by Vincent Kuitenbrouwer

In 1927 the Dutch electronic company Philips in Eindhoven succeeded in broadcasting directly to the Dutch East Indies, with a shortwave radio transmitter. Consequently, it started a radio station that from 1933 onwards provided a daily broadcast to the archipelago: the Philip Broadcasting Company Holland Indies (PHOHI). The station was supported by a powerful lobby group, that was called the empire unity movement and consisted of wealthy colonial entrepreneurs, which argued for closer ties between the Netherlands and the colony in Southeast Asia. In their view, radio could serve as a ‘bridge between those parts of the world and strengthen colonial bonds. This ideological agenda is reflected in the broadcasts of PHOHI, which were mainly meant for Dutch colonial ex-pats to give them a feeling of connection with the ‘motherland’. To achieve this the programmers and announcers of PHOHI played a lot of popular music and also interacted with listeners to create a feeling of a club. This sound clip, of the ‘PHOHI club song’, allows us a peek into this broadcasting strategy. It is a ragtime version of a tune that all schoolchildren in the Netherlands learn, In Holland staat een huis (roughly translated: in Holland stands a house). The altered text refers to the location of the main Philips overseas transmitter near the town Huizen (which is also the plural of the Dutch word for house). The main pun of the song is to seduce people in the Indies to ‘get Huizen in their house’, thus listen to PHOHI. In addition, it refers to PHOHI as ‘jungle radio’ (rimboe radio) highlighting its function to bring modern entertainment to colonials. In this way, Dutch tunes entered the Southeast Asian soundscape.

Photo: Revolving antenna of the PHOHI-PCJ transmitter for shortwave connection to the Dutch East Indies, 1940. Manufacturer Jacques Stevens. Source: Regional Archive Gooi and Vechtstreek, identification number SAGV032.5, item number 4200

You can read more about PHOHI in Vincent’s article “Radio as a Tool of Empire. Intercontinental Broadcasting from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies in the 1920s and 1930s”.