“The Far Becomes Near” is a monthly radio series on the early to contemporary radio landscapes of the United Arab Emirates, from whence they began, in Sharjah, the UAE’s northernmost Emirate. This series was made for Sharjah Art Foundation and is being broadcast on Resonance104.4fm in London and Clocktower Radio in New York.
A new four-part series (broadcast monthly within the normal Six Pillars’ weekly schedule) which archives the history of radio broadcasting in the United Arab Emirates, as radiophonic experiments punctuated by interviews with local historians, academics, cultural commentators and the federation’s earliest broadcasters.
The series creatively reimagines the documentary, each episode exploring a different narrative form, from an archive from the future to a museum audio tour guide for the blind. Sound artists Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver treat the interviews with radio practitioners of the Emirates as threads, weaving a radiophonic history as each distinct episode unfolds.
Each episode will be available later as a podcast online.
Episode 1: ‘When Iron Speaks’:
An audio archival transmission from the future. Beamed to the present day as an artifact from a future database, the United Arab Emirates’ recent history, stored by people of another millennium, is sent as a missive to the ears of today.
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, the archive is comprised of early memories as primary, secondary and tertiary sources, in the original voices and translated from Arabic, describing a Gulf at the turn of the 20th Century tuned via radio, to a world outside.
This episode features contributions from Dr Zaki Nussaibeh, Salim Obaid Al Alelee, Dr Yousef Aydabi and Dr. Arif Al Sheikh. Voice overs of the Arabic translations are by Frank Key and William English.
Episode 2 of the monthly series When The Far Becomes Near:
The programme takes the form of an imaginary audio tour for the blind and partially sighted, guiding museum visitors around a room in the exhibition, ‘The Box in the Majilis’. The exhibition contains objects that illustrate the changing role of radio broadcasting and reception in the United Arab Emirates between 1950-1990s.
In the UAE, listening took place at first only in the home and in cafes. At home the reception room is called the majlis, which translates literally as ‘place to sit’, and a house’s majlis was a place of learning and collective gathering, it is still a cornerstone of Emirati culture. As much as majlis can refer to a place of social gathering and informal learning, it can denote a formal legislative assembly. ‘The Box in the Majlis’ progresses on to more portable radio sets and to car radios, which marked the beginning of commercial broadcasting and the proliferation of stations in the early 1970s.
Featured in ‘The Box in the Majlis’ are the voices of Dr. Abeer Al-Najjar, Associate Professor at the American University of Sharjah, Dr. Zaki Nusseibeh Cultural Advisor Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Salem Obaid (Voiced by Bijan Danehsmand), Ali Matrooshi, consultant Ajman Museum (Voiced by Frank Key), Dr. Yousef Aydabi of the Dr. Sultan Al-Qasimi Centre for Gulf Studies.
The title for the series, and for episode 1, come from an interview with Salem Obaid who was once a junior broadcaster at Ajman’s first homegrown radio station, the earliest locally run station in the Emirates. Salem Obaid refers to a reported hadith, predicting a future “When the near becomes far, and the iron speaks.”
Episode 3 of the monthly series, “The Far Becomes Near”, examining the social and political history of early radio in the United Arab Emirates. Today’s episode – “The Confidential Briefing”