Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radio Ixmukané first broadcast: preparations

Tuesday, March 22 was the day of the first broadcast on the newly-established indigenous women's radio station. I've written about this in bits and pieces and will now try to do it more coherently, so I apologize for repetitions.

Although the organization has been holding capacitaciones (training sessions) for aspiring locutoras del radio for a few months, and the radio antenna was installed on Friday, March 18, no one had actually planned out the first day of programming (note: regular broadcasts have not yet started; I will let you know when they are scheduled to start).

After the installation on Friday, I went to one of the staff people who has been closely involved with the radio project and offered to help. She told me to come on Monday and work with Xuan, one of the staff members who was part of the radio team (he has been doing much of the technical work and is, effectively, the sound engineer), and the locutoras who were assigned to do the broadcast on Tuesday. I asked if there was a plan for the broadcast and she said not really but that I could come up with some ideas.

I spent a while over the weekend figuring out a proposal for broadcasting for 3-4 hours (no one had told me exactly how long the broadcast was going to be, so I just took a wild guess). It seemed to me that it wasn't fair to expect relatively inexperienced locutoras (I knew they'd been through training but assumed they probably hadn't really broadcast anything before) to talk for 3 hours, and just playing music interspersed with commentary seemed kind of silly. I also knew that on Tuesday nearly everyone we might want to interview on air would be busy with the presentation for the Programa Maya.  I tried to put myself in the position of a listener: what would I want to know? Well, first I'd want to know something about the organization that was sponsoring the radio. I'd want to know something about why they were doing a radio station. I'd want to know something about what was going on this particular day. So I sketched out a plan that involved pre-recording interviews on Monday, so that the locutoras would have a lot of pre-prepared material, and would mostly have to introduce and maybe comment upon the segments. I also proposed that they would do on-air interviews with each other -- since I thought if the ideal listener was a rural indigenous woman, she might like to know that the locutoras were women just like herself.

To that end, I prepared some "handouts" on how to do interviews -- this is something that I have taught nearly every semester in my anthropology classes, since I usually have an assignment that requires students to do a one-on-one interview, and most of them have not done interviews before (or what I would consider effective ones).  I figured that we could spend some time doing practice interviews so that they would feel less uncomfortable doing live ones on the air on Tuesday.

I showed up, and neither Xuan nor the locutoras were there, so I helped out for a while with the set up for the visit of the Programa Maya. We had to figure out how to set up tables and chairs to accommodate all the delegates from the Programa Maya plus the various representatives of Ixmukané's member organizations, and also to decorate the space.  We had a number of sut' (pieces of woven cloth) that had been either purchased or loaned by Ixmukané staff members, and they had to be allocated between table coverings and window coverings. The space is a high-ceiling concrete-walled room that looks like a hangar (or an unfurnished auditorium, take your pick).  There are large windows near the roof, and we wanted to cover them not only for decorative purposes but to darken the room for the power point and video presentations.  

So, we found enough matching weavings to cover the windows and set about arranging them (with safety pins) on long pieces of clothesline that would then be hoisted into place (by one of brave young male staffers who climbed up onto the window ledge and hung the clothesline with pieces of wire and more rope).  

Women hold up half the sky?
Hanging planters were suspended from other ceiling fixtures and long strands of fake pine or evergreen needles (probably intended for a Christmas display) were strung along the ceiling as well.  

Finally, Xuan showed up and we sat down and went over the plan; he thought it was fine, and we refined it a bit (I had brought my computer, and there was a printer on hand, so we were able to print out copies to review). I asked him when the broadcast was supposed to start and end, and then put in proposed times for the various segments.  Eventually one of the locutoras, Cati, showed up, her baby sister in tow. She looked uncomfortable and a bit nervous.  She is, I think, about 18 or 19 years old, although she looks younger.

We sat down, the three of us, and I gave her the "sketch" I had written for the program. Something I learned was that I needed to either make it more sketchy, or more like a script. What I had written was a hybrid -- it contained the titles of the segments and a brief description of what each segment was, but it wasn't clear what were "instructions", what was "description" and what was "hypothetical script".  I didn't really realize this until we were in the cabina broadcasting on Tuesday, when I had to clarify to the locutoras that no, they weren't supposed to read verbatim from the outline; the outline was merely a "guide" (guía) but not a "script" (guión). 

She didn't have a lot of comments to make, so I suggested that we work on practicing how to do an interview.  I suggested that she interview Xuan, and then we worked to brainstorm questions that she would ask. It was clear that she didn't really know where to begin.  I tried to help without doing the work for her; a tough balance -- trying not to give her questions but help her think about what a listener would want to know about Xuan (or anyone). I also tried to keep Xuan from feeding her too many questions -- she was the one who needed to figure this out, not him.

Finally we had a list of questions and then took ourselves outside so that she wouldn't feel self-conscious in front of the others (even though they were all busy doing other things).  We went through the interview and then I asked her to say how she thought it went, and what she would do differently the next time around, and then Xuan, and then finally I gave some feedback.  Then the lunch arrived and so I suggested we take a break and eat; I had hoped we'd have time for her to do another practice interview (I suggested that she interview me, and that she and Xuan could work on the questions). However, she said that she had to go to a meeting in her aldea (she lives in the municipio of Sta. Cruz del Quiché, but in an aldea; I don't remember now which one).

So, I set about identifying the people with whom I wanted to conduct interviews -- someone to talk about the history of Ixmukané, someone to talk about the radio station, someone to talk about the Programa Maya. I went around and got people lined up for later in the afternoon, securing promises that they would not leave without doing the interview (luckily I nearly always carry my handy compact digital voice recorder -- DVR -- in my backpack. It's the size of a cell phone and even without a microphone gives good results).  Then went back to helping clean/decorate.

Eventually I got Doña Matilde to sit down and talk with me about the history of Ixmukané. Interview went well and just about the amount of time I had calculated on my outline. Then Sebastiana about the radio: also without a hitch.  I had wanted to talk with Doña Mary, the director, about the importance of having the Programa Maya visit, and she had suggested that Jennifer, a K'iche'-speaking staff person, ask the questions so we could have the interview in K'iche', which I thought was a great idea. By this time I thought it would be good if someone else's voice were heard on the interviews and not just mine (I didn't want this to become the "Lisa Knauer radio hour"; I had done the first interviews myself because it was the most expedient way of getting them recorded, especially as everyone else was very caught up with set-up).  So Jennifer and I went over the questions and she wrote out notes for herself about how to say them in K'iche. But then when it came time to do the interview, there were two representatives from Programa Maya, who had come to help make sure everything went smoothly, and Doña Mary suggested we interview them.  As it turned out, neither of the women spoke K'iche' (one spoke Kaqchikel, which is related by not identical), so Jennifer's preparation was in vain. 

They were both articulate and well-spoken, and Jennifer did a terrific job.  I wanted to make sure we had all the interviews copied onto the computer in the cabina so we could sound check them and also have them ready to go the next day.  But this meant transferring them to my computer, then a flash drive, and then uploading them (why? I don't really know, maybe Xuan was doing something else at the time).

I thought we were finished; it was around 5:30 or so, and Xuan and I made some small revisions to the outline (since I had originally thought that Doña Mary would talk about the history of the group, and we hadn't planned on the representatives of the Programa Maya) so that the locutoras would have a more accurate copy to read from the next day. 

I was getting ready to declare that we were done for the day, and had packed up my computer and the DVR, and was heading back to the main building to see if there was anything else that needed to be done before heading off. 

Just then, Doña Mary appeared and said, "Ya están listos para la entrevista?" (Are you folks ready now for the interview?).   I had thought she had forgotten about her original promise, but no, she was ready to go. So I found Jennifer (since I thought it would be a good idea if we had at least one pre-taped interview in K'iche') and said that we were going to do the interview with Doña Mary after all, but that we wouldn't cover what we had already done with the two women from the Programa Maya. Luckily I had saved the paper with her handwritten notes in K'iche' and we went back to the cabina and recorded a short (about 5 minute) interview.  And then we transferred it and I redid the schedule once again to reflect this new material.

So, it would seem that the title of Grace Paley's wonderful short story, "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute" is a good slogan for community-based radio.
Casi listo/almost ready
To come: the "day of"... two interviews with Rigoberta Menchú, and much more!

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