PHOTOS: Radio in Haiti

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Radio is the number one media of Haiti. The number one source of news and the number one source of music. I have heard many explanations for this fact: mountainous terrain, unreliable electricity and high rates of illiteracy, all of which limit the reach of print, internet and television. But for me these factors can’t entirely explain the Haitian radio phenomenon. Traveling around the country this summer, visiting stations and meeting their listeners, it was clear that radio has become part of a tradition of oral communication, one that has connected and sustained communities on this island for centuries. Some photos from along the way:

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Radio Contact

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​Radio travels all ways at once. It is both a natural phenomenon and a human technology; the original mass media and perhaps the most intimate media. It has been an instrument of research, a weapon of war and a source of entertainment—a luxury and a fixture, a career and hobby, an online app and a piece of furniture. Radio Contact explores the diverse experiences of radio through the words of those who have lived them: announcers, producers, engineers, listeners, developers, researchers and more. And while the stories begin in Boston, they travel much farther—radiating out in all directions at once. Hear them all at radiocontact.org.

A Grown-Up Christmas

My tenth annual Christmas-ish album. It’s hard to believe I’ve kept up this odd and time-consuming end-of-year ritual for so long, but here it is. Some old themes and rhyme schemes, and a few new ones. Something about this year made me feel my grown-up-ness. Maybe you are feeling it too. Either way, enjoy. Happy Holidays.

Kadongo Kamu Podcast

Here is a podcast on Kadongo Kamu music I recently produced for Afropop Worldwide, featuring Boston’s own DJ Paddy:

This piece grew out of a 4-month ethnography project I conducted on the significance of Internet Radio in Boston’s Ugandan community and the diaspora globally. The greater Boston area, specifically Waltham, is home to thousands of ethnic Ugandans drawn to the city for education and work. In 2009, a group of those immigrants founded Radio Uganda Boston, an Internet Radio station featuring a variety of news, music, and conversation. The technology proved difficult for some–one of the founders, Rob Kafeero, told me that he sometimes had to visit the homes of older listeners to show them how to access the online stream. But for other Ugandan emigres, especially those outside Boston, the Internet station was a perfect means to stay connected with their native country and culture. Kadongo Kamu is a powerful symbol of that culture, and the phone line at the station lights up with requests when the music comes on the air. If you enjoy what you hear in the podcast, I encourage you to check out DJ Paddy’s weekly Kadongo Kamu Special, Tuesdays at 5pm at radiougandaboston.com. You might not understand what the host and callers are talking about, but you can appreciate the music and hopefully get a sense of how important it is for the station’s dispersed audience.

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Learning Her Own Way

CROPKasiva My profile of Kenyan percussionist Kasiva Mutua is now up on PRI’s The WorldKasiva is a natural story-teller, so we decided to do the piece using only her voice: hours of interviews and concert recordings edited down to a 4-minute monologue. Many thanks to The Nile Project and KALW’s Julie Caine for making it possible. And a special thanks to host Marco Werman for getting my name right–I feel like I’ve been getting a lot of “Ian Cross” these days.

A Life in Shadows

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On Bali’s north coast the shadow play, or wayang, is in high demand as part of a blessing ceremony for children in their third month of life. In the week I spent with puppeteer Dalang Ketut Merta he performed almost every night, sometimes twice in a row in different villages. But don’t think that just because the wayang is sacred it has to be serious. Merta’s performances are a raucous and raunchy affair where fart jokes, giant penises and Japanese pop songs mix with dragons and gods in tales from the Hindu epics. By pleasing as it does both a divine and human audience, the wayang has managed to stay relevant here despite the ubiquitous presence of television and internet. Merta told me that the crowds have dwindled somewhat, yet in his thirty-five year career he has never had more than a few days off in a row. For him and his crew—two musicians and an assistant—this is a well-worn routine.