Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Radio E-I-G-O

Radio E-I-G-O, my weekly show broadcast over the whole of Taisha Jr. High, won’t be on the air tomorrow as this first week back after break is not a regualr school week, but I thought I’d post about doing the show.
(eigo is the Japanese word for English in case you don’t understand the call letters)

I’ll start off by saying how much fun it is for me to play music for my Jr. High kids each week on my “radio” show. Basically I get to take over the school PA system for about 15 minutes every Wednesday and play any music I like and speak English with the whole student body listening. I’ve played a wide gamut of songs so far, usually grouped around some vague theme, but sometimes inspiration strikes and I find a song that fits some event that just passed or is about to happen. 15 minutes isn’t really any time at all - usually I get about 3 songs in with some of my blather between songs. I do my best “DJ” voice and probably talk way too fast for my students to follow along, but I do slow down at times to emphasize certain words making it a quasi-learning experience. Mostly I just enjoy exposing them to some western pop music. Some of them know the current bands, but most of them don’t at all - no real knowledge of any U.S. or U.K. rock or pop stars except for karaoke staples like The Beatles, The Carpenters, and Queen. There is a thriving J-Pop scene here, but much of it is horribly bland boy-band pop or Britney-style teen Divas singing to the same backing tracks and melodies all the time. I can’t really criticize Japanese music too much because I haven’t listened to enough to really form an opinion, but I don’t think I’ll be spending too much of my money on Japanese music CDs.

Here’s some of the tracks I played in 2004:

Playlist for Wed. Oct. 27th (First show)
Surfin’ USA (The Beach Boys)
Going to California (Led Zeppelin)
Santa Monica (Everclear)
She (Elvis Costello)

Playlist for Show #2 (Nov. 2nd, 2004)
Gettin’ in the Mood (The Brian Setzer Orchestra)
What a Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)

Playlist for Show #3 (Nov. 9th, 2004)
Lean on Me (Bill Withers)
Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (Iz)
Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) {Billy Joel}

Playlist for Show #4 (Nov. 17th, 2004)
Should I Stay or Should I Go? (The Clash)
Waterfalls (TLC)
Vertigo (U2)
Land of a Thousand Dances (The Commitments)

Playlist for Show #5 (Nov. 24th, 2004)
We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions (Queen)
A Place Called Home (Kim Richey)
The Thanksgiving Song (Adam Sandler)

Playlist for Show #6 (Dec. 1st, 2004)
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan)
Blinded by the Light (Bruce Springsteen)
It’s the End of the World As We Know It {And I Feel Fine} (R.E.M.)
New York, New York (Ryan Adams)

Playlist for Show #7 (Dec. 14th, 2004)
This show dedicated to Lennon & Ishitobi-sensei
In My Life (The Beatles)
Imagine (John Lennon)
Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)

A few things discourage me about the process - I really have no idea how much the kids are enjoying the program or how much they even listen. The program is on during their lunch time while they eat in their individual homerooms (there is no cafeteria at my JH). But when I’ve eaten with my students in their homerooms, the volume on the speaker that plays the music they listen to on other days, which they select or suggest, is often too low to really hear above the clatter of lunch trays and chopsticks.
It’s hard to control this volume from the PA control room, since it can sound loud down there, but be barely audible upstairs in the classrooms.
The sound system itself is old and really can’t handle anything with too much bass or heavy drumming - it just distorts and sounds terrible, so where’s the benefit of that? It’s a mono system with one speaker in each classroom, so the sound it compressed into one channel, which greatly diminishes some songs. But I personally have fun each week deciding which songs to play and working out my patter between songs, so for that alone it’s worth it to me. I hope the kids are listening and enjoying the show too, cuz in the end I am doing it for their benefit.

I’m thinking of trying to start offering dedications, so a student could request a song for a friend or a teacher, but I haven’t quite worked it out yet. I sometimes dedicate a song to a student I know, like my speech contest girls, and I hear they get all red-faced and embarrassed when I say their name over the PA, so that’s cool.

I gave each member of my JH Kendo team a “Jam CD” for a holiday gift. It took me a while to burn 21 CDs and copy the jacket inserts, but I think it was worth it cuz they all really liked the gift - I’ll find out this week if they liked the songs I chose. I also gave out burned CDs to a few of the teachers I like and my supervisor - once again my awesome Apple laptop comes through like a trooper and iTunes makes it so easy to assemble playlists and burn CDs - I love it!

Music is such a big part of youth culture in the States - I’m curious to learn how much of a role it plays in the lives of my rural students here in Taisha. I’ll keep you posted. So until next time, keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars.

Radio EIGO signing off.

1 comment:

K said...

I really wouldn't worry about the sound quality or if the students are listening. They are listening, I assure you! When I make mixed CDs for my classes I usually look at what songs were popular in the States about 4 months ago and use those. It's really great when a student who never speaks to me asks about a song that's playing. Give them what they like, students get excited when they hear something they recognize, even if we would consider it crap. Just my two yen worth.