Get Ready To Dance Because NTS Is Throwing A Massive Party In Aus This Month
2011 was a big year. For Australian music lovers, it was impossible to escape Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ on dance floors across the country. News outlets were igniting over the Gillard government’s carbon tax passing through parliament and we couldn’t get enough of pairing a skull printed scarf with almost every outfit.
However across the sea, over 15,000 kilometres away, a DIY radio project was forming in London. A station that, despite being half way across the world, would soon capture the hearts of Australian listeners and foster a global community fused together by an adoration of music.
NTS is a global music platform and leading voice in alternative culture. Tuning into the station can have you listening to anything from expansive ambient, to UK drill, to singeli. It’s a place where you can discover the furthest reaches of what your music taste is, and then push that expansion a little further. TLDR: whatever music you’re into, NTS has it in hearty proportions.
Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, the Creative Director of the station, says that NTS has evolved beyond being just an online radio station — and for many listeners, it has become part of a lifestyle. “If you’re someone who’s open-minded enough to be into the plethora of genres that NTS presents and you genuinely really love music, then it kind of comes hand in hand with a certain approach,” she tells Junkee.
And she’s right. The music presented on NTS spans genres, styles, borders and time. It champions new genres developing in cities all over the world and presents the musical archive as a tool to help us make sense of our current context rather than something we just use to sample.
Thorlu-Bangura says that holding onto a sense of locality is pivotal to the ethos of NTS. The authenticity of music programming shines through on the station as often as the sounds being broadcast are coming from that physical space and are anchored in specific communities.
“I think obviously with the internet it’s nice to have no borders online and to be able to share music, but I think it’s also important that stuff doesn’t get homogenised and that you actually get to reflect the windows into different spaces all over the world,” Thorlu-Bangura says.
“That’s something that NTS has been tapping into, taking hyper-local scenes and presenting them internationally.”
Micheal Kucyk AKA Noise In My Head AKA the mastermind behind record label Efficient Space is the longest running Australian presenter on NTS. Noise In My Head started off as a cult program on community radio station 3RRR, and then shifted across to NTS. The program went from broadcasting on a local radio show in Naarm, to being presented to a global community. This is what NTS is all about.
Noise In My Head was archived in 2018, and Kucyk now broadcasts irregularly under Efficient Space, taking to the mic whenever he says he feels the urgency.
Kucyk says that for him, NTS is all about presenting diversity: be it identities, music cultures, different countries or continents. He grins with excitement as he reflects on what listeners can access on the platform with a single click.
Some highlights for Kucyk include Theo Parrish playing for hours at his home in Detroit, Habibi Funk’s program and The Early Bird Show that he describes as “the breakfast show that I’ve always wanted to hear, but no one’s ever been game enough to deliver”.
“It’s crazy when you think [about] the residents [that host] specialist shows,” Kucyk says. “The pool [of talent] the station has is insane. Matt Groening’s done a show, Aphex Twin, Ortega, Boards of Canada, Björk. I don’t think there’s any station like it”.
Radio is a personal medium and most of the time it’s just you and the presenter, with many kilometres and airwaves between you. Radio provides comfort and connection, particularly in times of isolation and this was heightened during the pandemic, when there was a massive spike in listeners and financial supporters to NTS.
“It was really important for people who couldn’t gig or tour anymore to be able to come and connect with fans in a different way,” Thorlu-Bangura says. “It just reminded people of the power of radio, not that it ever died, but there’s something different about actually talking to people on air. It has a sentimental touch.”
In a time where we crave connection, everything you hear on the platform is hand selected with care, not by an algorithm. As we see the increasing dominance of AI generated playlists, NTS is refreshingly presenting music curated by incredible guest selectors who bring their passion and expertise to playlists.
Now that it feels like the worst of the pandemic is behind us, NTS is jumping back into organising events and this month marks its launch into Oceania with a stacked line-up for the first Australian show in Naarm.
Australia is NTS’s fifth most popular country in terms of audience split and Naarm is in the top 10 cities in terms of listenership. “I think people are always desperate for NTS events because there is such a sense of community to it,” Thorlu-Bangura says. “We have such a strong fan base who are so engaged with one another, not just with NTS and what it means musically but also with one another.”
The launch of NTS in Naarm will bring this hyper engaged community together to see acts like HTRK, CS + Kreme, YL Hooi. Kucyk himself is also jumping back on the decks as Noise In My Head for the event.
“It’s just amazing seeing how much interest this event has had on the basis of it being presented by NTS,” says Kucyk.
Australia has a rich community radio ecosystem. Stations like FBi Radio, 3RRR and RTRFM are perpetually bolstering music and artists of their respective local scenes. Thorlu-Bangura says that college radio and community stations in the UK were what inspired founder Femi Adeyemi to create NTS back in 2011. “It’s about connectivity and niche audiences actually having a lot of cultural power and being able to shift the tide. A niche audience can then take an artist national or international, with the power of fandom.”
The link between Australia’s rich community radio scene and the origin behind NTS speaks to why the platform has a cult following in Australia. Kucyk says that NTS seems to speak a universal language, and if it was the only music platform left on the planet we could listen to, we’d be alright.
Find tickets to the NTS Naarm launch here.