Rachel Hopkin

Folklorist and Radio Producer

Folk and Radio Production

10 December, 2013

During my final semester in the Folk Studies MA program at Western Kentucky University, I’m co-teaching a graduate class on folklore and radio production – two subjects dear to my heart. The aim of the class is to give an overview of the history of US radio production (with some nods to other countries), show how radio has long been a great medium for folkloric subjects, and to get students to the stage where they can make short audio packages themselves.

It’s my first experience of teaching and is proving quite the learning curve for me as well as them, not least because I’m having to get to grips a new audio editing software, Hindenburg. Hindenburg is great – it’s made especially for radio producers (unlike most audio software which is geared towards music producers), it’s reasonably priced, and the support from the firm itself has been superlative. However, it’s also rather different from Pro Tools which is what I’ve been using for the last six years and so I’m constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the students (although having chatted with a few professors about the over the past couple of weeks, I gather that this is actually what of professors do most of the time – and I thought they knew everything!).

One of the great bonuses of teaching the course is that it gives me the opportunity to listen to some wonderful radio. One piece that really stood out for me was Meena Baktash’s “Why Doesn’t Grandad Smile?”, which was broadcast on the BBC World Service where Baktash works as a journalist in the Pashto and Dari department. Baktash was born and raised in the Afghani capital, Kabul, and in this program, she returns to the city where she was raised. She poignantly contrasts its present state with its golden days in the 1970s. It’s an incredibly moving piece, beautifully put together, and you can listen to it here.

Meena Baktash as a child in Kabul