difficult or impossible to null. I eventually decided all that interference was just one the prices I had to pay for living in the middle of a throbbing megalopolis.

And then, what can I tell you. Our terminally unfriendly upstairs neighbor finally moved away. I'd be lyin' if I didn't admit I was more than happy to see her go. But now… I'm almost ecstatic!

I hadn't thought much about it. Then one afternoon I realized that the AM station I had tuned in sounded…good! Really good. After so many years, something had changed! I grabbed a shortwave out of a drawer and went to the old reliable 49 meter band, and the reception was almost as clean as I’d expect to hear at the picnic table while on a camping trip. And then I knew. Things had really changed. A lot. For the first time in a long time, I could feasibly DX right here at the house. Whoo-hoo.

At this point, I’m assuming my neighbor, who was never very friendly to us and constantly took advantage or our elderly landlady, was also despoiling the airwaves surrounding my apartment for the last dozen years. Although I never set foot up there, I now imagine she must have had dimmer switches, a couple dozen "always on" gadgets, and banks of power strips loaded with used and unused power supplies– all of it transmitting noise!. But no more.

So, I say "good riddance" to that grouchy old face on the staircase! It's a new day. And frankly, the new girl upstairs seems quite nice. And quiet. In so many ways. 

So, let’s celebrate. Here’s a recording I made the other night in my kitchen, utilizing a borrowed semi-portable bruiser of recent vintage– the last of the Grundig Satellit  line, the “800.” It’s not a particularly handsome set, especially compared some of its more romantic Satellit predecessors, But it’s a workhorse with plenty of features. And it's fun to use. Thanks David!

Rádio Nacional da Amazônia  11780kHz approx. 0400 UTC 08-06-2012

(download)

In my first venture into the HF bands in this new radio quiet era around here, I happened to come across Rádio Nacional da Amazônia, as I often do. However, I’ve never heard it like this. Not at my place. Have a listen.

It’s great music… dated stuff. The station itself is apparently a domestic outlet”– public radio for the greater Amazon area, a rather huge swath of a very large South American country. This station is one of a few regional shortwave outlets in Brazil; where they’re still willing to forgo some audio fidelity in return for the inexpensive reliability and impressive propagation of old-fashioned shortwave broadcasting. While so many of the western nations have abandoned shortwave for local by-nature FM broadcasting and assorted internet options, Brazil like the other BRIC nations, buck this trend, unwilling to completely give up on the old technology. In this over-networked era, there are still some forgotten (and neglected) shortwave listeners in the states (like me) who cherish the remaining islands of sane radio modulation we can find in between so many moronic U.S. Christian and conspiratorial programers who hog the shortwave bandspace in these parts. And when you come across some pleasant music programming like this, it doesn't matter so much what languages you speak or understand. (Unless you're a stickler about lyrical content…)

While I’m a big fan of Brazilian music, and I have spent many hours foraging flea market bins and music blogs in search of it (Oh Loronix, you are missed…), I am no expert, and sadly can't name one artist on this aircheck. (Although I have gotten smarter clicking through sites like this.) There are some nice songs here, and I'd guess most or all were recorded decades ago. I think the last one might actually be a “Bread” cover, and perhaps not surprisingly I'd describe it as an improvement over the original.

And while this is very good reception, by DX standards, it would surely sound a bit strange if you're not a shortwave listener, with many varying factors affecting the quality and volume of the audio. It’s full of the artifacts of the medium, sounds some hate and others (like me) love– the sound of electrical energy full of audio bouncing from ground to sky a few times before flying into the tuner on my table.

All of it happening without my former neighbor’s sloppy electronics ruining the messy but musical analog wonder of it all. And for me, here in Brooklyn, the 25 meter band hasn't sounded this good in a long, long time, or ever.

The Ship That Came In (On Four Radio Bands)

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

If you wanted to pick a date when music radio in America began to really suck, it would probably be the mid-1980′s. Popular music was getting worse. All those god awful keyboards (think..Lionel Richie), with music was all sequencer riffs, boomy emulated drums and shiny boring guitar solos. At least that’s how I heard it. And if the music wasn’t bad enough, almost all of the personality and unpredictability that made commercial radio so much fun had been quashed.

Back in the sixties, the corporate consultants turbo-charged the top 40 format by amping up the energy and trimming the fat. But after a couple decades a lot had changed, and with the audience moving to FM it brought a different mentality to radio formatics and programming in general. The seventies brought in the "less talk" school of radio, and as that philosophy gained ground you heard much less persona and patter between songs, and more perky robot announcers reading positioning statements and liner cards. And instead of "breaking hits" radio stations were broken by the tired and worn-out "hits" their corporate masters made them play incessantly.

By the mid-80′s, the model of radio as a music delivery system was finally broken. And in the wake of its failure listeners adapted. It was the golden age of the "mix tape," where put down chunks of their own programming on cassette tapes. And at the same time "talk radio" was where you could still find some spontaneity on the dial, and it became a viable and popular radio format for the first time (and filled the void on medium wave as top 40 format had moved to the FM band).

And it was around this time that I became the radio freak of nature I am today. This is when I started scanning the AM band looking for fossil music stations playing big band, old country or r&b and blues. And it’s when I started actually paying attention to talk radio. And shortwave. And so, my adventures in amplitude modulation really began…

As a relatively young curmudgeon at that time, I still had some enthusiasm for changing the world. Or at least try to change radio, from the inside. And in the summer of 1987 I enrolled in a broadcasting school, where I learned how to splice tape, how to read news copy, and how to browse an Arbitron book. And while I’ve had my ups and downs in the radio business, I have had a lotta fun over the years. The trouble is, at heart I’m a programmer, not a tech guy or a salesman or an incredibly talented announcer (I’m not bad, but…). My original dream was to program a real R&B radio station. And I did that at a little AM outlet in Alabama for a couple years. I had a blast, but it didn’t pan out into the earth-shaking career I had imagined. Somehow or other I ended up volunteering on a freeform station presenting answering machine tapes and audio letters. But that’s another story…

However, I have another story for you. A better one. A tale of brave young souls on the high seas who took on the FCC and corporate radio in a big and beautiful way. That same summer, while I was sitting in classrooms learning the technical ramifications of commercial stop sets and how to say the letter “W” correctly, a cadre of real radio activists were skipping all the technicalities. They’d pooled together thousands of dollars to build a radio station and transmitter on an old fishing vessel, and parked the thing off the coast of Long Island. Yes, it was exactly twenty-two years ago this week that Radio New York International briefly made rock and roll history. And although they were only in business for a few days, the legend of RNI lives on. And rightly so.

Here’s a choppy and murky video tour of the docked “Radio Ship Sarah,” ready for its maiden voyage as America’s most infamous offshore radio station. It’s still worth watching, just to get a feel of the excitement and anticipation onboard.

They dropped anchor just four and a half miles from Jones Beach on Long Island and started broadcasting July 23, 1987 on FM (103.1MHz), AM (1620kHz), shortwave (6250kHz), and even longwave! (150kHz). Amazing. And what did they play? Free-form rock and roll. Which from what I gather was kind of a mix of college radio, album rock radio, oldies and lots of banter. Kind of like what FM rock stations might have sounded like around 1987 if DJ’s still had a hand in selecting the music (mixed with some “pirate” shenanigans). The reaction in the New York City market was immediate, and RNI made headlines around the world. And by the next day the local TV news operations  were sending reporters out on boats to get the story. Here’s a big fat montage of the coverage…

They Sarah crew even made an appearance on that 80′s tabloid TV mess, “A Current Affair, starring the craggy-faced 80′s icon, Maury Povich.

But, you know how this story ends. After three days of broadcasting (and lots and lots of exposure on local and national news) the FCC paid the ship a visit. They weren’t friendly and they had a cease and desist order in their hands.

For a day, RNI was silent. Then the next day the leader of the operation, Allan Weiner gave the go-ahead to crank the transmitters up again, and New York City’s newest radio station was back on the air.

Busted. With Alan Weiner, his partner Ivan Jeffries, and Village Voice reporter sitting in the summer sun in handcuffs as the Coast Guard ransacked all the equipment. Or most of it. And Jeffries and Weiner were charged with conspiring to impede the Federal Communications Commission. A felony. 

However, the FCC didn’t have much of a case and they dropped all charges on the crew. They got what they wanted. The station was off the air and all the investment of time and money on all that equipment lay in runs. But Weiner swore that RNI would return.

The legacy of those few days rebellious days ran strong for a year or two. And the radio pirates who challenged the FCC in front of the nation continued to attract national attention. They had a little stint on MTV, and were offered free air time on a little AM station out on Long Island on a weekly basis, which they fooled around with for a short time. There was even a short-lived rebirth of RNI in 1988, but only on shortwave. And again the heavy hand of the FCC put a stop to it.

However, the “Radio New York International” brand wouldn’t die, and Weiner and his sundry radio cohorts continued to dream the dream in more practical ways. They rented out a weekly chunk on shortwave’s WWCR, and Weiner himself began to pursue a legitimate shortwave station license for himself. And as many of you know, in the late 1990′s that license was granted and WBCQ was born in Monticello, Maine.

Since that time, John P. Lightning (formerly of pirate station WJPL and one of the RNI gang) began a program on WBCQ bearing the name– “Radio New York International.” (Which I wrote about a while back.) A broadcast originating from right here in Brooklyn, for years Lightning (as well as Big Steve and others) have held court with a rowdy few hours of talk, noises, music and silliness. However, last week Lightning and Weiner parted ways. And Lightning, who has threatened to give up show recently anyway, is currently doing a show he still calls “Radio New York International” on the internet. But WBCQ also has a show with the same name at the same time. Kinda strange.

It was all a surprise to me, but I don’t listen to WBCQ enough to know the details. Someone archived Weiner’s open letter to Lightning, and the response, here. Allen took his "open letter" down after a week or so, but Lightning’s responses remain on his site.  Lightning’s modus operandi is slash and burn clowning, which is occasionally monstrous in the mode of Neil Rogers (who also just retired by the way…). It’s all about verbal abuse, especially of the BOSS. Apparently what was once considered good fun became something else, at least as far as Weiner was concerned. And if you read Lightning’s response, he sounds almost sorry. Even recalcitrant. However, he thinks Weiner was being thin-skinned and says in his blog that you can listen to the archives of his show and judge for yourself.

The approach the 22 year anniversary of RNI coinciding with this rift between Weiner and Lightning that struck a chord with me. Not that I know either of them beyond the on-air persona and what I read in the blogophere. But I identify with these guys because we’re members of the same tribe. And although I was never really a radio pirate, we’re fellow travelers who have been cutting our own paths around the fringes of the radio business for the last few decades. And some of my best friends have been creative and dedicated radio disciples who inspired me, and lent me a helping hand when I needed help on a project. Or needed a job. And I don’t know if it’s something about the radio business, or something about the kind of people who fall into it, but I’ve lost more than my far share of radio friends over the last few years as well.

Of course, Allan Weiner’s illustrious pirate radio career started long before RNI. He was just a kid back in 1970 when with the help of another wunderkind named J.P. Ferraro  (a.k.a. "Pirate Joe") they established their own radio "network" in suburban New York City. After being shut down by the FCC a few times, Allan and J.P submitted a rather articulate and impassioned letter to the FCC explaining and defending their criminal acts of broadcasting. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s the last paragraph:

We started this whole thing because we love radio as an artistic and creative medium, and to bring freedom to the airwaves. Not because we want fat bank accounts and chaffeur-driven cars. We have chosen our operating frequencies especially so as not to cause interference with any other stations. However, as human beings and citizens of the United States and the world, we have a right to use the airwaves put there by whoever or whatever created the universe, and use them as we will. This is our freedom, this is our right.

Amen to that.

And over many years Weiner’s friendship with Ferraro was also a partnership, and involved many radio collaborations. Some legal, some not. And while he wasn’t onboard the Radio Ship Sarah for the maiden voyage, I believe he was involved in some of the fun. I do know that he participated in later incarnations of “Radio New York International,” and was involved in another offshore radio project with Allan (which the FCC stomped out before the station set sail). And you can actually hear some of the radio these guys created together over the years. Weiner has run a program on WBCQ called “The Pirate’s Cove” where he plays old airchecks from his pirate days, and you can find some archives of the Pirate’s Cove here.) Worth checking out.

Then in 1992, Pirate Joe came upon a radio station for sale in upstate that was selling for so cheap that he could actually muster the funds to buy the whole thing. And that station was WHVW in Poughkeepsie (which I’ve written about a few times here), a little class D AM station that Joe turned into a wonder of the world by programming a unique blend of American roots music around the clock. And just like so many times before, Allan and Joe worked together on getting the station off the ground, technically. And I certainly don’t know enough to tell you what happened, or why it happened, but somewhere in the process of setting up the new incarnation of WHVW these longtime collaborators experienced something the Stylistics used to call a "heavy falling out."

I only know this because Allan’s mentioned it a few times on his WBCQ program, and he also alluded to the fact that he didn’t just lose a friendship at the time but also lost a bunch of money. And although I finally met Pirate Joe a while back, but I wasn’t prepared to ask him his side of the story. I do have a feeling they probably have differing accounts of how their friendship ended. That’s usually how those things work.

As a fan of both WBCQ and WHVW, I can see how these two stations compliment each other. And in my mind’s eye it’s not hard for me to squint at these two unique radio operations and combine them into one fantastic station, with Ferraro’s musical automation and his D.J.s taking the place of all the preachers and daily dead air you hear on BCQ’s frequency. But that surely will never happen. And in a way it already did. Years ago.

Again, I don’t know the nitty-gritty details of the relationships between these guys. It’s almost not important, and not the type of gossip I like to deal in. Yet, even though I have cleaved away from a few of my closest creative co-conspirators myself, I still find it sad when I hear it about it happening to others. Especially between people I admire, like Allan, and John and J.P. But middle-age is an odd phase I’m still coming to grips with. You don’t have that same wild desire to change the world, but you still do have the drive to do something meaningful or profitable, and you’re so much more aware of the limited time you really do have left. And hopefully you’ve accumulated enough wisdom to guide you in making those important decisions you may not be able to reverse or make again.

But most of all, in the youth of old age you begin to find that you really are yourself now– all the warts, all the habits and a unique collection of memories. And you have a story you tell. It’s you. And you come to a point you have to stand up for that story. And represent it, right or wrong. And then some event or series of events makes your story and your old friend’s story irreconcilable. Mutually exclusive. And it’s been getting that way for a long time, but something happens that makes it impossible for either of you to pretend you accept the other’s narrative any longer.

At least that’s how it’s happened with me. Or how I’ve crafted my drafts of these recent sad chapters. And perhaps that’s how it was with some middle-aged former pirates I almost know. And I guess it’s just not easy to be a person. Even if you’re a white guy…

I guess in the pop psychology books they’d call it “growing apart.” And after all, you can only have so many operational friendships at one time. If you try to keep too many friends close, the relationships themselves can’t be all that meaningful. And even though I occasionally grieve for that handful of lost friendships, like a couple of intimate relationships I never wanted to end, maybe me and some of my middle-aged male cohorts tried to stay close too long instead of drifting apart in a more natural fashion. I don’t know. But I do know that once the smoke clears, the grieving is often eclipsed by the relief of never having to pretend one more time.

And I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Allan Weiner. He seems to have plenty of friends. And while WBCQ is a much more low-profile operation that RNI, it seems to stumble along and somehow prove every day that shortwave is not dead in America. And I shouldn’t forget to again mention the Area 51 programming on WBCQ’s 5110kHz transmitter every night. Cosmik Debris is in charge of that operation, and it’s really where a lot of WBCQ’s creative energy is focused lately. Mr. Cosmic incorporates pirate radio shows, old and new, with other new WBCQ shows, and WBCQ airchecks and probably any other compelling audio morsels that land in his lap. The website for this commendable circus is here.

Speaking of that, Cosmik has helped set up a couple of online webcams, so he can do his show from Maryland as live web TV, and Allan can stream WBCQ programming in main as internet video. And so far there’s some archives which you can find here or here.

And lastly, I should mention that the offshore radio fever dreams of Allan Weiner didn’t just go away when he switched the power on over at WBCQ. He’s currently getting another ship together to do it all again. I’m not sure where he’s gonna park this boat, but I don’t think it’s going to be four miles off the American coast this time. He has a website for it here (not much there yet as of this writing…).

And I’d like to thank Hank, and Pete and this guy, for archiving these historic videos of RNI, which I borrowed for this post. And I’m really glad we can all see these strapping young radio pirates in action on the high seas. Thanks.

And when you’re not doing something solitary like reading a blog or scanning the bands for some exotic DX, remember to take advantage of the friends you still do have, and hang out. Do something interesting, or daring. Why the hell not? A good friendship is a good thing. As luck would have it, some you do get to keep for a long time.

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 14

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Brooklyn_window_1 This entry ends a four-post arc in this series offering a station by station breakdown of 49 and 41 meter (shortwave) band reception in Brooklyn March 1, 2006. The recording offered here features the second half of the 41 meter band, a very active segment of the alloted shortwave frequencies for international broadcasting, from just after 8:30 until around 9 p.m. EST (about 0133 to 0220 UTC). The radio I’m using is the cute and inexpensive BCL-2000, an occasionally drifty receiver with “image” issues, which happens to offer analog tuning with digital readout of frequency. Nothing fancy.

As far as the real world a month later, I’ve had rather a hectic week and the only significant time I’ve had to concentrate on shortwave or DXing has been spent reviewing the aircheck for this post. However, I can say that in my brief dips into radio reception around here that the difficulties I’ve had receiving many of the monster AM clear channel stations has returned to normal over the last week or so. And shortwave reception seems to be pretty good too.

Oh, and one other thing I wanted to pass on before getting right to the audio for this post. I ran into a Usenet thread in the rec.radio.shortwave group that might be of interest to some readers of this series. First contact with a shortwave radio can be a frustrating and/or disappointing experience. The reason people with an interest in shortwave radio spend so much time Yb400 researching propagation and frequencies (as well as actually logging reception), is because getting to know your way around the shortwave bands and scoring difficult to receive broadcasts is sort of a craft, a sport, even an art. But as I’ve repeatedly said, if you have a decent radio and follow some basic rules you won’t always be disappointed, and eventually you could be amazed. Rather than go into all the problems with location, interference, propagation and radios in general, you might want to take a look at this Usenet discussion. It’s launched by an earnest and diligent newbie who has just purchased a Grundig Yacht Boy YB-400 (a fairly inexpensive Chinese-made digital portable) and was NOT having a rewarding shortwave radio experience up in his New England condo. And in this thread (over 70 messages long) all sorts of savvy shortwave listeners offer tips, suggestions and personal experiences that cover almost all of the main points of what it takes to get a little performance out of a shortwave radio. Recommended.

Geographic_map_of_usenet_sites That said, I didn’t read every post in this thread, but from what I looked at most of the posts seemed informative and constructive. Rec.radio.shortwave, and the radio discussion groups in general on Usenet, are sadly prone to inane flame wars and childish off-topic garbage these days. Yet I still find this shortwave newsgroup to be a decent source for news and information. However, it’s not uncommon to see a reasonable discussion in that group turn worthless after one dopey post.

Speaking of that, I won’t ramble any longer. Here’s the other half of the 41 meter band-scan offered last week. Nothing as sonically pleasant as the Turkish music I featured, and there’s a number of nearly non-existent broadcasts in the mix on this recording. But it is unedited reception. It’s really what you might have heard that night on your own radio in the northeast U.S., except I’m the one who chose when to turn the dial.

Segment 2-41 Meter Band (7305 to 7545 kHz) 03-01-06

(download)

7305 – Vatican Radio

Holy stuff I’m sure. Sounded like Italian to me at first. But that’s kind of what Spanish with a heavy Italian accents sounds like when it’s a rather faint buzzy radio signal.

Lybie 7320 – Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting & BBC from Cyprus (unknown language)

Here’s an interesting accidental collage– emotional and frothy Arabic on top of a steadfast BBC newsreader. From all the handwringing I’d guess the Libyan broadcast is of a religious nature. The BBC fellow is very hard to read, but I do hear the word "Iraq" in there somewhere. The BBC signal is from a relay on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, while the Libyan broadcast is being relayed from central France.

7335 – Vatican Radio

Very faint, some language, again sounds like an Italian accent, VERY faint with Brooklyn RF taking its toll. Lots of buzz. Imagine you have a all sorts of tech tools to eliminate much of the inherent noise and gradually pull in a crappy signal like this and turn it into something cogent and you have an idea of what raw reception a serious DXer might contend with to log some distance or exotic catch.

Radio_prague_studio 7345 – Radio Prague

Rather faint, but present. Female newsreader. I believe might be Spanish with a Czech accent. Something about Californica. Fanfare right before I move up the dial.

7390 – Voice of Russia

Very difficult read, unknown language, slight buzz, thick whine. If you’re not annoyed by listening to this low-volume indistinct human voice within a wavering noise envelope like this (and could potentially have some interest in the nature of the content) then maybe you should pick up a shortwave radio, if you don’t already own one.                  

7400 – Radio Bulgaria

Nice and clear compared to what you just heard, although there is another distant broadcast chewing on the edges of this reception. Male and then a female speaking in an unknown language, and then a mediocre pop song kicks in.

Mic_of_america 7405 – Voice of America (from Greenville, NC)

This is the news in “Special English," a tradition on VOA. What’s special about it? It’s headlines read at slow pace and with a limited vocabulary. I assume this is somewhat similar to what the morning briefing for Mr. Bush might sound like.

Actually, the headlines in this segment are all concerning labor and economic issues in Latin America, the assumed target for the this broadcast.

7415  – WBCQ (Nothing…)

Here that silence! While there’s no discernable noise at 7415, there’s not any WBCQ Either. And that’s what I’ve been able to hear from WBCQ in Maine at this time on almost any given night for months now, which is a big disappointment. When 7415 powers up in the afternoon I can usually pick them up here in the city as before, but after dark “The Planet” has been MIA.

I’ve heard second-hand that the folks at WBCQ have said that their 7415 signal “hops” around the country and reception from further away has been much better than it has been here in the Northeast and Midwest. If somebody from the WBCQ posse, or just a more knowledable radio mind, can clear up what’s going on with 7415 lately, I’d like to know. Some of the more interesting shows on all of U.S. shortwave run on this frequency.

7475 Voice of Greece

Some ouzo drenched song stylings, in a mournful manner. And then an announcer…

7500 Radio Bulgaria

That thick whine, and some VERY quiet music and then a female announcer becomes more distinct. Unknown language, which I assume is Bulgarian but I don’t know. Another broadcast splatters in, not much else.

The_king 7505 – KTBN  Salt Lake City, UT

Now, for some real drama. Actually, it’s a documentary on one of one of the most famous military operations of post WWII era, "Operation Thunderbolt,” the 1976 Israeli hostage rescue mission at the Entebbe airport in Uganda.

Actually, KTBN is just mainly an audio feed from the “Trinity Broadcasting Network,” the biggest Christian TV network in the U.S. And do you think this is a regular feature on hostage rescues on TBN? Not likely.

While the Entebbe raid was a brave and incredible effort to save lives, to many it was armed conflict at its finest. And when you consider that it was also a major historical victory against a band of terrorists that had little if any international repercussions, you can see why the retelling of this harrowing and successful mission might also be a propaganda tool to bolster support for the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

7520 – WYFR (Worldwide Family Radio)

Very faint, which is fine as far as I’m concerned.

7545 – KOL Israel

Kol In Hebrew. Years ago I recall hearing quite a bit of English language programming from Israel, but in my casual listening over the last few years I don’t think I’ve heard much more than news headlines in English from Israel.

And the reception of this station kicks in with music. Which brings me to this observation. Sometimes, you can still get the gist of a the lyrics of a pop song without understanding a word of the language used. Here’s a possible case in point.

There seems to be an urgent narrative element to the song that begins this sampling of KOL. It’s my guess this is a story song, a hurrah to some brave Israeli person, town, or the country itself–. Something rousing with flutes!

Although this song is a much catchier tune, it reminds me of “The Ballad of Roger Young,” a right-wing folk song about a soldier who sacrifices his life to save his buddies, which I was forced to sing in elementary school. I seem to recall some screed about the glories of the Vietnam War attached to it by the music teacher as well.

I have a couple of Israeli albums I’ve found in thrift stores with songs celebrating the Six Day War that they sound quite a bit like this song. Then again, forgetting context I can imagine that it’s Yma Sumac belting out some seafaring theme song on a ship in a 50′s South Pacific action-adventure flick. If anybody who speaks Hebrew could enlighten me on the lyrics of this song, or the general content of this clip from Israel, I’m certainly curious.

Yma After the epic “yo-ho-ho” anthem, there’s some chatting, another rousing number, then more talk and the cheerful windup of the program with outro music. Then I believe there’s a several promos for some upcoming features, which sound very similar to advertising. Some fast paced productions, obviously promoting or selling something.

This ends this little review of the 41 meter band, including a few stations on either side of its official boundaries. Questions and comments can be left on this post, if appropriate, or you can send me an email. Other posts in this radio blog series can be found here. I’m very interested in corrections and translations, as well as general feedback.

Next week? Back to the AM dial I think. And in future posts I may just cherry pick a bunch of shortwave band-scans I’ve made here in Brooklyn with my old Zenith Transoceanic over the last few years, or maybe I’ll think of something else to talk about in the meantime. If you have any ideas, email me.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)