When I first moved to Reunion around 7 years ago, I was quickly introduced to lots of things. Pristine lagoons, Mafate, Rougail Saucisse, traffic jams and another local phenomenon, the radio station Free Dom. Still grappling with my comprehension of the French language at the time, Free Dom was somewhat of a mystery to me.
So when I first tuned in to Freedom and I didn’t understand a whole lot of what was being said, I opted to spend my time at the lagoons, in Mafate, eating Rougail Saucisse and being stuck in traffic jams. Unbeknown to me, the latter was to play an important role in my change of attitude!
I quickly realised that Free Dom was much more than a radio station. It’s so important to the Reunionese population that some callers even state that it’s a lifeline to them.
So what makes this station so popular with the locals? As a foreigner, I guess the most captivating thing about Free Dom is that people can ring for whatever reason they want. And I mean, WHATEVER. There’s literally a segment for everyone from free expression, to traffic information, lost property, late night dating, obituaries, politics, or quite simply – gossip. The New York Times even wrote an article on Free Dom, so enthralled they were when in Reunion for the MH370 discovery.
It’s perfectly OK to ring Free Dom if the tree you recently planted isn’t growing as you think it should, to express your sadness over the death of your favourite singer, if your parrot has flown off and you can’t find him, to tell the other listeners that is raining where you live, and then describe that rain in detail – anything is possible!
A couple of my Free Dom ‘best-of’ moments as a listener include:
– When a woman rang to describe a car accident that she was witnessing and after a few minutes the radio presenter asked if she’d called an ambulance or the police and she quite indignantly said, “no, not yet”.
– A guy who called up one Saturday night looking to start a very serious relationship, not just a fling but something that was to last. Asked when he was available to meet the lucky lady he responded “tonight”.
– When a lady rang in to say that she’d just got off the bus leaving all her shopping behind. A guy listening at home heard her plea and gallantly ran out to stop the very same bus, which happened to be driving past his home.
Like it or not, Free Dom can’t be criticised for the way it pulls the community together. Where else in the world would you think to call the local radio station to find your lost credit card? Even the local authorities are known to suggest calling Free Dom to help solve petty crimes. The station is a testament to the solidarity of the Reunionese people.
For many, free expression does equate to a general sense of freedom. And radio Free Dom has done just that, liberate the local community to help create a very ‘free’ DOM.
pristine – cristallin
to grapple – se battre, lutter
unbeknown – sans que quelqu’un le sache
latter – le dernier
lifeline – lien vital
whatever – n’importe quel
late night dating – chaleur tropicale
obituaries – avis de décès
gossip – la di la fé
enthralled – captivé
parrot – perroquet
to fly off – s’envoler
fling – brève liaison
to last – durer
which happened to be driving past – qui passait justement
plea – appel
to witness – être temoin
petty crimes – petits delits