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All About Community Radio

   Posted by: Ricko   in American culture

Wanna listen to something you’ve never heard before? Something fresh, something as likely to make you cringe as make you smile? Fear not, there’s hope yet. Community radio lives. It’s a treasure of unpredictable and ever-changing sounds in our lives, one last bastion in the age of corporate mass media. A place for establishing community identity and promoting local groups and events. It harkens back to a time of free-form playlists, true deejay personalities, programming unbeholden to record sales reports and the Billboard charts. Community radio is still thriving across this country.

Five years away from touring as an independent artist, it warms my heart to see that those who pack their gear and hit the road for weeks or months on end still have airwaves to promote what they offer. Because what they offer is more times than not far more preferable to mainstream radio programming. I always enjoyed doing on-airs to promote shows, and have many fond memories turning up at community radio stations with a guitar or dulcimer to get on the air and talk and sing. More than once, I’d see the deejay doing the interviewing at the show that night. Very often I’d meet one or more people who heard the on-air during drive time to or from work, or listening while working from home. Whatever the promotional perks, visiting a local radio station was always something to look forward to. Why wouldn’t it be? The prospect of meeting cool, progressive-minded people who valued their communities and were genuinely interested in my musical genre was incredibly stimulating and enjoyable at the same time.

I became familiar with Hot Springs while I was still touring- getting booked at Maxine’s Live, a popular venue in the heart of town. Back then, Hot Springs didn’t boast a community radio station.

During my busy touring years I knew that one day I’d want to be behind the mic as a deejay. Once I got settled somewhere it would go from the bucket list to the weekly list of commitments. A few months back I settled on Hot Springs Arkansas after careful consideration of possible settlement locales.  Soon after pulling up the stakes and starting to settle in there, I met Zac Smith, station manager of KUHS Hot Springs. I conveyed to him that one of the tipping points for the Hot Springs move was the fact that it now had a community radio station. Zac co-founded solar-powered KUHS with his wife Cheryl Roorda and Bob Nagy, adding another dimension to embellish a community that is flourishing in arts and culture.

I’m now hosting a show on Fridays 2-4pm called The World At Large. It features music from a different part of the globe each week, at the same time including new releases from brilliant new and old artists in the US who don’t get the airplay on major radio outlets. It’s been a learning experience and a welcome haven every week, a break from routine and responsibility. By the time I go on the air, my playlist has already been arranged and sorted and I can really focus and live in the present. It’s a kind of meditation. In my time slot, I make a point to announce local weekend events and on-air interviews with the organizers, musicians and other creatives around these events.

Community radio plays an important role in a society that is becoming more and more homogenous. It is to the airwaves what the independent organic market, coffee house or restaurant is to the marketplace. That is, an entity which has carved out an identity amongst the blandness of chain stores and food franchises. Surf the dial on the FM band anywhere in the US and what greets your ears will be either overproduced and redundant-sounding contemporary R&B, Christian music industry fluff, or the token Classic Rock featuring the dinosaurs of the past. Your choices on the AM band are exclusively religious gobbledygook, right-wing rants or some combination thereof.

KUHS currently hosts a variety of shows in it’s programming. Many community radio stations across the country have a mix of local and NPR syndication, ours is currently all local. We have some whacky and talk-minded hosts with free-spirited spontaneity to induce multiple belly-laughs. A great Saturday morning jazz show to sip coffee over. Fast forward and trip out to Planet Sounds on a Saturday night. In between is all manner of programming. KUHS is a non-profit entity and as such needs the support of local sponsorship. Many local businesses, such as Red Light Roastery Coffee House have stepped up to support our station. Our staff is all volunteer. There is a strong sense of pride and determination around the station. We recently hosted a Switch Party at the Central Theatre when we went from 97.9 to 102.5 on the dial. The turnout was remarkable for one amazing and fun night. Not long after, the station made a nail-biting foray into live remote broadcasting during the annual Valley of the Vapors music festival here in Hot Springs. All of these events demonstrate that a strong community radio station can help to build a strong community. As our community grows, so will our station as it serves its listeners, sponsors, guests, and visitors from other communities.

It’s nice to feel a part of something as pure and real as community radio. Wherever you live, support your local station. If it doesn’t exist, maybe pitch in and help make it happen. Or live stream ours or any other you may come across on the Internet. You’re likely to hear something untethered to the mainstream, something silly or willy-nilly, something wild and wonderful.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 at 8:28 pm and is filed under American culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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