There is simply no station like this in South Africa. Ja.fm, Jacaranda’s Afrikaans Internet radio station or channel, on air for a week, has already hooked a number of loyal listeners, not least because they can help shape the station’s playlist.
Powered by a US technology, called ‘Listener Driven Radio’ (LDR) it allows online listeners to vote for the next song to be heard. Listeners can also input into the playlist from elsewhere on the web, by embedding the “widget” on their own site or blog.
“If the song you want has 39 more votes than the song someone else likes, your song will be played next,” said Ja.fm controller, Andrew Campbell.
“This is a ‘station’ like no other,” he explained. “There’s no DJ, there are no ads – at this stage – after every song. If you have a computer, speakers and some bandwidth, you can tune in. Of course, you can’t listen in your car unless you’ve got a VERY long extension cord,” he laughs.
Kagiso Media launched Ja.fm in early February and have been testing its response with active online users prior to a public launch in March.
Ja.fm stands for “Jacaranda Afrikaans”, and is a music-only Afrikaans sub-brand of the massively popular Jacaranda 94.2. Kagiso Media launched Ja.fm in early February and have been testing its response with active online users prior to the launch last week.
“The pick up has been phenomenal. We’ve found that Afrikaans speaking expats in particular have embraced Ja.fm,” said Campbell. “They’re writing to us saying they can’t believe they’re listening to Afrikaans music in Canada or wherever. That’s the power of Internet radio: it has a global reach.”
The site was designed by Gloo, and the imagery, says Campbell, “shows that we have our tongue firmly in every cheek there is!”
While the channel has a playlist, and songs are uploaded regularly, it’s the chance to influence the playlist through LDR technology that has attracted people. “You can imagine what it means to new acts with new material,” said Campbell.
“Labels and artists are now aware of what it can do, and this gives us the chance to keep on uploading material. This ranges from old favourites like Bles Bridges to new acts such as Jack Parow and Eden. Bok van Blerk, Bobby van Jaarsveld and Anneli van Rooyen to Glaskas, and Fokofpolisiekar are all there
“Our ‘playlist’, if you can call it that, has many different categories. We’ve even got Sakkie Louw uploading a booklet on how to write a song. We can break new talent, we can remember the classics.”
He said they have had a few technical hitches. “It’s very new. South Africa does have bandwidth issues. But it’s because of the amount of traffic to the site that we’ve had technical glitches, so that’s not such a bad thing!”
Kagiso Media’s executive director of broadcasting, Omar Essack, said last week that Ja.fm is the “first in what could be a line of niche music options, starting with the most active musical community in SA: “This is truly experimental and at the cutting edge of of new media, converging social networks, radio and technology to create a new platform for the Afrikaans listener.”
Campbell said they consulted “numerous SA celebrities and Afrikaans music stars and their support and enthusiasm has been phenomenal. “Add your input to theirs online and we can build something here that is more than a home to quality South African music – it will be a community that celebrates its art, culture and aspirations.”