Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Discovering the joy of radio

"When I was young I listened to the radio.... waiting for my favourite songs...." (The Carpenters)

It is probably difficult for children nowadays to fathom what it is like not to have instant access to their choice of songs all the time. When I was a teenager, collecting song albums was something not everybody could afford. Listening to the radio was a popular pastime. Radio stations actually published in advance the songs they were going to play. People gathered around the radio and waited for their favourite songs to play, just as The Carpenters used to sing. People actually listened to the radio, not just have it play in the background while they multitask in their busy schedule.

Several years after that I bought a shortwave radio. It was fun to tune in to stations far across the oceans. Through crackling reception in the middle of the night, I could hear people speaking in different languages; yes, real people talking in real time. It was a fantastic feeling to hold in my hand the ability to tune in and listen to strange voices coming from all over the world. However, I must admit that radio surfing was not a popular thing to do during my time.

Now I discovered that my new mobile phone comes equipped internet radio.What a pleasant surprise! In an instant, I have access to tens of thousands of radio stations, with more than 7000 from the US alone. Listening to American broadcast brings back memory of the time I spent in America. I could tune in to Malaysia and be instantly transported back to my country of origin. I could listen to the sweet chatter of foreign languages I do not understand, or imagine myself in Timbuktu or Bollywood.

In addition, my mobile phone also comes with free-to-air radio. Although I have a radio at home and in the car, it is great to have one in the pocket as well. Late at night when everyone is asleep, I could tune in to my local stations and simply relax in bed until I am lulled to sleep.

Unlike preselected music, with radio, you never know what you are going to get (er, Tom Hanks said that over a box of chocolates). That is what makes radio listening interesting. To hear a long forgotten tune come back to life always have me longing for more. I would feel the joy of rediscovering radio all over again.

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