Monday, June 1, 2020

INTERNET JAZZ RADIO STATIONS – WHAT A COME BACK!

It Has To Be Jazz®

I recently had the pleasure and honour of being hosted by Castro Magagula on his Umuthi ÔÇô A Jazz Invocation programme; a Jazzuary FM internet-based jazz radio station. When I received an invitation, I did not give a lot of thought to an idea of an internet-based radio station. It felt pretty much like any other radio station. However, in recent months a lot has happened in the media space especially radio; and there seems to be an overwhelming presence of these internet radio stations.  Equally important, I am very pleased with the fact that the jazz community is not left behind and, in some cases, they have taken a lead.

I have since taken time to check out the spread and what countries are doing in the jazz internet radio space. The United States of America shows an estimated 244 and the list is updated almost every 20 days. The statistics for other countries or continents is not clear as it is largely a combination of both radio station and internet. There are those who stream live shows for ease of tuning where the radio station signal is not clear. But then those radios that stream not all of them are whose programmes are jazz-based. Therefore, while the jazz fraternity remains grateful for the effort taken by the radio station, it is still not enough that there is still limited access to jazz music especially where access is available via internet.

There is also a category we need not overlook and that is the likes of DSTV jazz channel – even though its (DSTV) dwindling numbers are not helping. One can only hope NetFlix will expand its online network to include an extensive library of jazz. Closer to home ÔÇô Gabz FM, Duma FM and RB2 have joined the live streaming space which helps especially when the radio signal is out of range. Jazzuary FM, an offshoot of Kaya FM, has taken the internet function to another level and has dedicated the channel to jazz.

One would have thought there might not be enough material to operate a 24/7 jazz channel from a local station. But pretty much to most people’s surprise, it is like Jazzuary FM staff had been waiting to unleash this material it has always had. The few people I have managed to talk to about this station seem excited that finally there is something dedicated to jazz. The programmes are a demonstration of creative thinking about a subject or genre that some people thought was on its death bed.

The highlights are an interesting combination of talks, very informative if I may add, and research on new music. The varied programmes are also very encompassing in that they cater for all age groups. I could not help but think what the real benefits of such an internet radio would be, taking into consideration the fact that jazz, generally has never had a decent airplay time. Do not forget those stations that manage risk by allocating jazz programmes awkward hours of the day and only specific days of the week. Let alone the fact that jazz is now abused to market all sorts of events.

The first major benefit is that Jazzuary FM is a 24/7 internet station. This means a better control of what is programmed. Of course, the fact that it is a dedicated jazz channel and open to new ideas goes a long way in educating and sharing newsworthy material that is relevant to jazz followers. I have been following, with interest, comments from friends and jazz folks. A few things stand out; the programming relevance is a most welcome change that most people have been looking for. Strange but not surprising, most people say they have discovered new music and information which is hardly ever available on various platforms. For us as the It Has To Be Jazz┬« project, this point reinforces our initiative in recording the history of Africans in jazz.

On a much lighter note, jazz collectors are often fascinated by other people’s collection instead of their own. Now, meetings between collectors are rare and restricted only to spare time. Jazzuary FM has come in handy because it provides that opportunity to listening to somebody else’s collection. Here is one of the inherent benefits ÔÇô for those of us who continuously research on all things jazz, the programme has become ideal in that a lot of the information is often from the horse’s mouth. The value is that individuals who have been there and done it can provide a different perspective to one’s research. Of course, the follow-up questions are then easily answered.

So, where is internet jazz radio headed? Most radio stations are now seriously considering including it as part of their offering. But of course, this is not without its challenges especially with licensing. It is not the talk and interview that is a challenge but the material that the channel does not own. But the current copyright laws of South Africa seem to be accommodative enough to be extended to include internet licensing. But otherwise, I believe for the first time jazz is off to a great start.

So why did this article make the It Has to Be Jazz┬« project review? This new opportunity has addressed a few challenges and cut down on a large part of radio set up costs. This is what we believe technological advancement should be all about ÔÇô serving as an enabler at the cheapest possible cost.

 

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.