You can’t see them, but the skies above New York City hold a tangle of transgressive, culture-bearing radio signals. Pulsing imperceptibly from antennas connected to clandestine rooftop transmitters, they seep through the cracks of a radio dial crammed nearly wall-to-wall with corporate controlled stations. The sounds of Soca, Reggae and Caribbean Gospel music pour out of simple FM radios in homes and community hangouts throughout tight-knit, sometimes struggling West Indian and Latinx immigrant enclaves.
With names like Boom, Local Vybz, Wild FM, Irie Storm and Independans these pirate stations commandeer the airwaves lacking government licenses, using cheap and highly mobile transmitters to break the barriers of bureaucracy, high costs and politics which keep them off the legal dial.
Stations risk fines, confiscation of equipment and even arrest to keep their signals flowing. Their programs bring music and news from home along with practical guidance and spiritual comfort for surviving in a new land. Pirate radio acts as a conduit, bringing the sounds of the ancestral home to a new home, transforming time, space and culture