Le Mix des Cultures


Suite des aventures de la radios HDR, avec des belles photos de la vie de la radio. Toutes les photos en Noir et Blanc ont été prises par Frédéric Favre.



Djilali, Aka Dj Dji... Grand spécialiste du Hip-Hop


Le Grand Moment, un article dans le Time

February 15, 1999 Vol. 153 No. 6
Broadcasting from the Banlieue
A Rouen radio station mirrors its milieu with an eclectic programming mix

As it has in past years, a winter of discontent has settled upon the slum-like housing projects, or banlieues, that surround most of the nation's cities. Once again, scenes of burning cars, defiant rioting youths, and the outrage of fellow residents have become standard fare on the evening news. But as politicians point fingers and argue about ways to address suburban decay, a group of enterprising youths from the projects around the Norman city of Rouen have taken action, offering an example of self-help that may be the best way for the banlieues to survive.


HDR, c'est le mix des cultures,
et l'eldorado des DJ !



Since March, 1998, Radio HDR (for Hauts de Rouen, or Hills of Rouen) has been operating as a local FM station, broadcasting music, interviews, news, commentary and criticism that serves the interests and concerns of the 40,000 residents in the suburban area it covers. Founded by 27-year-old Moise Gomis, with funding from national and local organizations, Radio HDR may be the best outlet these disenfranchised and disillusioned citizens--over 50% of whom are unemployed--have ever had. "The idea is to give people here a place to speak their mind, and hear the news and debate pertinent to life in the banlieue", says Gomis, the son of immigrant parents from Guinea-Bissau and the holder of a degree in journalism. "National and regional media can't do that."

But if listeners expect programming pandering to the sense of abandonment and anger permeating most French projects, they soon learn otherwise. In feisty and flamboyant tough-love editorials delivered during his daily program, Gomis does acknowledge that many of the ills plaguing banlieues have external sources: unemployment, police harassment and a prevailing view of banlieusards as disruptive and prone to crime. But he also maintains that rioting, burning cars and stoning emergency vehicles are ultimately self-defeating. "A little girl died of meningitis here over New Year's because the ambulance turned up hours after the call", Gomis explains from Radio HDR's three-room studio in a housing project youth center. "The driver knew that ambulances can get attacked in the banlieues. Kids with no hope, angry at being shut up here, at times try to punish the symbols of larger society they see. You understand the anger, but that violence is intolerable. It hurts us all in the end." Gomis is also mindful of how news of banlieue violence elsewhere may affect HDR's listeners. "The guys burning cars in Strasbourg and Toulouse are idiots", he says of recent violence. "But, they feel the same anger people here do."



Un aperçu du studio pendant "Situation Critique"


Scolding, however, isn't HDR's primary activity. Sober but hip, it aims to provide examples of how banlieue life is working--the weekly Normandy: Land of Contrasts, for example, tracks the hurdles and triumphs of local immigrants trying to integrate--and showcase banlieue street culture in programs like Don't Get Caught. It also provides activities : young people from the community are welcome to devise projects and programming for the station. "This allows you to work at something you like, and also deal with issues and messages important to people who live here," says Karim, 24, a volunteer who co-hosts a weekly music show. "Even if HDR isn't out to be 'big business,' Moise expects people to be as professional as they can."Gomis also brings on guests--usually residents--whose lives may provide some sort of inspiration or whose views are instructive: the president of Rouen's annual African film festival, for instance, or a banlieue mother explaining the demoralizing effects that property destruction and open drug consumption have on project residents. Cherif Kane oversees HDR's Budding Reporter series, which trains groups of students from the area's troubled grade schools to research, write and produce their own thematic programs. "We teach them to express themselves well, which is really the first part of learning how to be a productive citizen," says Kane, a former Radio France Internationale correspondent. "Our success with local students has led schools from really good areas of Rouen to ask to participate. But we have to remember who all this is for."



Monsieur Sagawa, dans sa célèbre imitation du Schtroumph Grognon...

photo Frédéric Favre


For now, HDR only runs free ads promoting local events and businesses and public service messages. Gomis admits he'd consider selling space to paying advertisers if asked, but insists that "the profit motive in this venture is helping the community, and we're seeing payoffs there."

HDR's appeal may increase considerably in June, when Gomis expects to gain approval for moving his antenna and increasing the potential audience beyond the 400,000 residents of Rouen to other suburbs, both poor and affluent. HDR's banlieue focus might then undermine a cruel irony of French society: while the fashions, music and patois of the banlieues have become standard cool for youth all over the nation, few actually dare venture into the neighborhoods that produced them. If HDR allows city dwellers to start listening to the real sounds of the banlieue, that might be the beginning of the end of the isolation of France's suburbs.



Eddy Muffin, aka Barok, dans la mythique émission du soir... Son chien Titus n'est pas sur la photo...