image by Julia Kaczmarek
I put on the radio every morning. It’s a part of my routine, while running between the bathroom and the bedroom, grabbing my stuff, trying to eat something for breakfast, I need to have that background sound. Recently I realised that it is not just a routine, it is a connection to my homeland which I want to keep in my life despite not coming back often and not being an extremely attached person, I still feel like this small detail of my everyday is a way to honour this part of my identity and stay connected to whatever might be happening in my home country. The radio is something that has always been in my life, ever since my mom introduced it to my sister and I, there was never silence at home. We always used the radio as a part of our daily life, and not only at my house, but also at my aunt’s, my sister’s and grandparent’s home. In any of those places a radio is a natural part of my family’s way of living.
The particular radio station has such importance to me that when the program was being taken down and the station was being practically destroyed by the political issues of my country, I cried hearing the fans of the Third Program of Polish Radio when they were calling the station to express their gratitude and deep connection to the station. I empathised with the feelings of so many listeners, strangers connected by the mutual adoration for the medium felt extremely close to me and we went through this emotional, for some devastating, event together.
Coming back to the family tradition, whenever I would come to my grandparent’s house one or both of them always had the radio on, the sound in the background, even when not paying attention to it, background noise was always something natural. It was like this current Apple Watch feeling many people have. It’s a technological device that we no longer consider uncommon, it has become a ubiquitous part of being, sort of a natural part of the human body that just adds tracing and tracking and constant media exposure to everyday life, and that what radio is to me- it’s the omnipresent media that became part of me, since being a part of this world. Radio has been one of the first broadcasted mediums that sneaked into the common habits of society. People intrigued and fascinated by its possibilities considered it a unique possibility that became available. Nowadays radio stations are no longer a major part of media consumption, Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud or Podcasts have largely taken the role of the classic radio, which is a natural process of media development, yet with my sentiment and attachment to this already old media I can’t help but be its eternal supporter.
There are a few reasons that keep me pressing the play button on my favourite radio station every day after my wake-up alarm goes off. One is the intrinsic part of my body that my mom made flourish inside me over the years, which now results in the fact that I can’t even fall asleep without hearing sounds in the background, it can be a conversation, a playlist, anything with a melody made of voices is the only way I won’t stay up all night considering random topics like ‘how many trees are on the way to Mount Everest?’.
The second reason why I keep this habit in my everyday life is the extensive range of topics the classic radio stations mention, everyone has something that they will find interesting – music, political news, sports, style, linguistic fun facts, cultural life, weather forecast, short stories, poetry, quite literally anything a human soul wants. And that is what I appreciate a lot in radio, the thing that even though I might not be interested in the newest information about football I will still receive it and be aware of it, which makes me somehow content with what I have knowledge about. It’s this wish of mine to try to develop in areas from different aspects of life even when I am not particularly invested in them, because it’s something I always admired in the people from my close circle- both my parents, my grandparents, and my sister always knew so much news not just about one area, but they’ve always had a universal knowledge about things happening in the world, pushing oneself to erudition. This aspect of listening to the radio also highlights the fact that some programs you do have to skip or you’re purely not interested in at all, but still they push you to having new conversations, to saying: “you know what I’ve heard the other day on the radio” which for me is deeply beautiful.
I don’t listen to Dutch stations, because I unfortunately do not know the language yet, but I don’t listen to English speaking stations either, for me the only right way to listen to the radio is the Polish radio. I developed this “must” after moving away from my home country, it was the thing that I took as a connection to cultural and especially political news which I did still care about even being physically away from its reach. It was one of the things that helped me with adjusting to the new culture and surroundings. It felt like there was still something I knew and didn’t have to feel alienated in. Listening to Polish news and anecdotes of radio journalists made me feel more comfortable, kept me still connected to the culture I was used to and to my home.
Another part which I adore about general radio stations is their variety of music and the little details you get to know about it while listening. I am always browsing through the origins of songs and uncommon knowledge about different musical pieces, artists, or the events around which the music was released. It’s just this knowledge that you don’t particularly need but somehow my mind requires it. And that is what radio programs always have given me, in between the songs, from so many different genres – starting with heavy metal in the morning, ending with the jazz section at 11PM – listening to music but also sharing the story behind it. For me the story matters, the tiny unique details matter.
I have a few small events that I still want to share before wrapping up my radio appreciation article, one of those events is the New Year’s broadcast. I am not particularly fond of New Year’s Eve, I understand the reasons for celebration but somehow, I don’t find it exactly a reason for out-of-this-world parties and celebrating, yet I still have this one thing I have to do at the very beginning of every year. That is putting on the radio station with radio journalists I grew up with and play something called Top Of The Times (translation from Polish Top Wrzechczasów). It’s a collection of iconic songs that have been released over the past and present, a long, long, long list throughout almost the entire 1st of January that just keeps on being in the background as the sign of a change of a number in the date for the next twelve months.
The second small thing, that unfortunately I often don’t have the time to experience anymore, is listening to something called The List, which entails a selection of new music, usually focused on Polish hits but not only, and lasts throughout the evening and ends after playing the most listened to song of the week, sort of the “first place” of music of the week. While being a regular listener you get to bet which piece will drop in the ranking, which will jump up or maybe explore a whole new piece that you’ve never heard before or was freshly released. The same goes for Sunday afternoons, my mom adores fado and having a slow Sunday afternoon with more traditional sounds, and it was always like that. A Sunday without a radio program called Siesta and a lot of sentimental comments around more calming and traditional sounds was not a complete Sunday to me.
But that’s how habits work, I guess. This piece was to show my adoration to this part of the media which I believe is unfortunately fading away. I wish it didn’t and I wish I had more time to go back to those moments of just listening.
Written by Julia Kaczmarek