Mired in a tedious task yesterday at work, I reached for some music therapy through my headphones. Via the internet, I usually tap into my favorite French station, but why not take a trip back home?
I tuned into Pittsburgh-based WYEP just in time for an unusual show, “Pairings with Chef Fuller.” On the sound platter was Son Little’s latest song, “Blue Magic (Waikiki).” The chef suggested, of all things, a frozen daiquiri. But hold the umbrella and blue curacao! Instead go for a mix of better white and golden rums. The cocktail definitely captured the '70s surfside vibe of the song. I was started to sway and develop quite a thirst, though Son's smooth style isn't my natural inclination. (For the amazing food pairings, why not listen to the rest of the episode yourself?)
What’s great about 'YEP (Yinzers say "why-e-pee") is that it’s independent radio. You won't hear the top 40 or commercials. You’ll hear a lot of alternative music from newer local and regional bands, as well as slightly better-known musicians like Little, an R&B-inspired “son” of Philadelphia. (I’m not sure how Son picked his name, but the word means “sound” in French. His birth name is Aaron Livingston.)
My husband has pulled many an all-nighter with WYEP in his ear, and counts as a contributor. Yes, listener-supported means the station is funded by its “members,” people like you and me. What's nice is the community that WYEP aims to create, going beyond programming to stage concerts and other events as well in its South Side studio.
In Paris, we listen to FIP, a similarly eclectic station, which was my mommy therapy of choice while raising my daughter. The three letters used to mean France Inter Paris, but now the station just goes by the acroymn. It's pronounced feep--like jeep. For the month of July the station is featuring Fredda, Babx, J. Bernardt, Charlie Parker, Dan Auerbach, The Rhum Runners, et Quantic. (Should I admit to knowing only one of those musicians?)
FIP is a public station, which in France means that is entirely funded by our French tax dollars. Every year we pay an audio-visual tax of about $150, which goes to a number of TV and radio stations. We think it's a small price to pay to avoid those annoying commercials. (Imagine watching a 90-minute movie in--90 minutes!) FIP is part of the Radio France group that also has its own orchestras and offers a full calendar of concerts. When my daughter was a child, we would walk down to the gargantuan Radio France building for low-cost classical family concerts on Saturday mornings.
In these days of Apple iTunes, what it is about radio? I definitely use it to set a mood and escape the mundane. I want the songs to surprise and come to me—but also to take me elsewhere. To Pittsburgh and Waikiki, for instance.
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Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." You can also find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.
Bonus: Speaking of rum, see this boozy review of Pittsburgh’s craft cocktail scene; “Whiskey: Pittsburgh’s Fourth River.” You’re bound to find the right rum for your frozen daiquiri.
Photo credit: Classic frozen Daiquiri; Copyright: Ogione | Dreamstime.com