Toujou radyo: the digital extensions of Haitian music broadcasting
Coss, Ian Thomas
MetadataShow full item record
“Radio” is a hard word to pin down. It refers to a physical device with certain properties— perhaps a dial and antenna—but also to a whole world of sonic communication: newscasts, call- in shows, police dispatches, music streaming services— media that can be transmitted in any number of ways, on any number of devices. This dissertation focuses on Haitian music broadcasting as a social practice, meaning the programming formats, aesthetic conventions and listener experiences that make this particular medium function. I then trace those practices from Haiti’s terrestrial airwaves, out to the many digital media platforms that are ubiquitous in Haiti and Haitian-American communities today, arguing that there is a clear line of continuity across these various forms of radio. In doing so, this research offers a possible model for understanding the so-called 'digital revolution' of which we are all part, with the distinction that this model is rooted in media practices of the Global South. The four case studies that form the body of this dissertation are each framed around the specificity of Haitian radio—for both its producers and listeners—and progress outwards from the medium’s terrestrial roots, to its farthest digital extensions. Chapter One introduces some of the program formats and hosting techniques heard commonly on Haiti’s airwaves, with a special focus on the art of ‘animation,’ by which broadcasters bring music to life through verbal commentary. Chapter Two provides a deeper history of broadcasting in Haiti and the Caribbean, arguing that radio in the region has been transnational in scope from its earliest applications. In Chapter Three the focus shifts to the United States, and to the specific regulatory, social and geographic dynamics that have informed the development of radio broadcasting among Haitian immigrants here. Finally, Chapter Four tells the stories of two musicians who have themselves taken on many of the roles and practices of broadcasters, as an opportunity for comparative analysis. Each case study considers how a diverse range of practices and technologies can be understood as still radio—toujou radyo—while investigating the musical consequences and social impact of these digital extensions.