Online radio
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Date: 03 November, 2005


Try listening to NHK Online for a very different cultural experience.'


This may come as something of a surprise to you, but it is possible to use the internet to listen to local radio stations from just about anywhere in the world.

I made this rather mind-boggling discovery quite a while back when I finally owned up to being a closet cowboy-music lover. I know it isn’t something a self respecting technology journalist should confess to, but y’know Country and Western really rattles my stagecoach. Yeeha!

In a moment of idle musing – I do rather a lot of musing whilst browsing the internet – I entered the words ‘Country and Western’ into Google (spelling the T word correctly was an achievement in itself) and was amazed to be dropped into a magical world of US country music stations all churning out my favourite numbers complete with drawling intro and endless mindless commercials for things I had never heard of. In seconds I was completely and utterly hooked.

First stop was Nashville and the 4,400 seat Grand Ole Opry which broadcasts live over the web. Just because you can’t afford the airfare doesn’t mean you have to miss the concert – although it may be at 2am ‘cos Nashville runs 6 hours behind the UK. You could also try WSM Online for some of the best country music around.

Do be warned: after an hour or two of frenzied clicking and listening I found some of the US country music radio stations a bit overwhelming. The DJs never stop chattering away about nothing - or perhaps that is just DJs all over the world… hmmm…

Now before you fire up your browser and get too excited, just hold on a minute. Don’t think you can simply click and listen. Internet radio is a lot more subtle than that. Think of it as a kind of alchemy. More an art than a science. What I am trying to say is that it doesn’t always work straight from the box.

Just finding the website doesn’t guarantee anything. You actually have to find the link that starts the music playing and to listen to your chosen station may mean that you need to download a special radio browser or you may need the latest version of Windows Media Player.

Sometimes you just have to sit and wait as it can take a while for the radio station to connect with your browser. The main thing is to be patient and wait with bated breath for a minute or two to see if anything musical happens before clicking away to something new.   The excitement and expectancy is half the fun.

Having mastered the basic skills required to listen to local internet radio you may want to check out the farthest flung stations in the world – well I can tell you that there are plenty of stations ‘Down Under’ that make excellent listening although I am not always sure what they are talking about! Just click on Hits 'n' Country to listen to some down-under country sounds.

To be honest, Russia posed something of a problem as, although I was assured that one existed, I couldn’t find anything I recognised as a link to live music but you may want to click on Rus Radio and see what you make of it!

A much more interesting proposition can be found at Jazz Net where, should the mood take you, you can download a cool free copy of Microsoft Windows media player in Russian – Da!

Japan is much easier to deal with as the websites are often multi-lingual. Try listening to NHK Online for a very different cultural experience. You may not understand all the words but their commercials sound just the same as ours!

Francophiles will be delighted to discover Radio France Internationale although I confess to finding the reception a bit patchy. Perhaps the internet was a tad temperamental on the day I listened in – or perhaps that is how it is meant to sound? It is hard to tell!

So which internet radio station is best? Honestly, you need to get clicking and listen to a few and make your own mind up. Personally I am divided between the UK’s own Classic FM and NDR Kultur as both offer a superb selection of classical music -  Despite what some unkind people may tell you I am not without my cultural side.

Classic FM is a superb internet radio station with a distinct advantage for those who have English as their first language, but NDRKulture, based in Germany, is, technically, one of the best internet radio stations I listened to. NDRKulture works perfectly without any glitches or confusion and has gathered a huge audience from around the world.

Vorsprung durch Technik mayhap?