On July 1, 1936, the first radio station in Iraq emerged. It is known today by two names, the Republic of Iraq Radio or Baghdad Radio. The radio’s morning broadcasts used to start with a bulbul singing for five minutes. The bulbul’s voice was later adjusted for sound necessities, but the bulbul remained an icon that characterized Baghdad Radio. When the radio was first established, the radio director used to take a monthly payment to feed the bulbul.

The bulbul used at the radio was real at first, but when it died, King Faisal the second granted Baghdad Radio an alternative mechanical bulbul which he had bought from London. This mechanical Bulbul is still working until now. Many Iraqis call him the ‘radio’s poet’ as they thought for years that it was real and not artificial.

Andy Sennitt comments: I have always maintained that you’re never too old to learn, and it seems that for donkey’s years the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) description of Radio Baghdad’s interval signal was inaccurate. That’s a bit embarrassing, given that I was the editor from 1988-97. The text, which never varied, said “soft chirps of mechanical nightingale”. But now I discover that the bird was actually a different species, the bulbul. It was one of the most distinctive interval signals on the air, and I had no idea that there was originally a live bird.

July 5th, 2011 - 11:29 UTC
by A.Sennitt