Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A brief note on the radio offerings in Sudan. I'm sure that if you speak Arabic (which I don't -- at least, not well) there are plenty of interesting opportunities available to you. I could be wrong, of course -- many of them sound like religious stations or perhaps talk radio, and nothing good has ever come of those two.

If you're an English speaker, though, you really have only one choice -- the BBC (well, you could get satellite radio and listen to all the audio ever known to man -- I remember once getting to hear "Bohemian Like You" by the Dandy Warhols in southern Ethiopia, dozens of miles from the nearest source of electricity). The BBC alternates between English and Arabic programming a couple times a day.

Anyway, the point of this story. A few days ago we were driving around, and BBC Arabic was on. I wasn't really paying attention, but it sounded like a standard news broadcast or the like. Nothing too exciting. All of a sudden, for no discernible reason, Ben E. King comes on, singing "Stand By Me" in the full-voiced, heartfelt way that only he can. I'm only vaguely aware of this at first, but the song goes on for a while and I begin to take notice. If that wasn't weird enough, we don't get very far into the song before an Arabic voice interrupts and starts talking over it. We then get an odd medley, alternating between soulful English music and random Arabic conversation. This goes on for several minutes, and I sit and listen with a sort of bewildered, dazed expression on my face (or at least, so I imagine).

I kind of wish it had stayed at that level of surreality, but my mom then informed me that this was an English-language-learning service that the BBC provides. Apparently this time they were teaching the phrase "stand by me", and picked the obvious example song. Since then, I've also heard lessons using "Munich", by the Editors (teaching "you should know by now"), and a British cooking show (teaching I-don't-know-what). Strange world.

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