He may have a radio show in Canada, but Sajjad Mirza is helping his Pakistani listeners feel connected to their home country and culture.
RED 106.7 FM — which stands for Reflecting Ethnic Diversity — is a multicultural radio station aimed at Calgary’s South Asian communities. The station’s launch six years ago marked a milestone in Mirza’s career.
“I’ve been in different radios back in Pakistan, so I was looking for a job over here, but unfortunately I couldn’t find [any] in broadcasting, so that’s why [I was] doing some other jobs,” said Mirza.
“When somebody told me [RED] FM radio is coming up in Calgary, I was so excited.”
Mirza joined the station as the producer and host of Hamara Pakistan, a show designed for Pakistani listeners living in Calgary.
Mirza believes the show’s daily program — which includes broadcasting the Pakistan news and weather — allows listeners to feel close to their homeland.
“Some people ask me, ‘Sajjad, you’re in Calgary and why do you tell the people about the temperature of the different [cities] of Pakistan?’” Mirza explained.
“My answer is, ‘So, this is a connection, right?’”
Abdul Naeem, a Calgary taxi driver who is an avid listener of Hamara Pakistan, feels the same way. Naeem immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 2003, but still maintains closeness with his home country.
“My roots, my background was in Pakistan, so where you spend most of your time, you always remember,” said Naeem. “I always keep in touch with my culture, my country, so I still follow up with all Pakistani news, what’s going on over there.”
Mirza notes his show is especially important to new immigrants experiencing culture shock.
“What they have to face is immigration shock, because the culture is different, languages are different, people are different and the way of living is different,” Mirza explained. "Everything is entirely different as compared to Pakistan or the country where they are belonging to.”
Mirza cites his own experience as a Pakistani immigrant new to Canada, remembering his reaction to a sign in Urdu while grocery shopping.
“You can't imagine how much that sign [made] me happy,” said Mirza. “Literally, there were tears in my eyes.”
Naeem had his own emotional reaction to hearing the broadcasts.
“[Hamara Pakistan] makes me feel happy because every day I see the news of Pakistan, so it […] reminds me of many things from Pakistan,” said Naeem.
Mirza has invited various guests — from specialists informing listeners on how to evaluate their Pakistani degrees to South Asian doctors discussing health issues in Urdu — so they can assist immigrants facing common struggles.
“Sometimes there is immigration issues and the people don't know how to get the insurance card, health card and what they need to do,” Mirza explained. “We… circulate these guests in the different programs from [the] morning to the evening to just help the community out.”
Michael Pedersen, Red 106.7 FM’s station manager, believes the show’s programming is special, as it specifically targets a demographic that does not have much media available.
“If you walk down the street anywhere in Calgary and take a look at the sort of demographics that are represented by all of the Calgarians out and about, you’ll see that we’re very, very diverse,” said Pederson. “Unfortunately, in Calgary, media options don’t reflect that.”
As he continues to host Hamara Pakistan, Mirza recognizes the significance of providing media content for the Pakistani community.
“When they listen to the programs in their native language, that makes [them] relax, right,” said Mirza. “That makes them happy.”
- By Samreen Ahmed