Music from the Arab world, anecdotes in Portuguese and Thai lullabies — that’s what a brand new multilingual and intercultural radio station has been broadcasting in Bellinzona, in the Swiss canton of Ticino.
Its name is Radio Chiara, and it is a web and DAB+ station (Digital Audio Broadcasting, FM radio’s digital successor) that aims to create an inclusive network for different cultures and generations, as well as a space for dialogue between locals and foreigners.
Led by the Bellinzona-based cooperative Baobab, the project was officially launched last March with an open brunch in the social cooperative’s garden. The radio’s studio is located on the top floor of Baobab’s historical headquarters in town.
The families involved in the cooperative come from all over the world: Eritrea, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Cambodia, Mexico, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.
While cultural differences tend to divide people, those behind the radio are swimming against the stream — trying to turn their differences into a combined strength.
Baobab has become a reference for people coming to Switzerland from different countries.
Its activities, lessons and social lunches and brunches with traditional dishes from all those countries have become a cherished staple of their community life.
“This radio platform caters to local communities, especially those with a history of migration,” says the project’s director, Chiara Spata, who has many years of experience in the industry.
Radio Chiara’s name echoes the ideas of transparency and visibility — “chiara” means “clear” in Italian. Its programs air on the frequencies of Radio Gwendalyn, a Chiasso-based independent broadcaster, and can also be found online.
The new radio station, says Spata, is a place to tell and listen to stories, but also for people to share their passions and discover new ones, or to get carried away by the music and the storytelling.
“It’s a symbolic space that gives value to mixing together languages and cultures, to make ourselves aware that interacting with different peoples and cultures is not only possible — it’s the greatest richness of our time,” she says.
The first programme to air introduced a conversation between migrants who have been living in Tocino for years.
Two girls —one from Egypt and one from Italy— and two boys —one from Macedonia and one from Brazil— related their experiences to the audience.
Later, music, mostly from the Arab world, took centre stage. Samah, the Egyptian girl, selected the songs and spoke about them in Arabic.
The second programme presented an hour of Brazilian music, explained in Portuguese.
Spata says that since the radio station is meant to be open to the whole community, everyone has a role to play. “Anyone can come and tell us about their culture in their native language,” she says.
Aside from the work already being done, Radio Chiara also plans to broadcast lullabies in different languages.
“The idea is to broadcast these different songs in the languages of those who come to the Baobab social centre,” Ms Spata explains.
Another programme is poised to air soon, also in multiple languages, explaining how to use local services and helping those who have just arrived in Switzerland. The episodes will be made available to download as podcasts — providing useful orientation advice for those who are still figuring out how to integrate in their new “home.”
This article is being published as part of 7.7 Billion, an international and collaborative initiative gathering 15 news media outlets from around the world to focus on solutions for social, economic and civic inclusion.