SFOR radio station uses karaoke for peace
August 18, 2003
ORASJE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — The cheering and dancing crowd overflowed onto the street in front of the small cafe in this northern Bosnian border town.
For many, such as Nerka Arpagic, it was their first karaoke encounter.
But Arpagic did not wait long to show her singing talents. She seemed to enjoy this type of entertainment — so widespread in the United States and very rare in Bosnia — as she kept coming back to sing.
The karaoke night in this town that borders Croatia was sponsored by the Stabilization Force-run Radio Mir, which means peace in Bosnian.
Sgt. James Pangrazio, 26, of 12th Psychological Support Element and two of the Radio Mir’s DJs have been traveling to towns and villages of SFOR’s Multinational Brigade North to stage the karaoke nights.
The radio station hopes the events will gain popularity and increase listnership, Pangrazio said.
The station airs throughout MNB North on three different frequencies and is already popular with its target audience of 12- to 25-year-olds. It is one of four SFOR-run stations in the country with programs in the local language.
“We’re never satisfied,” said Pangrazio, “until I have 100 percent of Bosnia listening to [the station].”
Pangrazio, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier from Joliet, Ill., studying biology at Illinois State University, wants listeners to hear the messages that run instead of commercials so common on most other radio waves. The messages touch such topics as weapon harvest operations, mine awareness and staying away from drugs. Others encourage Bosnian pride and discourage people from littering.
Sandra Pandurevic, a DJ who has worked for Radio Mir for years, thought karaoke would sell well to Bosnian audiences when she suggested the karaoke parties in Bosnian towns last year.
The remote shows started last November and have not stopped since.
The $4,000-dollar karaoke system offers a selection of 1,700 songs, some of them western and some from the Balkans.
When the shows started in November, Pangrazio had to explain to cafe owners where they would be held what karaoke is. But now cafe owners come to Pandurevic to ask to host one of Mir’s shows.
Radio Mir started with one a week, have done two some weeks of the summer. The station is booked through October.
“We actually do have an impact when we come and do these,” Pangrazio said. “We even have our listeners who follows us [to different parties].”
And when the singing and fun end every night, some of the messages still echo through the streets when the singers wear their Radio Mir T-shirts — received for singing a song — with messages “say no to drugs” on their back and “chose tolerance” on the front.