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By Don Moore

This article was originally published in the March, 1989 issue of FRENDX - The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association.


Ask some DXers what their favorite DX countries are, and you'll get a variety of predictable answers: Peru, Indonesia, Bolivia, China, the USSR, etc. Someplace way down the list Brazil might pop up, but maybe not. Somehow Brazil has just never generated much excitement among North American DXers. Yet, Brazil can be a fascinating country to DX - and it's much easier than many imagine.

Before we look at the radio side of things, though, let's take a look at the country itself. Brazil is huge - the fifth largest country in the world, and larger than the continental USA. Its population of 140,000,000 is probably the the most ethnically diverse to be found. In the nordeste, or Northeastern states such as Ceara, Bahia, and Pernambuco, the population is largely negro or mulatto (mixed black and white ancestry). As one moves south, the descendents of African slaves gradually give way to meztizos - people of mixed European and Indian ancestry.

From Sao Paulo south, the population is mainly of pure European descent. At the same time that millions of Europeans were immigrating to the US, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, millions were also immigrating to southern Brazil. In the south, there are entire towns descended from Germans, Italians, Poles, and Yugoslavs, among others. There are even a half million Japanese in Parana and Sao Paulo states. As would be expected for such a diverse ethnic quilt, Brazilian culture varies from region to region. But regardless of which part of the country one is in, Brazilians share a liking for good music and having a good time.

The Stations

There are few countries in the world with as many shortwave stations as Brazil. The only countries that might have more are Peru and Indonesia. However, a quick look through the WRTH will show that Brazil's stations are generally more powerful. Few Brazilian stations use less than one kilowatt, although many in Peru and Indonesia do. Some Brazilian stations even mirror their country's vast size. For example, Rede Globo, which owns two shortwave Radio Globos, one each in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, also operates the fourth largest TV network in the world.

Historically, shortwave has been necessary in Brazil because of the country's size. In the less populated areas, shortwave is the only way to broadcast to widely scattered villages, ranches and settlements. To the most important stations in the big cities, shortwave is the only way they can obtain truely national coverage.

Shortwave is a part of Brazilian culture. It even finds its way into Brazilian literature, in the works of Brazil's most beloved novelist, Jorge Amado. For example, in his 1975 novel Tieta, when the prodigal daughter made rich in Sao Paulo returns home to her impoverished family in northeastern Brazil, she brings gifts for all - including a fancy shortwave receiver for her brother-in-law. The entire family is amazed at the clarity with which they can hear stations from the major cities of far- off southern Brazil, and even Yugoslavia!

In his 1983 FRENDX article on DXing Brazil, Al Sizer noted that the 1983 World Radio TV Handbook listed 191 frequencies in use in Brazil, with some stations using several frequencies. By 1988, the figure had dropped to 151 frequencies used by 111 stations (out of a total of 1114 stations). Many stations in the more populated coastal states have dropped shortwave frequencies in recent years.

However, that does not mean that shortwave is dying in Brazil. As Brazil's western Amazon basin opens up to settlement, more stations are starting up in that region. Many of them use shortwave - it being the only viable way of communicating over such vast distances. In the Amazon region, 35 of 57 stations use shortwave, and there is plenty of room for expansion. For example, Roraima territory - as big as Illinois - has only one radio station! To our advantage, new Amazon stations will be easier to hear than those of southern Brazil, since the Amazon is the closest part of Brazil to North America.

Most Brazilian SWBC stations are found on the 90 and 60 meter tropical bands. A few use 120 meters, or out-of-band frequencies in the 3400-4200 range. If you hear a station in these bands broadcasting in Portuguese, you almost certainly have Brazil. The exceptions being during times of day when some African stations can be heard in Portuguese. Note that most 60 MB frequencies have two or more Brazilians on them, making hearing an ID essential.

One thing unique about Brazil among tropical countries, is the use of the international broadcast bands by the country's domestic stations. True, most Brazilian shortwave stations use the tropical bands. Yet, there are about 2-3 dozen stations that can be found from 49 meters, all the way up to 16 meters. Their low-powered transmitters - generally around 10 kilowatts - make them hard to hear among the more powerful international broadcast stations, yet given a clear channel they get out quite well. For example, in the winter, when the 25 MB won't propagate from Europe to North America during the evening, usually several 25 MB Brazilians can be heard clearly. As many Brazilian international band stations use frequencies in more than one band, they can sometimes be IDed, so to speak, by hearing them on two parallel frequencies at once.

When the Brazilian stations listed in Passport to World Band Radio or the WRTH are compared to those logged in North American DX club bulletins, it's easy to see that many stations rarely if ever get reported. One might think that these stations are inactive. Yet reports from DXers in South America show that they really are on the air. Why aren't they heard in North America then? Although there are a few Brazilians, especially in the Amazon region, which can be heard nightly, many simply are not "regular stations". Most can only be heard with better reception conditions, unlike closer and regularly received stations in Venezuela, Colombia, and Central America. When you combine that with the facts that not many North American DXers seriously go after the Brazilians, and that the best time to hear Brazil is between 0700-0900 (when most of us would prefer to be sleeping!), it's easy to see why Brazilian stations get missed by North American DXers.

The Language Barrier

If there is anything that Brazilians want you to know about their country, it is that they speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Brazilians get very insulted by geographically ignorant foreigners who think everybody in Latin America speaks Spanish. Still, the two languages are very similar. If you know some Spanish, you can probably pick out a few words of spoken Portuguese. The biggest differance in pronounciation is that Portuguese has some very nasalized vowels and dipthongs.

It is impossible to seriously DX Brazil without a minimal familiarity with Portuguese pronounciation. Afterall, if you're trying to hear an ID from Radiodifusora Jatai, you have to know how Jatai is pronounced - it's not the same as in English. Taking a class at a nearby university would be helpful, but there's a far easier way. Just log your first Brazilian station in English!

DX Clube Paulista Sounds contradictory, right? Not really. Unlike other DX-target tropical band countries, Brazil has an easy to hear international SWBC station, Radio Nacional do Brasilia, that broadcasts in English. This station just happens to be one of the best tools a DXer can have for DXing Brazil. The English broadcasts contain extensive Brazilian news, and other features about the country. Most importantly, though, all Brazilian states, towns, and cities are given their Portuguese pronounciation. Listen to the station several times with a good map of Brazil in front of you. Note how place names such as Ceara, Cuiaba, Paraiba, and Minas Gerais are pronounced. Keep a tape running, and play the names back later for practice. Soon you'll not only know how different Brazilian placenames sound, but you'll develop some ideas of how written Portuguese corresponds to spoken sounds.

While you're listening to Radio Nacional's English broadcasts, you'll learn more than just Portuguese pronounciation. Their features will help you gain an understanding of Brazilian culture, which will be useful in DXing the country. Also, Radio Nacional plays a variety of Brazilian music - essential knowledge for effectively DXing Brazil. It almost seems like someone down there said, "DXers in North America seem to be ignoring us. Let's teach them everything they need to know in order to DX our radio stations." To top it off, Radio Nacional is a fun laid- back station to listen to.


Most Brazilian SW stations are commercial, and simply simulcast their station's AM frequency. The programming is not much different from what you would hear in the US or Canada, except the language is different. Most stations play music of one type or another, with occasional time checks, advertisements, community announcements, or station IDs thrown in. Phone-ins can sometimes be heard, especially from the big city stations. News broadcasts are usually on the hour, sometimes on the half-hour.

DXers complain that Brazilian stations do not seem to ID as frequently as their Spanish-American counterparts. After extensively monitoring Brazilian stations, I think that is true. However, when Brazilians do ID, they more often used long "canned" (pretaped) ID announcements, mentioning the station name, location, call letters, and frequencies. So, if the station name is drowned out in a burst of static, you may be able to transcribe the location, AM frequency, or call letters, so as to ID the station. Most Brazilian stations seem to play a canned ID about once every half-hour, but rarely ID otherwise.

Brazil has a very well developed music industry, and, be it folk music, pop, or rock, most music heard on Brazilian stations is homegrown. In fact, Brazilian pop music is not only popular in Brazil, but it frequently wins international competitions as well. As mentioned above, the best way to become familiar with Brazilian music is through the international broadcasts of Radio Nacional do Brasilia.

Like commercial stations in North America, Brazilian staions also broadcast live play-by-play sports. In Brazil, the most popular sport - it's practically the national religion - is futbol, or soccer. Soccer games are easy to recognize by the "spacy" stadium audio sound and the mile-a-minute speed at which the announcers speak. As the play heats up, the announcers talk faster and faster and faster, until finally a point is scored and, with the crowd cheering in the background, the announcer screams "GOOOOOO (insert about a thousand 'O's here) OOOOOOOOOOOAL!" Some announcers have actually been clocked dragging the word out for over a minute. Even if you don't understand a word (except GOO . . . OAL!), listening to a Brazilian soccer game is a real taste of Brazilian culture. If there is a list of "must hear at least once" things for SWLs and DXers, Brazilian soccer games surely has to be on it.

Unfortunately for DXers, however, Brazilian stations never ID during soccer games - not even at the top of the hour. Even if you can pick out which teams are playing and where they're from, that doesn't help since games are broadcast nationwide, just like sporting events in North America. The only thing to do is enjoy the game, or keep checking the frequency until the game's over.

Not all Brazilian stations are commerical. There are educational and cultural stations too. Most stations with Cultura in their names are owned by state or municipal governments, while most with Educadora or Educacao are run by the Catholic church. Additionally, the national government runs a chain of Radio Nacional stations in the principal towns of the Amazon basin. The programming on all of these is going to be somewhat different than that of the commercial stations - no or few ads, more talk, etc. They are roughly equivalent with Canada's CBC and NPR in the US.

There are also a number of Brazilian stations named either Radio Clube de . . . or Radio Sociedade . . .. These are among Brazil's oldest stations. Most started out in the 1920s, when only a very few wealthy Brazilians owned receivers. In many cities, clubs were formed which supported nonprofit radio stations through contributions from the members By the 1930s, however, more Brazilians owned radio recievers, and commercial radio stations came on the air. Gradually the radio clube and radio sociedade stations switched to private commercial ownership.

There are two Brazilian radio programs of special interest to the DXer: A Voz do Brasil and Projecto Minerva. The first of these came on the air in the 1930s, when the government of Getulio Vargas needed an effective way to fight his political opponents. Recognizing the power of radio, his government started A Voz do Brasil. The hour-long program is still around today, and by law all stations must relay it, Monday to Friday, at 7pm (2200 UTC). A more recent addition to the lineup, Projecto Minerva is produced by the Ministry of Education. All stations must relay this program from 8:00-8:30 pm (2300-2330 UTC), Monday to Friday.

Actually there is some doubt among DXers if all Brazilian stations really do relay these programs, Still, in the Venezuelan DX bulletin The Radio News, Brazilian DXer Samuel Cassio Martins recently confirmed that the law remains in place. Samuel pointed out that during the programs, there are no commericals, and the only station ID is at 2300 UTC, during the brief break between the programs. Note that when Brazil is on summertime (during the North American winter), both programs are one hour earlier by UTC, than the times listed above.

When to Hear Brazil

Because Brazil is farther to the east, and hence in an earlier time zone, than the rest of Latin America, Brazilians sign-off and sign back on earlier than other Latin American stations. Most Brazilians sign-off between 0200-0300 UTC, but they begin signing on at 0700, and most are back on by 0800. Similarly, Brazilians start to fade-in, and fade-out, earlier too. In Eastern North America, those in the 49 MB and below begin to fade in around 2200 UTC in the winter, and somewhat earlier in the summer. In the winter they begin to fade out around 0900. Remember, however, that Brazil is a huge country - there's a lot of differance in sunrise and sunset times between Natal, on the northeastern bulge, and Rio Branco in western Acre state. There is even a time zone differance between eastern and western Brazil. Overall, mornings are better than evenings for DXing Brazil, assuming you can drag yourself out of bed!

The key to hearing stations in the 31 MB and above is picking a time when the big European stations aren't there to drown them out. Thirty-one meters is especially good around 0900-1000, although there is QRM from Asia at that time. Twenty-five meters, on the otherhand, is generally better on winter evenings.

Reporting to the Brazilians

Generally speaking, QSLing the Brazilians is just like QSLing the rest of Latin America - except the reception reports must be in Portuguese. Unless you happen to speak good Portuguese, the best way to write reports is with a copy of Gerry Dexter's Portuguese Language Lab. If you speak good Spanish, you might try getting a Portuguese dictionary with verb conjugations to make your own sentences. Although Portuguese grammar is more complex than Spanish, there is enough similarity that you will be understood by simply plugging Portuguese words into Spanish grammar rules. I recommend this more for supplementing your report, not writing the entire report.

Since few DXers seriously go after them, it's difficult to say how well Brazilians verify. Indications, however, are that Brazilians may be among the better verifiers in Latin America, if only because they receive fewer reports, and therefore the reports are more interesting to them. This assumes that you send a good Portugues report, and include mint stamps or a SASE (not IRCs!), and some goodies such as local postcards, pictures of your shack or your family, etc.

When you receive a Brazilian QSL, be sure to do your part to help the rest of us verify the station - send them a thank-you note. Too many Latin American stations have stopped verifying because they never received thank-yous, and thought that DXers don't really appreciate QSLs. More on why thank-yous should be sent, as well as appropriate Spanish and Portuguese sentences, can be found in The Thank You Lab in Fine Tuning's DXer's Guide To Latin America, 1989 edition. The booklet contains a number of other features of interest to Latin American DXers as well.

Becoming a Pro

It's difficult to really become a pro at DXing any corner of the world without putting effort into learning more about the language and culture of that area. That holds true for Brazil. If you want to know more of the language, and taking a class is not possible, there are cassette courses available. You might want to check your local library before you buy one, however. While you're at the library, take a look at the books they have on Brazil. A good feel for the various regions and cities can be had by reading a travel guide. The South American Handbook has an excellant section on Brazil. For a picture of Brazil's move west to the Amazon basin, a recent issue of National Geographic had an interesting article on Rondonia.

The biggest factor in becoming a pro, however, is experience. As you spend time listening to and logging Brazilian stations, you'll gradually learn more, and eventually you'll become a pro without even knowing it!



Sizer, Al. Brazil. FRENDX, October, 1983.

The Radio News. Volume 1, No. 6.

Oliveira, Omar Souki. Brazil. In International Handbook of Broadcasting Systems, edited by Philip T. Rosen. 1988.

Bonavita Federico, Maria Elvira. Historia da Comunicacao Radio TV no Brasil.

This article is copyright 1989 by Don Moore.


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