Shortwave Radio is Your Ticket to Adventure

After serving Mounds View, Minnesota’s Ham radio needs for 36 years, Radio City will close its doors. This is considered the end of an era for many Ham radio enthusiasts in the state. For many of these folks, Radio City was the only place outside of online retailers where they could get the equipment they needed to enjoy this unique hobby. The store’s owners, Dan and Maline Fish, plan to enjoy the next adventure in their lives, which is retirement.

I remember my first exposure to Ham radio. It happened back in the mid-1980s, when I was in high school. No, it wasn’t my father who introduced me to this rather unique hobby. (Dad was a technophobe.) I actually was introduced to Ham radio by a group of guys that I hung around with during my junior year of high school. They were the only group of guys still playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1986/1987. As it so happened, a couple of them also were Ham enthusiasts.

To their credit, my friends tried to introduce me to their hobby. While I enjoyed rolling dice and slaying monsters with them, I just couldn’t get into the whole Ham thing. During one of our game nights, they showed me how it all worked. To their credit, they tried everything they could to get me interested in int. My eleventh-grade self, it just seemed like an even nerdier version of CB radio. (Message to my younger self: You were already considered a nerd for playing AD&D!)

Many years later, I saw a documentary that made me rethink my past attitude toward Ham and shortwave radio. The film was called Genghis Blues, and it was a real eye-opener to many things, including the power and reach of shortwave radio. Note: Shortwave radio includes all the ham frequencies (below VHF and UHF), but is broadcast only. Ham radio can transmit and receive, which gives it the power of two-way communications.

Genghis Blues tells the story of Paul Pena, a blues musician best known for writing the song Jet Airliner. (Steve Miller and his band would go on to have much success with this song.) Frankly, I really dig Pena’s grittier, bluesier (Is that a word?) version of the song. It’s a real foot stomper:

Blind from birth, Paul had fallen on hard times by 1999, when this documentary was shot. Through his love of shortwave radio, Paul was exposed to Tuvan throat singing, a unique style of traditional folk singing practiced by the people of Mongolia. When done properly, throat singing has a strange resonance that almost sounds like a frog. High level performers are able to sound like they’re effectively singing two ranges at once. Even if you’re not a fan of world music, you’ll appreciate this truly amazing art form.

Genghis Blues is a heartfelt, touching documentary that tells the story of Paul’s love for Tuvan throat singing of music. Through practice, Paul eventually teaches himself the techniques of this musical artform. The documentary follows the musician as he travels to Mongolia and performs with throat singers in that country. It’s amazing how well his blues style meshes with traditional folk music from the other side of the world:

Full disclosure: I’m a huge music fan. That’s why I dug Genghis Blues so much. This documentary could also appeal to technology buffs because it illustrates the power, reach, and potential of shortwave radio. This allowed Paul to reach across the planet and become exposed to an entirely different culture. His love and respect for that culture definitely comes through in the film, and adds even more depth to his character and the documentary itself.

When my friends tried to introduce me to ham radio more than 30 years ago, I didn’t realize all that implied. Who knows what new and wonderful things I might have discovered had I not been so close-minded? Well, I have plenty of time to make up for it, and working here at Solid Signal has given me another opportunity. We offer a wide variety of shortwave radio devices from C. Crane, Sangean, and other top-selling manufacturers.

While the Ham radio shop in Minnesota is closing its doors, Solid Signal can help you. In addition to our wide variety of shortwave radios, our product experts can answer your questions. They’ll even make a product recommendation that’s best for you if you want one. If you have any questions about shortwave radio, just give us a call at 877.312.4547. We’d love to be your first steps in a listening journey that could take you just about anywhere.