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Development of ‘Indian’ radio stations in Trinidad
There are 39 registered local FM radio stations in T&T which service the diverse needs of the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-racial society. Nine of them are Hindu- and Indian-formatted music radio stations: 103.1 FM: “The First…The Finest,” Sangeet 106.1 FM: “The Superstation,” 90.5 FM: “The People’s Station,” WIN Radio 101.1 FM: “The News You Want, The Music You Need,” Heritage Radio 101.7 FM: “The Pulse of the Nation,” U97.5: “Hot Like Pepper,” Radio Jaagriti 102.7FM: “The New Awakening,” Aakash Vani 106.5: “Awakening the Mind and Spirit,” and Taj 92.3 FM: “Celebrating Passion and Culture.”
Indian music was first aired on the radio in 1947 when Radio Trinidad—the country’s first radio station—was launched. The station broadcasted a one-hour programme, Indian Talent on Parade, hosted by Kamal Mohammed. While ground-breaking, the limited air time for Indian music would last for over 40 years until 103.1 FM came on air in 1993 through the vision of Marcel Mahabir, Richard Henderson and Winfield Aleong.
103.1 FM was T&T’s first Indian-formatted music station to broadcast 24 hours a day. Its impact was tremendous and revolutionary. Advertisers immediately recognised the incredible economic power of the Indian community. The radio station’s unexpected success proved that there was a need for an electronic media dedicated to Hindu and Indian religious and cultural programmes. Inspired by its success, Sangeet 106.1 FM emerged in 1995, and was followed by seven similar stations with Taj 92.3 being the latest to materialise in 2014.
Radio Jaagriti 102.7 FM is also a landmark station among all radio stations in the country. Established in 2007, it is the first exclusively Hindu radio station in the world, the second being Sanskar Radio 107.5 FM based in Leicester in the UK, which came on air in 2013.
Other Hindu-oriented radio stations exist in the UK, USA, India, Mauritius and Dubai, but they indulge in pop, folk and non-religious genres of music.
Hindu-oriented stations such as Bhakti Radio, Shaivam Radio, Sanatan Dharma Radio and World Hindu Radio are solely Internet radio stations. Jaagriti is both an Internet (streaming) and a satellite radio station. Like Sankar, Jaagriti broadcasts exclusively Hindu songs (bhajans), devotional music, discourses and discussions as well as information on Hindu festivals and ceremonies. Sankar in the UK and Jaagriti in Trinidad are really the only two Hindu radio stations in the world.
Jaagriti’s closest competitor in Trinidad is Aakash Vani, founded in 2008, one year after Jaagriti. But while Jaagriti is owned by Hindus (the Maha Sabha), Aakash Vani is owned by a majority of non-Hindus who comprise of the Guardian Media Limited, a subsidiary of ANSA McAL. Unlike Aakash Vani and all the Indian-formatted radio stations in Trinidad, all the profits from Radio (and TV) Jaagriti are donated to Hindu activities and institutions.
In keeping with Hindu protocol, and unlike all Indian-directed radio stations, Jaagriti does not advertise alcohol and meat products, nor does it promote fetes and parties. Moreover, Jaagriti is perhaps the most popular radio station in the country among Internet listeners, garnering an enormous 2.4 million webpage hits from June 2015 to May 2016. Through its popular talk-show with the station’s director, Sat Maharaj, Jaagriti is the only radio station to take vocal positions on political, cultural and social issues on behalf of the Hindu community.
Among all the Hindu and Indian-formatted radio stations in Trinidad, Radio 90.5 is the most dynamic and creative. It was the first Indian radio station to stream live on the Internet, the first to introduce talk shows, the first to launch a mobile app for smart phones, the first to collaborate with Bollywood movie playback singers, and the first to host the prestigious Bollywood Music Awards in 2005 in Trinidad.
Radio 90.5 is also the only radio station in the country to release and promote Indian films. Almost all the other Indian radio station create, promote and/or record religious, social and cultural activities. For example, Sangeet 106.1 hosts “Caura Fest” and “Game of Trump.”
While most of the Indian-directed radio stations are located in and around Port-of-Spain (six of nine), a few are not. Jaagriti is based in Tunapuna, U97.5 Hot Like Pepper is in Couva, and WIN Radio is in Chaguanas.
Some stations such as Sangeet 106.1 and WIN Radio 101.1 have similar programming. They indulge in remixes of different genres of music such as dancehall and reggae to appeal to younger audiences. Heritage Radio 101.7 offers a wide repertoire of genres, including calypso. While U97.5 caters to the working class in Central and South Trinidad, Taj 92.3 FM targets mainly professional women everywhere who are enjoying a middle- to high-income and living a modern lifestyle.
Dr Kumar Mahabir,
In commemoration of Indian Heritage Month in T&T