Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Town Crier of Nyamagabe

The loudspeakers high above Nyamagabe.
Produced and edited by: Austin Greene

Radio is, at least in most parts of the world, broadcast to its audiences over its namesake, radio waves. The preferred mode of delivery for Radio Voice of Parking Station Nyamagabe?

Acoustic waves.

Music plays throughout the town of Nyamagabe, Rwanda from morning until night. Sometimes there are breaks for sports shows, and other times locals call in to the "radio station's" DJ, Emmy Valentine.

"People mostly call in to give shout outs to their friends and family," Valentine said. "Other people just want to request a song."

Three loudspeakers are affixed to a 30 ft. tower to broadcast Valentine to the people of Nyamagabe, whether they want to tune in or not.

The entrance to Radio Voice of Parking Station Nyamagabe.
His studio is no more than a tiny closet inside what appears to be a small sewing shop. There's a portrait of Rwandan president Paul Kagame, along with an assortment of posters showcasing different styles of African women's fashion. Other than that, the shop appears to have been abandoned.

Behind the counter is the inconspicuous entrance to RVPSN.

"I work here from 6 in the morning until about 8 at night," Valentine said. "I began to work here in order to expand my talents as a journalist and as an artist."

Aside from being an on-air personality, he's also an aspiring musician. Some of his songs are even played from the makeshift radio station.

Emmy Valentine at his workstation.
When he needs to take a break from the studio, Valentine plugs his phone into the mixer to broadcast content from other radio stations. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Radio Voice syndicates a sports program from Voice of America. During this time, Valentine gets lunch and then searches for stories or announcements from the town.

"We run a program about hygiene in the city," he said. "Most of it is for the drivers, but it's also about keeping the city clean."

The "Parking Station" in the radio's name refers to the bus station in Nyamagabe. It's also a trade hub for the southern part of the country, sitting on the main road to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The drivers that pass through make up the show's target audience.

Radio Voice's composition raises a question: is it really even a radio station? Valentine seems to think so.

"We do everything that the other stations do," he said. "And this way, we know that people are always listening."

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