This episode of this series continues from my evening of scanning the shortwave bands March 1, 2006. This time it’s the next hour and the next band. This is the 41 meter band (7100 to 7350 kHz), another popular chunk of the shortwave frequencies. Again, this recording is an unedited slow motion frolic through the signals using my BCL-2000, sitting at my kitchen table in Brooklyn.
And I want to again thank reader Ralph who contributed some edifying comments in last week’s post. Now I have a better grasp on tracking down “images” of stronger signals which pop up on nearby erroneous spots on the dial. This is perhaps the greatest fault of the BCL radios, and an inherent problem in single-conversion radios in general. Dual conversion sets effectively filter most images and are generally a bit more expensive.
A couple years ago, when I was shopping around for a higher end old portable I was scouting ebay and I had pretty much decided I was going to hunt down one of two classic receivers– the Panasonic RF-2200 or the Sony ICF-2010. Both are discontinued, and in good shape they generally go for about the same price on ebay– about two-hundred bucks (although a mint 2010 in its box could go for a hundred or two more). My analog instincts led to me to go after the RF-2200 and I don’t regret it. It’s a hell of a rig and it pulls the weak signals out of the ether, and is a great radio to DX the AM band. It's also dual-conversion. However, after the 2010 was mentioned once or twice in the comments section here, it's gotten me to take a second look at it. The 2010 is not as nearly as handsome the 2200 and doesn’t have that golden glow of frequencies, but I’ve come to realize that the 2010 is just one amazing device. And now my gadget lust has launched a little feedback loop in my radio heart. I want one. I really want one. However, I really don’t have the cash handy right now. But I’m looking at ‘em on ebay... Someday. You can read some reviews of this mighty little digital gadget here, here and here. It's 1984 technology that Sony happened to really get right (It was manufactured for almost 20 years!). However, If you've got some cash on your hands and you want something new, many think the new Eton E1 improves on this radio's legacy.
Before I go on to the band scan for this week, I wanted to mention a few (free) podcasts that may interest readers of this blog series. Clandestine Radio.com offers “Global Crisis Watch” (XML feed here), a program reporting on (and promoting) democracy movements around the world. It’s a rather urgent show featuring interviews of journalists, broadcasters and activists involved in fighting oppression around the world. And of course, there’s some good information on shortwave and other radio broadcasts from time to time. It’s an interesting half hour delivered to your hard drive every week. The Global Crisis Watch is a cutting edge international news put together by a couple of guys instead of a government or corporation.
Although not many are aware of it, there’s quite a bit of pirate radio activity on shortwave and the podcast “Pirates Week” (XML feed here) offers a weekly overview of that scene. This podcast varies in length and is a much more loose and light affair than Global Crisis Watch. It's an amalgam of many related diversions-- discussions of assorted radio gear and computers, details of the realities of seat-of-the-pants broadcasting, as well as clips of shortwave pirates at play and tips on where and when to find ‘em on your radio. Also the Mediageek has a well-kept and extensive blog and podcast (RSS feed here) where he explores all sorts of media products, broadcasting trends, and the inherent toys that make it all possilbe. And his most recent podcast features an interview with Ragnar Daneskjold, the host of “Pirate’s Week." According to Ragnar, a nice warm illegal transmitter running 40 watts on shortwave can give you coverage of most of the U.S. on a good night. Hmmm...
Also, the ultimate source of all things shortwave is Glenn Hauser. The guy is dedicated. His “World of Radio” program, which broadcasts on quite a number of shortwave stations, is also a podcast (XML feed here). While not high in entertainment value, it’s a helluva dose of up-to-date shortwave news, views and frequency listings. On his World of Radio site, as well as his weekly “DX Listening Digest” Mr. Hauser puts out some great web resources which provide valuable information for mega-geeks and weak-kneed newbies alike. And kinda like WFMU, it’s all listener and reader supported.
Okay, on to this recording of reception on the 41 meter band . Actually, this scan begins just before the that band and then traverses up the numbers. The frequencies are in kilohertz. It’s Wednesday night, March 1st and Bush is over in Asia eating Indian mangoes I think. It’s early evening here, one of the best times to catch foreign broadcasters offering up English language programming for the Americas (and Spanish ones too for that matter). And more importantly, at this hour the band isn't a kooky Christian radio ghetto yet. Closer to midnight and beyond the shortwave bands are flooded with hallelujah bullshit and not much else, at least not in English. But at 0100 UTC (all shortwave schedules basically follow the time in London, and in a 24 hour manner), which is 8 pm Eastern Standard Time, the biblical blather is only part of the mix, not the dominant force.
Actually, this begins right before eight, a fine time to start a band scan. Let’s begin.
6875 EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network
It’s right before the top of the hour, 8 p.m. here, 0100 hours UTC. Most international shortwave stations play something called an “interval signal” in between programs, an identifying snippet of music that may include other sounds or the official ID of the station. Listening to shortwave you begin to get familiar with the these little ditties because they usually repeat for a couple minutes right before a new program ensues, and can help listeners ID a station as well as find a particular program on the dial before it begins. Interval signals almost always come at right before the top of the hour, and occasionally precede the 30 minute point as well.
So, this clip begins with the EWTN’s official and soothing interval music and then their ID. This site has a huge archive of interval signals past and present. They all stream in real media. Pretty cool. I was slightly thrilled to find this one, the interval signal of Radio RSA from the 1970's– a chirpy bird with folky guitar. This took me back to my where my interest in shortwave really began. Christmas 1971. Santa was kind enough to set me up with a cheesy eight-track tape player-AM/FM stereo. But the shoddy Hong Kong technology inside offered me a really surprising gift– stray images of shortwave stations on the AM dial! And the two stations I recall getting quite well on this little woodgrain wonder were Radio Habana Cuba and Radio RSA. I became quite familiar with that chirpy bird and the plucky guitar, and after sending them a letter I was embarrassed for years when a glossy program guide from a faraway racist regime would show up in my mailbox every few months. Then a Christmas or two later I scored a flip-cover multi-band box that introduced me to the wondrous world of cold war shortwave propaganda.
Anyway, after the interval and the ID, it’s non-stop excitement on EWTN– a Catholic with a computer. Sounds like he’s giving a presentation in front of a bunch of well dressed white folks. Anyway, the guy has a laptop, maybe running a PowerPoint presentation or something and it’s all about catechismclass.com, a web site about guess what? Yawn.
Last week I carried on about old Gene Scott, which was easy because he’s such a rich character. But in truth, there was hardly any Gene Scott to hear in that clip. I should have waited until I had some substantial Scott audio to play before I spent so much time talking about the guy. Same deal here. Brother Stair’s presence on shortwave trumps Scott’s around the clock radio preachin’, and there isn't much of him on this scan. But if you’re new to shortwave, Brother Stair’s raspy staccato delivery may be the first voice you really become familiar with because he’s ALL over the bands. And he’s ALMOST as interesting as Gene Scott, but hardly as endearing. However, he is still alive.
Since there’s not much of the Brother Stair in this band scan, I’ll wait to say much more until I find a more representative clip. But in the world of radio evangelism, Stair is pretty unique-- kind of a combination of Elmer Gantry, Rumpelstiltskin and Jim Jones. Otherwise known as “Brother Scare,” this old goat somehow manages to enslave babes with his wild-eyed shortwave harangues. I knew there must be some more earthly reasons why so many holy shysters spend all that time yammering on shortwave.
The signal’s weak and there’s some phasing going on, but Stair is in the middle of one of his usual unflagging rants. Some important information here about the Antichrist perhaps. Occasionally I find him mildly entertaining, but not this time. His “Overcomer Ministry” rents this international transmitter from WWRB 24/7, but he broadcasts on plenty of others too. Now you know why some people in other countries might think we’re strange. Read more about the sordid details regarding this twisted geezer here and here.
7125 - Voice of Russia
In Russian. Sounds like the news. Nice sounders. Something about Bosnia...
Wow, it’s almost unbelievable, another U.S. shortwave station NOT run by Christian crazies. It seems incredible, but I looked around their website and saw absolutely nothing about lambs, blood or that horrible lake of fire. Maybe they're just coy Christians. Either way, they do allow the Bible people to rent time on their transmitters. There's just not a long line of normal people out there willing to put up the dough to broadcast on shortwave. So like WBCQ, WRMI needs to take the cash where they can find it.
This particular broadcast is put on by an organization known as “Radio Republica.” They’re for non-violent change in Cuba, human rights, that kind of stuff. As far as I can tell they’re not related to Radio Marti and any propaganda arm of the U.S. government. But they’re not making Fidel happy either.
Of course, this broadcast is in Spanish. This short clip features a smokey voiced woman who might be talking about a “political prisoner.” They’re signal is often jammed by Cuba, and I’ve read that Radio Republica just started using this frequency.
7180 - Voice of Russia
In Spanish. I believe this is news.
7250 - (Unknown in Spanish)
It’s strange, but this one’s out of order. I might have backed up to find Radio Slovakia after this OR I wrote down the wrong frequency. Nonetheless, it’s VERY clear and most likely originating from North America. Could be Christians doing their dirty work, but I have no idea. If anybody can translate this (or knows of a Spanish broadcast on 7250 at this hour) and can make sense of this reception, I’d appreciate it. There is some urgency in this program.
7230 - Radio Slovakia International
This is a typical English international broadcast from overseas that you might stumble across on shortwave. It’s around ten after the hour and we probably just missed some headlines. And now it’s time for some features on local doings in Slovakia. And at 150 Kilowatts of power from well over 4000 miles away, it’s coming in quite nicely.
Apparently there’s a bunch of illegal weapons stockpiled in closets and attics across the Slovak Republic, and the government’s trying to get people to voluntarily hand them over. Previously loose gun laws have tightened up quite a bit since the end of the cold war. While thousands of Czechs gave up their guns in a similar program, the Slovaks are a bit more wary about letting go of their weaponry so far.
The next story-- all about a Slovak high school course on how to prepare a business plan. (And please, when producing radio and the subject of money comes up, don’t even THINK about playing that damn Pink Floyd song again.) Jeez. Enough already.
However, this is still one of the small joys of shortwave radio– hearing small regional stories from thousands of miles away that would never garner coverage in American media.
7270 - Radio Cairo
Spanish talk, female speakers, Middle-Eastern pop bumper music. Plenty of countries beaming Spanish language programming to the Americas. After all, probably a higher percentage of Spanish speakers on this side of the world know how to operate a shortwave radio.
7285 - Hrvatska Radio (Croatia)
Unknown language, broadcast from a relay in Germany.
7300 - Voice of Turkey
As far as music on shortwave radio, this is one of my favorite stops lately. It’s a program of haunting, beautiful and catchy Turkish music. One of these songs has lodged itself in my brain, and it keeps playing there-- a comforting exotic loop in the background when I’m lost in thought, and that’s fine with me for now. A couple weeks ago I was haunted by “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago. WHY I ask? What did I do to deserve this?
I have an old Zenith Transoceanic in my room, and throbbing modulated music like this from afar played through that warm old tube radio could make you cry. Or, at least it could make me cry. You might laugh. The music plays on in this clip for almost 15 minutes. A female announcer talks between tracks.
That's it for this week. And as if there's any enlightenment you can offer-- mistakes I've made in this post, or translate any of the foreign languages in this band scan-- either may assist me in amending or correcting this post in the future. Please post a comment or send me an email here. Other articles in this blog series can be found here.
Thanks for listening.