Transnational Musical Encounters of the community radio kind

Twisting the radio dial or surfing radio stations on the internet and finding music that resonates with personal cultural history and experience is one of the pleasures identified by people who rarely hear ´their´ music on mainstream stations. Music is a medium of transnational communication (Negus 2006) and radio has always played an important role in transmitting live and recorded music of different kinds across country borders. Community radio stations around the world provide a platform for music that may not be heard on mainstream public and commercial stations. Dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers at community stations come armed with their music collections on vinyl, CDs and online to produce programmes that entertain, inform and in some cases have an impact on the development of musical genres. In the first year of our research we found that community radio stations in the UK had a rich history of developing and transmitting the musical interests of their members and audiences and we discovered some interesting examples of musical connections between stations in Europe and beyond. Radio enables music to travel with people as they migrate across borders and has been an important part of promoting and sustaining cultures within migrant, refugee and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME) and others who may be marginalised in the media, for example lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Use of satellite, the internet, digital platforms, social media and online sound archives have opened up possibilities for people to celebrate and share their mutual musical and cultural interests via community radio. Two examples illustrate how music programmes on community radio stations have operated within transnational networks.

Example 1: Gay radio in the north-east of England

From 1990-1995 Wear FM, a trial community station in Sunderland, north-east England (see Lister 2010), hosted a programme called Gay2Gay, one of the first programmes in the UK made by and for a gay audience. The driving force of the programme was ´Mega Sal´ a presenter who was passionate about ´hi energy´ dance/club music which was for many gay people an important part of their social lives. Word spread about the programme and soon people were listening right up to the borders of the transmission area. The programme was also transmitted to a European audience via Eurosat thereby increasing the reach of the programme by thousands. Although there are accounts of personal experiences of listening to the programme and its live music mixing sessions in the north east of England and there are online recordings of this programme we are still tracking down accounts of how it was received outside the UK – watch this space!  

Hear more on Eric Wiltsher's blog and in the gay2gay programme archives.


Example 2: DBC not BBC

Music of Black origin is now a well-known music radio format which in the UK has its origins in pirate and latterly legal community radio. 
Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) was set up by Leroy Anderson (known as DJ Lepke) whose family originated in Jamaica (his sister was married to Bob Marley). After living in New York he was inspired by the range of radio stations there.  When he returned to London, he wanted to start a station for the black community, by the black community. It ran from 1981 to 1984 and inspired future commercial stations such as Kiss FM and a whole raft of community stations. The style of music presentation on the station was important:

This wasn’t just the music reggae fans wanted to hear, but it was presented the way they wanted to hear it. DJs like Lepke and Chuckie had served their apprenticeship with sound systems and their shows would also include plenty of reverb, echo, sirens and other effects. DBC later added shows featuring funk, R & B, soca and jazz.




Community radio and transnational musical connections in the 21st Century

There are now many community stations in Britain and beyond which have music programmes made by and for people interested in the genres that had been brought to the airwaves by DBC. One station involved in our research in Bristol - Ujima Radio- has a wide range of music programmes that display the diversity of music in the city. It has developed projects where young people explore and archive music by people of Black and African Caribbean origin. Have a look at their fantastic musical history project “Dubplate to Dubstep”.


At Radio Dreyeckland, Freiburg, Germany, DJ Dub'Kali (Jazzmin Tutum) hails from Kingston, Jamaica. She describes her programme:

Dub Kali Rootz is a flight through Freiburg's midnight sky into the universal light of Dub and Conscious Roots. Timeless Dub, Spoken Dub, History of Dub Music, Interviews (Zion Train(U.K), Brain Damage(Fr)...and more to come !)
Tune into Dub in the time of Kali with Roots to keep you grounded!
Bless up and Dub Down
with host and dubtress Jazz'min Tutum
It´s a labour of Love really, this D'Jane plays her favourite tracks as well as what finds the way to her ears. Outernationally to take you deeper into the Dub universe with Roots and Culture. A weekly thematic-sometimes interviews, sometimes Dub Poetry, sometimes Dub arcania. Always conscious … Put some Dub into your breathing stream!
22:30-00:00 every second Monday



Outlook and References

The ongoing TRE participatory research involves working with people in community stations to develop knowledge and awareness of the transnationality of community radio. Part of the research is to connect stations who have similar interests and to help them to share programmes, expertise and archives.

  • Lister, B. Case Study of Radio in Sunderland in 2010: Managing Radio, Lister, B., Mitchell, C. and Anthony O'Shea, Sound Concepts (see case study at
  • Negus, Keith. 1996. Globalization and the Music of the Public Spheres. In: Sandra Braman and Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi, eds. Globalisation, Communication and Transnational Civil Society. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, pp. 179-195. ISBN 1-57273-020-X