What are the stories that have gone untold? And what are the stories that cannot be spoken? Starting Sunday, April 15, download or stream weekly episodes of Radio Silence here or listen live Sundays at 5:00PM on PhillyCAM Radio WPPM 106.5 FM. Exploring themes like secrets, shyness, silent letters, censorship, dead air, and peace, Michael Rakowitz builds each episode with recordings from the live cast and a host of other Iraqi refugees and Iraq War veterans from Philadelphia and beyond, along with original music by the Radio Silence Ensemble.
Speechlessness April 15
Our debut episode, devoted to the topic of speechlessness, introduces you to our host Bahjat Abdulwahed, the “Walter Cronkite of Iraq” living as a refugee in Philadelphia. Hear an Iraq War veteran’s story about war crimes witnessed and, until now, unspoken; learn about the Iraqi doctor who refuses to be recorded because he can’t speak directly enough about the atrocities he witnessed.
The Mute April 22
We’ll explore the sounds that have been evacuated from Iraq, musicians muted by their disappeared audiences and bygone origins. Listen to an instrument built from a tree that no longer grows in the Iraqi landscape, and thus creates a sound both alive and dead. Hear stories related to the popular songs “Boos El Wawa” (“Kiss the Boo-boo”) and “Fog el Nakhal” (“Above the Date Palm”).
The Hushed and the Secret April 29
On this episode, an Iraqi activist shares stories about silence as a form of protection in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. We’ll also hear a radio play about Dolphin Man, invented by an Iraqi as a savior of the environment and refugees.
Shyness and Withdrawal May 6
We’ll hear about a soldier’s refusal of tea and how that led him to work toward rediscovering his and Iraq’s humanity, eventually leading him back to Iraq. We’ll also hear about the unlikely love story between our host Bahjat and his wife Hayfaa.
Silent Letters May 13
An Iraqi tells us about the absence of certain sounds in the Arabic language, and a veteran reads letters from her former grade school teacher’s class, sent to her while in combat and never answered. A veteran and an Iraqi refugee meet for the first time at dinner in Philadelphia, only to realize they were once on the same bridge at the same time in Iraq.
The Censored, the Forbidden, the Disappeared May 20
We’ll hear about Iraqi monuments kept hostage by U.S. troops, denying access to the Iraqis to whom they belong. Listen as we trace the stories of artifacts looted from the Iraq Museum, and hear an Iraqi activist sing a song that was censored during Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Stillness, and Still Here. Resilience. Remaining. May 27
Our final episode: Listen to an American combat veteran recall Iraqi samoon bread, which he refers to as white gold. Hear the song of the Iraqi bulbul bird, the first sound ever broadcast on Radio Baghdad, reincarnated in Philadelphia. And listen to Bahjat’s legacy live on in the voice of his daughter Rawnak, broadcasting from Amman, also known as the ancient city of Philadelphia.