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Radio Garden makes cyber waves during the Covid-19 pandemic

Tuning in to the needs of the millennials

Millennials and those belonging to generation Z have been dancing to the tune of Radio Garden — a free app which allows listeners to tap a jaw dropping 30,000 stations across the world.  Covid-19 pandemic which kept millions at home is at the heart of Radio Garden's boom.

Cutting across human boundaries, the Internet radio offers a mind blowing bouquet, which could range from Czech folk music to heavy metal rock in Moscow. An insightful talk on a Sri Lankan, in between can produce a much needed breather.

Bringing thousands of stations 24×7, the Covid-19 pandemic saw a huge surge in its audience. Talking to The Guardian, Jonathan Puckey, one of the app’s founders, remarked that he was confused about this sudden interest. “To be honest, I don’t know … We do go viral every now and again, but this is the largest spike we have had to date,” he said.

The popularity appears to have come from people sharing the platform with friends on social media websites.

Initiated as a temporary project by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision as part of research looking at how radio has fostered “transnational encounters”, it started out as a web-only offering. The brainchild of Amsterdam-based studios Puckey and Moniker was launched in 2016, and it became available as an app from 2018.

For the greenhorns, its operation is simple, as it hands holds those logging to the app. One takes a look at the global map, selects a region by clicking and there appears green dot representing a radio station. Automatically the feed is broadcast, informing one of the station name and its location. Simple, yet mighty refreshing as you surf from Japan to India to Europe, all with a click.

For example, clicking on New Delhi displays 12 stations available.

These include Bhakti Radio, Boxout FM, Brahman Radio, Radio Delhi Malayalam, Radio Masih, Radio Mix Bhakthi, Radio NM Mix HD, Sai Vaani, Sports Flashes, Tarang Devotional, Tarang Online Radio, and Yahoshua Christian Radio.

Attracting radio stations, Radio Garden has been getting submissions in hundreds every week. Now its collection of live radio stations has moved from 7,000 to more than 30,000.

Says Puckey in the interview: “We had the idea to make a modern version of the old world receiver radio sets…We hoped to recreate this magical feeling of travelling across the globe blindly, relying on the sense of hearing and the knowledge of location to bring these live radio stations to life.”

Making a pertinent observation, “Hopefully we can also remind people that those borders that divide us are just in our minds. Radio knows no borders.” He adds, “beauty of radio is that while radio signals themselves cross borders, radio studios have very fixed locations and are therefore always regional in nature. Radio is at its best when it represents local tastes and cultures.”

Let’s recall the lines from Queen's famous song Radio Ga Ga, “I'd sit alone and watch your light/ My only friend through teenage nights / And everything I had to know / I heard it on my radio”, and conclude “Radio, someone still loves you.”