Besides travel, my other love is radio. I started in the business at 15 years old, and had my first real radio show when I was just 16.
By the time I was a senior in high school, I was the full-time night DJ at the local radio station. I went on to become a Program Director and move on to large markets like Phoenix and Los Angeles. Today I run a group of radio stations in San Diego and my syndicated show airs on 180 radio stations worldwide.
My love of radio isn’t something I can just “switch off” when I travel–so I often find myself scanning the city skyline for transmitter “towers” and knocking on the doors of random radio stations, where I’ll ask for an impromptu tour and take some pics. Sometimes this even leads to some spur-of-the-moment mic-time.
Here are a few of my favorite visits over the years. Enjoy!
2018: I was visiting the tiny, landlocked nation of Lesotho, and strolled into the state owned Radio Lesotho to see if I could score a tour. I was welcomed in and oon I was in the main studio, whose control board resembled that of a 1940’s Naval communications center, at least that’s what I imagined. I was introduced to the afternoon DJ, Thabo, who immediately greeted me with the warmest reception I’d ever received at a foreign radio station. Second laters I was given a chair, headphones and a microphone…I was going on the air!
I always try to approach this situation with all the humility I can muster. I suppose it may be the first time this DJ and his audience hears directly from an American (as opposed to on YouTube videos, MTV, etc.) so I try my best to leave a positive impression of the my country; usually spending my time thanking the DJ and commenting on how much I love their city—which is the truth.
But this was the first time I’ve had a DJ in another country ask such great, in-depth questions. Thabo asked me about my radio job in the USA, before launching into thought-provoking questions like Why am I visiting Lesotho, and What do I hope to achieve from visiting countries like his. After I answered each question, Thabo translated the interaction into his native tongue, which was absolutely one of the neatest languages I’ve ever heard spoken, complete with tongue “clicks” and all; and all at rapid-fire pace, while riding the sound board’s levels up and down to adjust the musical track that was playing underneath my interview.
We talked on the air for nearly 20 minutes—a length of time ten times the amount most morning DJs would chatter in one break back home—and I hoped the entire audience wasn’t turning their dials out of boredom. But as for me, this was one of the most exciting moments of my radio career, and it was only after we finished conversing on the air, that Thabo informed me that this broadcast was being simulcast throughout the entire country, in all of their provinces and cities. Wow! You can see the whole interview here:
2019: Country #128 was Bosnia. I met up with one of my radio colleagues, Edina Macic, who hosts the morning show at my station in San Diego. She’s from Bosnia originally and happened to be visiting while I was there. She and her family took me in and showed me the best hospitality I’d ever experienced in my life. My personal tour included stops at both Radio Sarajevo and Radio Konjic, where the staffs went out of their way to welcome us.
2001: My first non-American radio station visit was one of the most special. In fact, it was the very first time I had ever even left the country (not counting Northern Mexico), and this trip to Brasil was to change my life forever. Among the countless, lifelong friendships I made during that monumental trip, I was able to link up with a few guys from one of the biggest radio stations. Mario Sergio, Aurelio Campos and Ricardo Henrique from Radio Nativa welcomed me to their radio station with open arms. They gave me a complete tour of their facilities, we took pictures–I think I even remember them giving me a ride back to my hotel (this was back in 2002, a little foggy)–all while trying to communicate without knowing each others languages. I’m happy to say that I still keep in touch with the guys ’til this day. Today, Aurelio is in North Carolina and has since learned English, and my Portuguêse isn’t half bad, after living in Brasil for a couple years (another story for another time.)
2018: I was cruising the banks of the Ganvie water village in the West African county of Benin and couldn’t help but ask my boat captain if he’d pull into this waterside radio station. Radio Tosô 100.3FM has the coolest building and views of the river below. I was shocked to see more on-air staff working inside Radio Tosô than most American radio stations back home!
I actually lived in Brasil for from 2007 until 2009, and ended up doing a weekly feature on the local radio station there. My good buddy Hiljan Dutra gave me a guest spot on his Friday night show, Hit Sessions, where I counted down the biggest pop songs of the week.
In 2013 I visited one of the most intriguing and downright mysterious countries ever: Suriname. Most people couldn’t find it on a map. I challenge you to look it up. The place was just incredible, and the fact that I was able to infiltrate one of the top radio stations there made the trip that much sweeter. Above you see me with radio DJ Quintis Ristie at Paramaribo’s ABC Radio. I soon found out, he’s a pretty big deal: one of the biggest personalities in Netherlands and Suriname radio and TV, and a helluva nice guy too–one of the coolest!
What was even more amazing, was that ABC Radio in Suriname ended up signing on my radio show, Sunday Night Slow Jams! Now, the good people of Paramaribo can hear my show every Sunday night. Shout out to Enjela Kamperveen and the crew at ABC Radio for making it happen!
Other times, stations aren’t so hospitable. I emailed several radio stations in Caracas, Venezuela, before my arrival; but sadly, they weren’t very receptive to having me visit.
One of the most memorable station visits for me, was being able to tour the palatial compound that is Rádio Moçambique, in Maputo. I felt like a child at Disneyland for the first time, with my jaw wide open and the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention almost the entire time. There was a surprise around every corner. I was officially inside a time warp, and besides a few computers, there was almost no indication we were in the 21st century. It felt like I was in a movie…some Leonardo DiCaprio flick, where all the men still dressed in black slacks and white button up shirts and the ladies wore dresses and everyone spoke to one another with respect and manners. This was just another normal day at Rádio Moçambique.
I loved every minute of my visit as I walked through the corridors of this gorgeous, old school building, with their 20-foot ceilings and marble floors and walls. The elevator didn’t work, and I’d guess it hasn’t been in operation for decades. The Art Deco lighting is still mounted on the ceilings and don’t get me started on the studios. The original old school acoustic tiles were still in place, I opened and closed thick studio doors with the original hardware and curved windows, and the icing on the cake were those classic “On Air” lights, no doubt the original from day one, except in Portguese the red lights spelled out “No Ar.”
I got to see the “command center” where all of the building’s broadcasts are distributed throughout the entire country. So many buttons! I was also shown musical recording sound studios and even a full auditorium used for performances that are broadcast live. This was one impressive broadcast center!
I got to tour the “discoteca” on the ground floor: an archive of CDs, tapes and lots of old vinyl, all sorted and cataloged as organized as The Library of Congress. Porfilio was the gentlemen in charge of this special vault of music and his job includes keep all the music filed and digitizing audio. I loved looking around and poking through the shelves of music–there must have been a million records here, all organized according to genre. This is one place that I can say truly respected the music.
Can it get any cooler? I mean, these are the things that I thought might make Anthony Bourdain proud. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Maria walks me straight into the president’s office. Here I am, sitting face to face with the Bob Pittman of Moçambique and frankly, feeling very under dressed. Had I known I would meet Mr. Sadique, I would’ve packed a suit. He was nothing but super friendly and hospitable, as he broke down the very interesting story and history of Rádio Moçambique. What a journey this national radio center had been through, both pre- and post-independence. And I was learning it all from the president himself.
The climax was reaching the ballroom on the top floor, converted into office space, but they’d left the room’s original design alone. This top-floor salon with its original parquet wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling Art Deco lighting fixtures was just absolutely gorgeous, and while it was a pity that most of the dance floor was taken up by temporary office walls, at least they’d kept the overall bones of the room in-tact. This was definitely my favorite area of the radio facility as I closed my eyes and tried to picture what incredible live performances must have taken place in this space back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s…men in three-piece suits, playing classic música Moçambicana while couples cut the rug. What history the very floor that I was standing on must have! The goosebumps wouldn’t leave me until I was blocks away.
I was even taken into a production room an interviewed by one of the staffers, Charles. So much fun!
2022: Luanda, Angola
As luck would have it, trotting down Avenida Comandante Gika, I stopped in my tracks as I came upon the giant Rádio Nacional de Angola complex. State radio headquarters? What a sweet surprise. Now this I just had to see!
I introduced myself to the woman at the security gate as a radio guy from Los Angeles, asking if it would be okay to just pop my head in and grab a glimpse of the lobby. She told me no, but by some miracle an English-speaking employee in a suit soon approached me as I rolled out my introduction again. This time it worked, and within minutes Carlos Julio was not only escorting me into the building, but right into the studio and onto the airwaves. I was suddenly a guest on Carlos Julio’s English speaking “community” show. We spent about 20 minutes on the air together talking music, life and, most importantly, what the heck I was doing in Angola. I thought it was interesting that Carlos Julio spoke perfect English, but with an Australian accent. João Paulo de Sousa made an appearance to deliver a news update. He and I spoke in the lobby later and I’ll never forget his kindness and enthusiasm. These are people I’d love to have a beer with next time and get to know better. The whole thing was just incredible and mind-boggling really, and proof that if you want to see something that is behind a fence or a locked door, it never ever hurts to simply ask. You never know!
Before leaving, I was passed off to Margarita Dos Santos, a young journalist who interviewed me for her Portuguese-speaking news program. I’m embarrassed to say I would’ve probably earned a C or a D had my Portuguese teacher(s) been there listening to my responses…maybe an F! While I’ve mastered generic salutations and ordering from the menu, I’m afraid I crashed and burned as the subject of an in-depth interview todo em português. It was nothing short of a disaster. Mrs. Truran and Bezerra (minhas profesoras): Sinto muito that I failed you!
2023: The Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Now this was cool! Here I was, stomping around inside the borders of what could possibly be the newest country on the planet. Recently, Bougainville passed a referendum for independence from Papua New Guinea. Will it actually happen? That’s anyone’s guess. But what a neat place to get some radio time in!
Luke from regions national radio station not only welcomed me in, but put me on the radio. We had a nice 10-minute chat about my travels and impressions of Bougainville. How fun!
Yup, my love for radio transcends all borders, oceans and languages. Every radio station in the world is special in its own way and I am so thankful to have met so many people passionate about radio like me, all around the world.
One of my total “bucket list” dreams I would like to make come true one day, is to start up and program a new radio station, from the ground up, in a foreign country. So hey, if you know anyone looking, you know where to find me!