The Jakarta Post
Trans Merapi Community Radio, situated just 4 kilometers from Mt. Merapi. (JP/Stefanus Ajie)
The faint sound of dangdut koplo songs can be heard from an audio set in a small room belonging to Sukiman Mohtar Pramono in Deles village, situated on the slopes of Mount Merapi, Klaten, Central Java.
The songs are transmitted on the frequency of 107.9 FM to the villages around Deles.
On this particular afternoon, Diemas Retho, a sand miner on Merapi, was the broadcaster.
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While playing a number of songs favored by the villagers, Diemas said hello to his listeners and shared information on his village as well as on Mt. Merapi, which has seen several eruptions lately.
Diemas is one of the dozens of Deles villagers volunteering at Trans Merapi Community Radio. Its main function is to share news on Mt. Merapi, which is situated just 4 kilometers from the village.
Broadcaster Diemas Retho, who also works as sand miner on Merapi. (JP/Stefanus Ajie)
“When there’s no fog, the top of Merapi can be seen clearly from our broadcasting room. That way, we can monitor the mountain’s activities and broadcast them to the nearby residents,” said Diemas.
“Though we can’t help feeling anxious during broadcasting and at the same time watching Merapi erupt, the residents here are well trained in emergency situations,” he added.
Along with monitoring by the volunteers, the radio station also receives information from the Merapi Monitoring Post and the Research and Technological Development for Geological Disaster Agency (BPPTKG). It also collaborates with the Magelang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD).
Sukiman Mohtar Pratomo (in grey shirt) is the head of the radio station. He can be seen here coordinating with the Magelang Disaster Mitigation Agency on the latest updates on Mount Merapi eruptions. (JP/Stefanus Ajie)
Founded in 2001, the radio station is relied on by villagers living around Merapi for news on the mountain.
It began as volunteer organization Mount Merapi Community Club (PASAG Merapi) following Merapi’s eruption in 1994. Realizing how important it was to share credible information quickly with the public during eruptions, residents of Deles village set up a community radio.
Radio was deemed perfect as not all residents were familiar with online media, along with poor internet signals in the area. Radio was seen as a more populist and familiar medium in the residents’ lives as they listened to radios while doing daily activities at home or in their fields.
Trans Merapi Community Radio now reaches around 10,000 listeners across Kemalang, Manisrenggo and Cangkringan districts.
Sukiman Mohtar Pratomo, leader of Trans Merapi Community Radio, said, “The phreatic eruptions that have been going on have alerted the people. But with credible and updated information through the radio station, they can still go on with their lives as usual.”
To further expand the information network, Sukiman and other volunteers have developed the radio station into other formats, including a number of social media accounts.
When there’s no Merapi news to be shared, the radio stays on the air with information on farming, news about villagers’ activities and forms of entertainment.
Sukiman said, “The radio’s function as an entertainment medium is crucial. If it fails to entertain, no one will listen. If no one will listen, how else would news about Merapi reach the public?”
Along with dangdut koplo songs, listeners can enjoy other traditional art forms such as uyon-uyon (traditional Javanese songs), keroncong music (Portuguese-tinged pop), ketoprak (traditional Javanese dramas) and langgam karawitan (Javanese gamelan music). (wng)