|Written by by Jacob Croonenberghs,
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The Internet is an excellent place to listen to music, and one of the best ways to listen to music on the web is through Internet radio. Available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, many traditional radio stations are learning that streaming Internet radio brings more listeners to their broadcasts. Some stations, like Thundercloud Radio, are entirely on the net, and are able to bring listeners in from around the globe.
Thundercloud Radio is an Internet radio station that plays Native Hip Hop, Native Soul, Native Rap, Native R&B, and Native Reggae. Featuring Native tracks from Hawaii to Greenland, Thundercloud Radio plays both upcoming and established artists on their show. The station's goal is to someday become the world leader in Native radio.
The radio station's producer, Simon Roberts, has been devoted to creating and facilitating the Native radio station. Roberts, also known by his Disk Jockey handle "Big Bad", has helped design Native social networks such as tlingit.me, and search engines to find Native artists on the Internet.
"I always had this passion for radio," Roberts said, "When I first started in the radio business I started asking myself, 'there's got to be something out there for Native American listeners.' Since then I've been trying to make that happen."
Showing an interest for broadcasting since he was fourteen, all through high school Roberts worked with computers and radios. Despite difficulties and misgivings from his teachers, Roberts persevered.
"When I was fourteen years old the school said I couldn't work on the radio; but I pleaded with the director of the school and I was able to get an extra hour after-hours to broadcast," Roberts said.
During the late '90's, Roberts began to look for Native talent he could someday bring to the radio station he had dreamed of. After many years of working in and around radio, Roberts decided it was time for a new Native station of his own.
Roberts first began work on Thundercloud Radio back in 2009, when he began talks with members of southeast Alaskan Native communities. He found people who shared his vision for bringing Native radio to their communities and the rest of the world.
"I asked, 'how can I get your assistance to make a Native American music radio station?' They said they would help me get my radio station running as long as I help them get their radio station running. It was a fair deal. I started working with them on Tribal Voice Radio after that," Roberts said.
Since then Roberts has worked with various tribes, organizations, and DJ's to further his vision of making Thundercloud Radio the premier Native music station. Instrumental to his efforts is DJ Pamela Rae, one of the voices of Thundercloud Radio for the last two years.
"Pamela built the rapport with the artists; she follows every bit of minutia that comes her way about the people we broadcast on air. Our radio station would not be where it is today without her efforts to collaborate with the talent we bring to the air," Roberts said.
Thundercloud Radio is using more than just Internet radio to broadcast Native music. The Native Hip Hop Social Network, a place for Native artists and fans to meet, chat online and post upcoming events, officially launches September 5th.
"Pamela is adamant about utilizing this new Native Social Network," Roberts said. "With the new N8tiv search engine combined with profile information for our artists, the possibilities for spreading the word about Native artists are out there."
One of the advantages of Internet radio is that listeners need not be from the U.S. "Most of the people who listen in to our radio are oddly enough overseas. Britain, Germany, India, even China. We thought it was really amazing that people in China were listening to us. I mean, the information over there is really restricted. For them to be listening in means something," Roberts said.
There are nearly 175 artists who regularly send in their work to have it played. The songs range in anything from Hip Hop and Pop to Urban Alternative in the Native language of the artist. DJ Pamela and "Big Bad" Roberts are happy to play good music when it comes their way.
"We aren't here for profit. We aren't here for non-profit. We're here for love of the music," Roberts said, "If you're Native American, and it's urban, we encourage you to send it in!"
This year, DJ Pamela Rae will be bowing out of Thundercloud radio to let new DJ's take the stand.
If you are interested in learning more about the Native music scene or want to submit your own work, visit www.thundercloud.me for more information. The radio station can be found at: http://www.thundercloudradio.com.