Radio, Radio—A Sound Salvation
25 Jul, 2015 | Rebecca Sherlock
Arriving at Radio Atipiri (840 Khz AM) in El Alto, there is a focused silence over the building; everyone is speaking in hushed voices and keeping as quiet as possible. People are broadcasting at this very moment. Apolonia Cruz Escalante, a 19-year-old university student, is busy producing a radio talk show, managing the mixing board with the calm professionalism of someone who has spent years methodically learning the ropes. It is now second nature to her. She queues jingles, fades adverts in and out, and is not at all fazed by my presence—nor the incredibly intrusive camera lens pointed at her.
While waiting for Apolonia to finish, I chat to Jobana Aruhiza Tola, who is wearing a red puffer jacket, jeans and trainers. She is now in her second year studying social communications at university. Jobana, who is also 19, has long dark hair and an infectious smile. She says that she became involved with radio when was only six years old, after hearing an advertisement aimed at children interested in getting involved in the radio business. Despite being nervous and ‘a shy introverted child’, she was convinced by her father to not waste time just sitting at home and go and see what radio had to offer. She recalls how vocalisation classes and learning to talk into microphones helped boost her confidence: ‘It’s just a question of losing the fear.’
Jobana tells me about Pamela, a teacher at the station when she was a young girl who was an inspiration to her. ‘Pamela was always so passionate and took an interest in our lives too,’ Jobana says. ‘I’ve always said I want to be just like Pamela.’ It is this eagerness to emulate her mentor that has fuelled Jobana’s desire to learn as much as she can about the radio industry and communications.
When Apolonia and I chat, she comes across as your typical 19-year-old girl: She loves almost every kind of music – except rock! She lives with her parents in the 6 de Agosto area of El Alto, and would probably blush profusely if boys were brought up. However, when we talk about the radio business and the experiences she’s had whilst working at Radio Atipiri, her passion is contagious. ‘It’s nice to look back on how long I’ve been coming to the radio,’ Apolonia says. ‘It’s like my second home.’
Apolonia is also interested in the more technical side of the things. ‘It’s important to manage both the technical and informative side of the radio,’ she says, recalling how overwhelming all the technology seemed when she started there and ‘a technician came to explain how to use the radio effects.’ Despite the step-by-step instruction, she struggled to understand it all. Now, however, she manages everything well and only stumbles in scenarios where things get especially complicated, like when she has to operate adverts and effects at the same time as talking. ‘You don’t know which to prioritise,’ she says, noticeably a little flustered by this.
When asked to reflect on their experience at the radio and where they see their futures going, both Apolonia and Jobana light up. After almost nine years of involvement in the radio, they have a lot to say about what their experiences have taught them. Apolonia remembers being incredibly reserved and quiet at both school and home, and she says that working at the radio station has changed her markedly. ‘I’m more confident,’ she says. ‘Now when I come home from school, I tell my parents everything. It makes them very happy.’ The young women are now involved in their own show, Jóvenes en onda, which includes a mixture of radionovelas, music and news.
Currently, both Apolonia and Jobana are studying social communications, in which they are learning interview techniques, radio presentation and television news. They both have big aspirations for the future and see themselves at an advantage compared with their classmates because, as they say, ‘We get to put into practice what we learn at university.’
As long as the radio station stays open, they’ll continue to participate. Both confessed dreams of having their own station, although Jobana is more interested in television broadcasting. Apolonia also adds that she’s ‘more interested in serious things’ and aspires to be a journalist or a news producer at a radio station.
‘It’s nice to look back on how long I’ve been coming to the radio—it’s like my second home.’
—Apolonia Cruz Escalante