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Digital Storytelling During Quarantine

Image of an audio CD

By Robert Nelson

Now what?

Virus. Earthquake. Quarantine.

Usually with six weeks left in a semester, I am juggling podcast recordings and video game audio before finals. Everything is frozen.

Some of you may know that I am a radio deejay on KRCL, the local community station. For more than 30 years, I have hosted Smile Jamaica, their Saturday afternoon Reggae show.

All killer no filler on your station that rules the nation with your ace from outer space!

I was telling Tristin Tabish, KRCL station manager, that a “shelter in place” situation would be ideal for radio listeners. Already we are seeing Netflix and Prime streaming explode.

Many diehard KRCL listeners have a weekend pattern of turning on classic rock for breakfast and listen all the way through to Roots Reggae for dinner. Repeat a similar pattern on Sunday.

If you are shut in and forced inside, KRCL ought to have a captured audience of weekday listening akin to weekend “radio companionship.”

Then I get a call from Program Director, Ebay Jamil Hamilton. KRCL is locking down its studio and offices. Mayday! He asked if I would curate a three hour Smile Jamaica from home.

I gladly complied. I’m stir crazy as everyone else.

So, here is all you need to podcast/broadcast/webcast from home:

  1. Laptop
  2. ITunes
  3. Audacity (free) music editor

I grab a thermos full of coffee and start “curating”.

  • Open up Audacity and add two stereo tracks
  • Import from my ITunes folder off my 6 TB external hard drive
  • Import .mp3’s and blend from Track 1 to Track 2. Allow for fades and segues
  • 6 x 29 minute files (allowing for station identification and public service announcements) = 3 hours of programming
  • Upload folder to Dropbox with playlist
  • Program Director can download shared link
  • Upload into KRCL computer and at 4 PM, for three plus decades, Reggae devotees are comforted to hear my intro of “Greetings”. The same as it ever was.

Everybody is frazzled. Instead of repeating the same old reminders: “social distance, wash your hands, don’t eat bat soup, etc.”, Smile Jamaica listeners have a tether to normality as part of their weekend routine. How about three hours of distraction on a beautiful first Saturday of Spring?


This is where the digital storytelling component comes into play. Community radio allows for stories. The radio audience is different from commercial radio – where music is what fills gaps between advertising.

I always tell stories on Smile Jamaica. Often I will “cut out” the story as an audio clip for my radio blog.

So those listeners wanting to chill with “One Love” or “Irie Up Yourself” or “Burn One Down” were in a for a rude shock. I introduced the show with “Smile Jamaica puts the panic in pandemic!”


First five Reggae jams:

  1. Twinkle Brothers – Stomach Sick­­; Me No You (Twinkle) ’81
  2. The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me; Zenyatta Mondatta (A & M) ’81
  3. Tenor Saw – Fever; Fever (Blue Mountain) ’85
  4. The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket; London Calling (Epic) ’79
  5. Michigan & Smiley – Diseases; Dancehall (Soul Jazz) ’81

In the same way Pete Townshend wrote Tommy. Or Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage rock opera, I was crafting a narrative through a digital medium.

I was driving around a deserted Salt Lake City looking for toilet paper and blasting Smile Jamaica, as a listener, from my car hi fi. When I got home a friend texted me: “After ten fever songs followed by Burial , I thought I had the virus.”

Just like Ira Glass. Digital storytelling in a quarantine. Nearly everyone who hit me up on social media wanted to know the same thing: “What was that song you played at the end of Smile Jamaica?”

Robert Nelson | Head of Media Studios
Creativity & Innovation Services / Media Studios


Smile Jamaica Put the Panic in Pandemic: March 21, 2020 – KRCL 90.9 FM

Twinkle Brothers – Stomach Sick­­; Me No You (Twinkle) ’81
The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me; Zenyatta Mondatta (A & M) ’81
Tenor Saw – Fever; Fever (Blue Mountain) ’85
The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket; London Calling (Epic) ’79
Michigan & Smiley – Diseases; Dancehall (Soul Jazz) ’81
Neville Grant – Sick and Tired; Give Me Power (Trojan) ’73 Fats Domino cover
The Toyes – Green Doctor; Strange Animals (CD Tunes) ’99 4:20 Cannabis Service Announcement
Half Pint – It’s Too Late; Greetings (Power House) ’86 (30 min.)
Horace Andy – Fever; Studio One Classics (Studio One) ’73
The Clash – Clampdown; London Calling (Epic) ’79
David Lindley – Tu-ber-cu-lucas and the Sinus Flu; El Rayo-X (Elektra) ’81
The Pioneers – Reggae Fever; Best of (Trojan) ’77
The Ethiopians – Hong Kong Flu; Original Hot Sounds (Trojan) ’69
The Dynamics – Fever; Version Excursions (Groove Attack) 2007 dubby version of Little Willie John/Peggy Lee
Max Romeo – Horror Zone; Horror Zone (Nu Roots) 20016
Junior Byles – Fever; Curly Locks (Heartbeat) ’74 Little Willie John/Peggy Lee cover
Twinkle Brothers – Constipated People; Me No You (Twinkle) ’81 (1 hr.)
Gregory Isaacs – Night Nurse; Night Nurse (Mango) ’82
Thievery Corporation – Culture of Fear; Culture of Fear (ESL) 2011
Thievery Corporation – Sound the Alarm; Radio Retaliation (ESL) 2014
Yerba Buena – Fever; Island Life (Razor & Tie) 2005 African
Dennis Alcapone – Fever Teaser; My Voice Is Insured For Half a Million Dollars (Trojan) ’72 dj to Horace Andy Fever
Hepcat – Earthquake and Fire; Out of Nowhere (Moon) ’93 LA ska group
Laurel Aitken – Witchdoctor From Amsterdam; It’s Too Late (Unicorn) ’90
Bob Marley & the Wailers – No Water (Can Quench My Thirst)  ’70 (90 min.)
The Maytals – Fever; Sensational Ska Explosion (Jamaican Gold) ’65
Lady Ann – Doctor, Doctor; Bad Gyal Inna Dance (Jump Up)  2008
Jingo – Fever; Afro Rock (Evolver) African
Peter Tosh – Bush Doctor 12″; Bush Doctor (Rolling Stones) ’78 herbtune
The Rolling Stones – Dear Doctor; Beggars Banquet (abkco)  ’68
Peter Tosh – Reggae Myelitis; Wanted Dread and Alive (Rolling Stones) ’81 (2 hrs.)
Dr. Alimantado – Still Alive; Born For a Purpose (Greensleeves) ’76
Susan Cadogan – Fever; Susan Cadogan (Trojan) ’76 cover to Little Willie John/Peggy Lee
Tenor Saw – Ring the Alarm; 200% Dynamite (Soul Jazz)
I Roy – Hospital Trolley; Don’t Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff (Blood & Fire) ’73
Laurel Aitken – It’s Too Late; It’s Too Late (Unicorn) ’71
Barry Brown – Burial; Rich Man Poor Man (Moll-Selekta) Peter Tosh cover
Bob Marley & the Wailers – Redemption Song; Uprising (Tuff Gong) ’80
Third World – Dreamland; 96 Degrees in the Shade (Mango) ’76 Bunny Wailer cover (2 and 1/2 hrs.)
Fela & Afrika 70 – Zombie; Zombie (Polydor) ’76 African
8750 Band – Stayin’ Alive; Run For Cover (Tommy Chong) Telluride reggae cover of Bee Gees
Spiritual Rez – Let’s Go Out With a Bang; Apocalypse Whenever (Spiritual Rez) 2014
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