Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rankin Inlet – Radio Show

My last blog entry shared the list of tunes and the script that I prepared for my two-hour radio show, while I was in Canada’s Arctic in 2006. This is the story of how that day went…

Just after lunch, I walked to the local arena where the radio station was. I had a small bag filled with all the music CDs that I would need. I was a little nervous, but soon after I started into the show I was able to relax a bit more and soon I was pushing levers up and down and cueing up the songs that I wanted to play.

As soon as I started speaking into the microphone the Jim that most people know vanished to be replaced by Radio Jim. It was like I became a character in a play, a performer – and I did this on purpose. I deepened my voice a bit and really started to ‘ham’ it up a bit with a few hoots and hollers into the mic and quite a few ‘Oh – Yeah!’s. The three other radio dj’s – Vital, Mary and Shirley – where all smiling and looking at each other with laughing eyes cuz they thought it was funny to watch me talk and yell into the mic.

About one minute into my show the telephone lines all lit up and they stayed lit up until well after my show was over. Most of the callers wanted to know what happened to the radio station. They were used to certain dj’s and they were used to the way they spoke; which is very monotone and very hushed -–like a droning whisper. Many listeners thought that the frequency had been taken over by a radio station from ‘down south’. Down south is what the city of Winnipeg is referred to – I thought this was hilarious. Coming from London, Ontario I had always considered Winnipeg to be a northern Canadian city and down south, to me, was a place like Texas or Florida. I would guess that people from Rankin Inlet would refer to Florida as ‘way down south’ – LOL!!!

The other dj’s told me that I had really confused most of the listeners and I’m sure that many funny stories were told – on the air – over the next several weeks, after I had left.

The day before my radio show, I had spent a while listening to their normal broadcast, to listen to how the regular dj’s organized their shows. I soon realized that very little planning went into the ‘flow’ of the songs when I heard a Madonna tune followed by Johnny Cash. I also noticed that I never heard a song in its entirety. The dj’s were constantly lowering the volume of the song so that they could make community announcements. They spoke in the Inukitut language, so I never knew what they were talking about.

I asked the cook from my hotel to tell me what they were saying. He told me that most of the announcements weren’t terribly important – just messages from mom’s or dad’s to their kids – and things like that. We listened, together, and he translated a few of the short announcements. “Denny – don’t forget that you owe Peter $20. He wants it by the end of the day”, “Maria – go to the Northern store at 8:00 to meet mom”, “Thomas – your mom wants you home right after school”. I was laughing every time one of these ‘community’ announcements came on. The dj’s didn’t wait until the end of the song to make the announcement they simply lowered the volume while the song was still playing, made the announcement and then turned the volume back up. It made me realize how important this radio station is to the community. It is the voice of the community, hosted by locals with continuous input by all other locals. Radios where on in most homes, all the time and everyone knew what everyone else was doing or going to be doing. It reminded me of how my life was, growing up in a very small farming community where everyone knew about everyone else in the area.

As I mentioned earlier, while I was the dj the phone lines were always lit up. About half of the callers were wanting to know what had happened to the radio station cuz it “sounds like down south…” and the other half all had announcements to make. When the first announcement came through one of the dj’s made a move for the volume control and microphone. I quickly stopped her. I told her that I didn’t want my songs to be interrupted and that I would give them time to make their announcements between music sets. Mary wasn’t offended and understood how I wanted my show to proceed so she took notes as the calls came in and after every six songs or so I would say something like, “Now – before we get this next set of tunes spinning out for y’all, we have a few community announcements…”, and then I’d give the microphone to Mary.

I was really grateful for being give this opportunity to speak with the community of Rankin Inlet and for being able to share the music that I enjoy listening to. The other dj’s and I all had a great time and they told me that I had really ‘shakin’ things up’ in the community – in a positive and fun way. When I got back to the hotel, all the cooks and wait staff came out to congratulate me on my show. They told me that they turned the radio “wwaaaayyyyyyy up” just like I had told them to and they all enjoyed the tunes that I had selected to play. For five minutes I felt like a celebrity!!!!

I ordered a plate of spaghetti for dinner and I ate it all – being a celebrity sure works up your appetite – LOL!!!!


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