Friday, April 15, 2016

Focus on the South Pacific: Cook Island Montage

The Cook Islands are an island group in the South Pacific located quite close to Tahiti.  The Cook Islands Maori language is quite similar to the native Tahitian language.  But while Tahiti was colonized by France and its inhabitants speak French as well as Tahitian, the Cook Islands were colonized by New Zealand and their inhabitants speak English as well as Cook Islands Maori.  The Cook Islands were given autonomous status in 1965, but they remain very closely associated with New Zealand.
            Last September, my wife Thais and I stopped over in the Cook Islands for a few days on our way back from New Zealand to the United States.  Air New Zealand very conveniently makes a stopover there.  And a very pleasant stopover it was.  The main island of Rarotonga is one of those idyllic South Pacific paradise islands with consistently warm weather, warm people, beautiful tropical vegetation, perfect sandy beaches and turquoise water.  We stayed in a modern thatch-roofed bungalow right on the beach at a place enticingly called the Magic Reef Resort.

            We rented a car and drove all around the island -- which can be done in a few hours -- and I asked some of the local people what their favorite radio station was.  Most of them told me 88 FM, and they mentioned a DJ named George Williams, who goes by G-Dub on the air.  So off I went in search of G-Dub.  I caught up with him at an outdoor cafe in the island’s capital city.
Radio Cook Islands on 630 kHz AM began broadcasting as a government-owned station in the 1970’s using a 5 kilowatt transmitter.  Later, the power was cut in half due to power costs.  Radio Cook Islands also had a shortwave channel for a time - 11760 kHz -- but this has not been on the air since the early 1990’s.  
            The station’s website says that it is heard on AM all over Rarotonga, the main island, as well as the southern Cook Islands.  It says it can be heard in the north Cook Islands on car radios with wires strung between coconut trees.  It’s also streamed live via Internet, so local FM stations on the outer islands can rebroadcast it.  
Radio Cook Islands was privatized in 1996, then went back to the government in 1998.  In 1999, a private company acquired the station and decided to continue its commitment as the national station of the Cook Islands in the absence of a public service broadcaster.  Program content includes news, Cook Islands culture and language, local music and community events.  
            In 2006 it added an FM frequency of 101.1 MHz.  Programming includes some rebroadcasts of Radio New Zealand.

            Matariki FM broadcasts in both Cook Islands Maori and English, but its programming is mostly music from the Cook Islands and Tahiti, with some music from other South Pacific islands.  Matariki FM’s live stream, by the way, can be heard on the Internet at