April 20, 2019

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London’s Radio Pirates Changed Music. Then Came the Internet.

London’s Radio Pirates Changed Music. Then Came the Internet.
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For instance, before Remi Aderemi, a charismatic 25-year old with two gold teeth who performs as Remi Burgz, had her own show on Reprezent, she spread her love of music, in particular a style called U.K. Afrobeats, through a maneuver she called “the roadblock”: She pulls up at a red light, she said, pumps the music, gets out of the car and then dances madly until the light changes.

“It’s a way of sharing music,” she said in an interview. Some people shouted at her to move, she added, but others stopped and asked what the song was.

That spirit — evangelical, hyperlocal, slightly dangerous — is characteristic of community stations with their roots in pirate radio.

At the same time, the internet, which allows community stations to compete in a wider market by streaming digitally, has eliminated the local flavor and intimacy that came with the transience of pre-internet radio.

“It has to start in a small space,” said Ms. Lockhart. At the birth of every important cultural movement, she said, “there would have been a bunch of friends hanging out, passionate about something and creating something. And then somehow it hits its stride.” But “there doesn’t seem to be that privacy where everything can happen,” she said, because everything is posted online.

Pirate radio was “the last safe space you have as an artist to make mistakes” according to Jama Little, 27, a grime M.C. from Hackney who performs as Jammz. “With online,” he said, “if you get it wrong, it’s forever.”

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