I’ve forgotten exactly how I stumbled on the National Indigenous Radio Service of Australia, but I am glad I did. It has one of the best folk/country/rock streams I’ve ever heard. Faith Hill . . . Neil Young . . . under-appreciated songs like Warren Zevon’s Splendid Isolation, mixed in with a foundation of wonderful Aussie indigenous bands like the Pigram Brothers. Where did this great radio come from?
Turns out the NIRS is over thirty years old. It serves a network of around 140 indigenous community radio stations in Australia. The hub station for the stream is in Brisbane: Country 98.9 FM, owned by the Brisbane Indigenous Media Association (you can follow the play list here) “The first Indigenous radio station in a capital city and for its unique blend of country and Indigenous music,” 98.9’s about page explains.
I’ve always wondered why “First Nation” broadcasters had such superior taste in country, pop, and folk music. The equivalent in the United States is Greg McVicar’s UnderCurrents radio service—”one of the best syndicated public radio music shows around” (I’m quoting myself here). They’ve just got a bead on the songs with the best sounds and best messages, which aren’t necessarily the tunes the bands are most famously known for.
Anyway, NIRS provides syndicated programming to its member stations: “Many community stations, due to lack of size, location and reach, are unable to provide continuous live radio broadcast programs,” its mission page says. “Many can only manage a few hours each week and, subsequently, rely on our national satellite service for continuity of unique Indigenous content and programs.”
Thus NIRS offers a whole lot of specialized programs full of cool looking people from places I’ve never heard of. These include “Waljuwaa Radio,” “Bush Brekky,” and “Bidyadanga“—that last a production of the Remote Indigenous Broadcast Service. It also provides National Indigenous News—a refreshingly different take on the world.
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