the urbanist

The Globalization of Local Radio

A live broadcast by London’s Resonance FM. Photo: Contemporary Art Society

If you ask someone what makes their city unique, they’ll probably talk about food, or museums, or maybe public art. Rarely would they mention their local radio station, and yet listening to one is a surprisingly good way to get a read on a culture, even if you don’t speak the language. The community around each station shapes its broadcast sensibility, which in turn amplifies the particularities of the city it broadcasts to. And with more and more local radio being broadcast online, listeners are no longer confined to their own station’s milieu — or even to their nationally syndicated radio celebrities. Instead of tuning in to the informative whispering of Terry Gross, or downloading yet another episode of Marc Maron talking about his cats, you can now listen in on music and conversation from halfway across the globe, whether it be sound art from London or French DJs renowned for having the world’s best free-form programming. Or even the latest hard-hitting investigative news from the Cook Islands archipelago.

You’re Listening to …

Eleven local stations from London to Tel Aviv.

Resonance FM | London
The volunteer-run station is known for “soundscapes.” Imagine the way Radiolab is edited to tickle the ear, then multiply by 100.
Listen: “Isotopica”
Visual artist Simon Tyszko takes listeners on “sonic detours.” Half field interview, half guided meditations, he captures the sounds of the city, from a conversation on the way to a pub to the scrape of boots against the pavement.
Airs Tuesdays at 9 a.m. EST.;

Radio Orange | Vienna
The community broadcaster for Vienna’s ever-growing refugee community, with 150 programs in 25 languages.
Listen: “New Life in Vienna”
One way to understand the bureaucratic nightmare of being a new immigrant might be to listen to this weekly bulletin, full of practical information such as how to access basic medical and child care and file asylum documents. Broadcast in German, Arabic, Dari, Somali, and English, one after another.
Airs Fridays at 11 a.m.;

FIP | Paris
The purist ideal of free-form DJ-ing: A 20-minute set could start with a movement of Mozart’s Requiem and end with ’50s boogie-woogie.
Listen: “Sous les Jupes de FIP”
“Under the Skirts of FIP,” as it translates, is a themed playlist that coincides with current events or holidays or commemorates the death of notable artists.
Airs Mondays at 2 p.m.;

Berlin Community Radio | Berlin
A three-year-old online-only station heavy on Berlin’s post-Kraftwerk electronic music and politically progressive English-language talk shows.
Listen: “You’re Worth It”
Dedicated to relaxation — particularly through the soothing gentle-whisper phenomenon known as ASMR (“autonomous sensory meridian response”). One post-U.S.-election show featured poetry on self-determination and a breathy reading of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
Airs every other Tuesday at 1 p.m.;

106FM IDC International Radio | Tel Aviv
One of Israel’s roughly 16 college radio stations, operating from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, it plays underground and emerging Israeli bands alongside news, sports, and cultural programming, all in English.
Listen: “The Bridge”
For four years, “The Bridge” has been the spot for indie Arab hits, featuring artists like alestinian rapper DAM. Arab-American-Israeli host Yvonne Saba says that the show “connects people to a side of the Arab culture they didn’t know about through music.”
Airs Sundays at 6 a.m.;

The Lot Radio Photo: Courtesy of The Lot Radio

Radio Chanson | Moscow
The unofficial station of Putin’s working-class base plays gritty, wistful ballads peppered with prison jargon. It’s music designed to put hair on your chest and make you cry at the same time; Putin’s reportedly a fan.
Listen: “Chanson of the Year”
A playlist of the 12 most popular hits of the previous week as determined by listeners. It’s sort of like TRL, if TRL sounded like a vodka-soaked bar fight.
Airs Fridays at 10 a.m.;

105.7 ABC Darwin | Darwin, Australia
Howard Stern–style talk radio from the Australian outback. “I take the piss as much as possible,” says Richard Margetson, the station’s morning host. “I get gags in, I’ll get a hook in the mouth to pull them away from standard political-journalist conversation.”
Listen: “Show Us Your Donga”
A double-entendre’d home-tour show with a hillbilly edge. A donga is a small sheet-metal hut commonly used by transient laborers and often impressively decked out. Episodes are uploaded to Facebook, so listeners can see every Mad Max–inspired architectural detail.
New episodes premiere Friday and are archived online;

Matariki FM | Avarua, Cook Islands
Like a tiki drink poured directly into the ear, Matariki FM, broadcasting from the capital city of the tiny archipelago nation of the Cook Islands, plays a daily rotation of Polynesian music. It’s also one of the few places locals can go to hear investigative journalism.
Listen: “Manea Foods Kai-Ti Time”
A breakfast show with a mix of headline news, local music, and hard-hitting political coverage, including interviews with local politicians and commentators. On topic now, says William Framhein, the station’s director, include “immigration, borrowing beyond our means, financial-sector-offshore-tax-haven facilities, and depopulation.”
Airs Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m.;

The Lot Radio | Brooklyn
The Greenpoint station broadcasts electronic music, with video footage, to the internet from a shipping container on a small lot with plastic flamingos, a hammock, and church pews. Since launching in February, it’s become a destination for international DJs. The whole enterprise sustains itself through a coffee kiosk. Every espresso sold translates to an advertisement-free live feed.
Listen: “Joakim”
Hosted by the eponymous French DJ. The first hour is dedicated to either a theme, such as “soul and jazz protest songs,” or a question, e.g.: “Is 1983 the best year for Italo disco?” During the second hour he DJs a set of new and up-and-coming electronic music from around the world.
Airs once a month, every second Wednesday, and is archived online;

94.1 Roquette Pinto | Rio de Janeiro
Brazil’s version of a golden-oldies station plays deep cuts of samba, choro, and other traditional Brazilian genres.
Listen: “Roda de Choro”
Focusing on the roots of choro, which date back to the late 19th century. The word choro roughly translates to “cry,” but there’s nothing mournful about these jazzy, textured songs played on wind instruments and guitars by ensembles of up to ten people.
Airs Sundays at 6 a.m. and is archived online.

Hit 96.7 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Middle-Eastern pop with an international flavor. DJs sometimes play blends that can’t quite be placed. A Euro-sounding pop song might have Malayalam lyrics, with the occasional “hey” dropped in.
Listen: “Jam With Hit”
The drive-time program hosted by Nimmy is quintessential globalized radio, featuring a segment devoted to chart-toppers from every continent: K-Pop to Taylor Swift.
Airs Monday through Friday from 5 to 8 a.m. and is archived online;

What Radio Do Radio People Listen to?

U.S. hosts recommend their favorite shows.

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

Andrea Silenzi, Host of Why Oh Why, new episodes every Tuesday

“There’s this sense with live radio that anything can go wrong at any moment,” says Silenzi, who produced shows for Jersey City’s WFMU and now runs a podcast about dating in the internet age called Why Oh Why.

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

Gaylord Fields, Host on WFMU, Sunday, 8 to 10 p.m.

Silenzi says: “I enjoy picturing him behind the microphone with his Buddy Holly frames, pastel cardigans, and vintage ties, spinning from his personal collection, from 20th-century classical and jazz to Beatles-soundalike bands.”

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

Mr. C, Host of “Mr. C’s Soul Spectacular” on LuxuriaMusic Internet Radio, Saturdays, 3 to 5 p.m. in L.A.

Fields says: “He is one of the absolute experts in not just soul music but also soul radio! He’s got the patter, he’s got the platters, and that’s all that matters!”

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

John Funke, Host of “Backwoods,” Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon on WMBR

Mr. C says: “The accent gets you first. It’s the Mark Wahlberg voice in Scorsese’s The Departed playing Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Hawkshaw Hawkins, the Clovers, and thousands more lesser lights but still very bright moments in trashy rock and roll, country, and rhythm and blues.”

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

James Porter, Host of “Hoodoo Party,” every third Saturday, noon to 2 p.m. on WLUW Chicago

Funke says: “A great mix of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, rockabilly, and all those wild sounds. James is a former staff critic at Time Out Chicago who always delivers the goods!”

Photo: Murphy Lippincott

Paul Cebar, Host of “Way Back Home,” Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WMSE in Milwaukee

Porter says: “Cebar’s definition of ‘back home’ could mean anything from New Orleans R&B to the indigenous sounds of Brazil and Cuba, and he manages to tie it all together as if they all resided on the same block.”

Caribou and Oil Prices

The hot issues hitting airwaves around the world.

Marfa, Texas


“The second that oil prices bounce back, it’s gonna get real crazy-busy out here, in possibly more intense ways than we’ve seen before,” says Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio. The U.S. Geological Survey has found that there could be up to 20 billion barrels of untapped oil near Marfa.

Darwin, Australia

Taxing Backpackers

It is a common practice for international travelers to spend some of their time in the country doing agricultural work in order to extend their visas, but beginning in January, they’ll be taxed on their wages for the first time ever. Some officials fear that the new tax will push tourists todward New Zealand instead.

Santiago, Chile


A new immigration proposal that would expel foreign nationals accused of a crime has been labeled by the Progressive Party leader, Marco Enríquez-Ominami, as “worse than Donald Trump’s.”


Caribou Hit-and-Runs

“Vehicle collisions involving wildlife have reached a record level this year and will pass 50,000 by the end of 2016,” reports Radio Sweden. It is the highest number of animal-related accidents ever recorded.

Tel Aviv


“Fires have broken out all over the country in both rural and urban areas,” reports TLV1. While some of the fires were clearly naturally occurring brush fires, others seemed to be acts of arson that damaged homes and property.

Puerto Rican Boogaloo to a French-Crime Soundtrack

Paris’s FIP DJs take pride in their wide-ranging taste. Here, a sample playlist from December 2.

“I Like It Like That” by Pete Rodriguez

“Sad Nile” by Polyversal Souls

“Femme, Femme” bySophie Daumier

“Megapole” by Gael Robin

“Blues Music” by G. Love & Special Sauce

“All That Glitters” by Death in Vegas

“African Dialects” by Peter King

“Touchez Pas au Grisbi” by Jean Wiener

“California Soul” by Marlena Shaw

“Dazed & Confused” by Hannah Williams and the Affirmations

Appalachia’s Best Shout-Out Show

Direct to the Department of Correction.

The prime listening time for WMMT, a tiny station broadcasting out of Whitesburg, Kentucky, starts at 7 p.m. on Monday nights, when listeners tune in for the region’s only rap show, “Hip Hop From the Hilltop.” The station’s audience comes largely from six nearby state prisons, who stay tuned for “Calls From Home” at 9 p.m., a program that plays greetings from prisoners’ families recorded earlier that evening. According to WMMT’s station manager, Elizabeth Sanders, the idea started naturally. “One night in 1999, we got a call during the hip-hop show, and it was a woman who said, ‘Hey, my brother is locked up at a state prison and he listens to the hip-hop show every night. Can I give him a shout-out?’ ” Seventeen years and thousands of shout-outs later, “Calls From Home” has become a staple of regional broadcasting. “It’s heartbreaking when younger kids call for their uncle or their dad. They will recite their ABCs or say that they can’t wait to see them.”

Additional reporting by Lauren Schwartzberg

*This article appears in the December 12, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.

The Globalization of Local Radio