Old-school hip-hop. Folk. And tunes from popular video games.
They are not musical genres often played on mainstream radio. But South Florida listeners can tune into student-run stations for these types of alternative music.
Just set your dial onto Florida International University’s WRGP-FM (Radiate) from 7 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday for the Beats from the East show dedicated entirely to old-school hip-hop.
“I don’t really like the newer hip-hop. I like old hip-hop. It has more of a jazz influence. They brought in elements that you don’t see nowadays,” said 21-year-old Joshua Carisma, an FIU senior communications major from Kendall.
His show and others provide listeners a break from the standardized queue on many mainstream radio stations.
“A lot of people listen to us because they like hearing music aside from the same Top 40 songs they hear over and over and over on mainstream radio,” said 21-year-old Savanna Stiff, general manager at University of Miami’s student-run station WVUM-FM (90.5 The Voice). “We like to find and play small bands. A commercial radio station would not give a small band like that a chance.”
While University of Miami’s WVUM and FIU’s WRGP (heard on 88.1, 95.3 and 96.9) broadcast online as well as on FM, Miami Dade College’s MDC Radio is only streamed online. All three stations are nonprofits and do not play commercials but do air public-service announcements from their respective colleges or from the community.
WVUM was established in 1968. While in the beginning it was known as a station where listeners could hear local news and Top 40 songs, it started its underground music phase in the 1980s. Initially, the station’s signal did not reach all areas of the Coral Gables campus, according to its website. Over the years, there were several expansions and recently it underwent a more than $170,000 upgrade, allowing the station to have its signal reach as far south as Florida City and as far north as Fort Lauderdale. The expansion included the purchase of a new transmitter and an antenna, and it was funded largely by university donors. According to estimates provided by campus officials, it will allow students to reach about 1.5 million more listeners.
“It’s nice for students to have a potentially larger audience,” said Professor Paul Driscoll, vice dean of academic affairs at UM’s School of Communication and the station’s advisor.
WRGP at FIU is a younger operation.
Established in 1988, it relies on three towers and translators to help its signal reach different areas in Miami-Dade. For years, students have rented space on the NBC-TV (Channel 6) tower in the south part of the county that allows listeners from the north Keys to Kendall to tune in to the station’s broadcasts at 88.1 FM. Another tower atop the Green Library at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus translates the signal to 95.3 FM, the frequency listeners in the city of Miami tune into for the best signal. In 2008, another tower was built at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus that translates the signal to 96.9 FM in North Miami, North Miami Beach and surrounding areas.
The limited bandwidth on the FM dial makes getting access to a single frequency that covers the entire county difficult.
“The FM frequencies are jumbled, so it is difficult to get your foot in the door,” said Kyle Pineda, general manager of WRGP. “The signal translators and transmitters are starting to be utilized by more and more stations.”