Rock-'n'-roll radio makes the scene

By Sergey Chernov

Pop and rock music radio landed on an unsuspecting St Petersburg in the early 1990s.

Suddenly shops, cafes, and taxis were buzzing with the sounds of DJs and their pop music, whose sound quality was noticeably better than the pirate tapes played on cheap tape recorders during communist times. But the novelty soon wore off and now radio music has become an integral part of the city's soundscape.

The pioneering Radio station Baltica (FM 104.8), which in its early days held out the promise of being a serious city station, has drifted into the faceless kitsch of Western and Russian pop music. What keeps the station afloat is its topical programs devoted to particular music styles. Among them is the classic rock-'n'-roll program "Old Suitcase" hosted by Dan Gutsenko, a singer with the band "Swinging Jive Sweets" (Sunday, 2pm-3pm), and "Beat" (Friday, 2pm-2:30pm) by Paris-based Alexis Ipatovtsev, who gravitates mostly towards the British indie-rock scene and interviews acts from "Pulp" to Elvis Costello.

If you're looking for more radical sounds, tune in to the "747" show. Banished to the small hours on Saturday morning (1am) this one-hour program covers diverse music, including avant-garde jazz, hardcore punk and industrial.

The latest phenomenon is Radio Katyusha (FM 101.4), the station which has become favorite among the local rock musicians and many rock fans. Katyusha's shows feature bands like Ulitsy and Happy Birthday, and some former underground music journalists. The station would be even better without its DJs' confused patter and irritatingly familiar form of address, and somewhat out of place daily astrological forecasts by notorious Pavel Globa. But in its finer moments it demonstrates how good a radio station can be when its personnel are not bound by commercial restrictions.