The tale of radio is a wonderful saga, a means humans use to share news, sports, music and information by way of an invention whose very purpose is to disregard the confines of its particular space. The tale of radio is the story of communicating into communities, and culture developing along those transmissions. At its most essential, radio is the start of a conversation.

Radio’s calling card has been both its breadth and brink in its ability to reach far and near, evoking cultural narratives within the handfuls of connection it’s had a knack for creating.

Radio is a major influence on sharing and shaping local music and culture. Freq recently spoke with several of the people involved in making radio happen in two cities, in two formats: long-time community FM radio station CJSW 90.9 in Calgary, and internet station Radar Radio, which has made big waves in a short time, broadcasting the latest from London, England’s contemporary underground.

Electronic music and its genres have been influenced by radio, particularly in its alternative forms—pirate, independent, internet. And of course, what would independent radio be without the development of electronic music? If broadcasters have the freedom and desire, radio can beam out the culture of a community.

Kendra Scanlon, long-time CJSW host and DJ (aka Soothsayr), former Community Development coordinator at the station and curator of CJSW anthology We Make Radio: 30 Something Years of CJSW 90.9 FM, asserts “community radio stands as a unique medium because it reaches people you may never expect to reach.” Securing an FM license in 1985 changed the scope, course and history of the station.

With 19 out of over 100 total shows currently dedicated to broadcasting electronic music on CJSW, listeners looking for electronic content have no shortage of programs to tune into.

Kendra speaks to the reciprocal nature of a supportive arts and music community. “It’s a positive feedback loop. […] CJSW is people who make radio. Simple as that, really. The complexity and depth of the radio we make is a representation of the community. That is powerful.”

She contends her vast musical library is comprised of a lot of local and Canadian tunes and that “receiving tracks that are made in Calgary is a treasure I cherish deeply.

I think that the music that is being created in this city is a direct reflection of the discontent for the conservative chokehold we all know and often accept.”

As the voice of one of the longest running electronic music residencies in Canada, Marisha aka The Lotus Queen has been an essential messenger and ambassador for drum n bass through the airwaves on CJSW for nearly twenty years with her Friday night show “Remote Emissions”. She’s been called ‘not just a radio personality or DJ, but a culture maker’ and undoubtedly, her show has reached and influenced countless listeners.

It’s a pretty amazing feeling to have been on the air for people’s teen years, children growing up, shitty night jobs, etc. When someone tells me I was the one who introduced them to drum n bass, it’s a huge honour. I remember hearing drum n bass on CJSW from Side Show Sid and the Cheeba Cheeba Kid and feeling so excited and in awe,” she relays, also crediting The Radiant St-8 Boys, and DNA (DJ Double D) with her introduction to raves and electronic music.

Kendra and Marisha both address the intimacy of the listener’s very personal connection with radio across spaces where radio can live—in the home, in the car, in the tub; wherever your headphones take you.

Radio is both extroverted, reaching out to so many, and highly introspective, allowing people to apply the music to their own personal narrative, becoming their own personal soundtrack. Yet we are all part of this collective experience. That is something very special,” Marisha says.

In my opinion, radio is the most underground rave there is,” Kendra explains, speaking to the subversive potential of radio to create inclusive spaces. “There is space given to artists without hesitation. […] We make sure that electronic music has a place to live that isn’t based on money or notoriety.”

When Ollie Ashley started online station Radar Radio, he was looking to create a youth-oriented space that pushed creativity, challenged the old guard and opened such spaces for the newest and potentially unknown talent.

Ollie launched Radar Radio at 24 years old, at exactly 8 pm on October 31, 2014. Having worked at Rinse FM, a London-based community station described as London’s biggest pirate radio station (until it was given a community FM broadcasting license in 2010), and NTS, an online radio station and media platform also based in London, Ollie was no stranger to working at stations with a mandate for transmitting the freshest, most eclectic and most experimental sounds of the UK underground.

When I get on a video chat with Ollie in London, he is in the post-glow of the celebration of the station’s third birthday party.It’s been a pretty crazy three years. It’s gotten so much bigger than I thought it was, to be honest with you, […] I really I feel like it’s become an important part of London now.”

With names like P Montana, Amy Becker, AJ Tracy and Kenny All Star coming through, hosting shows, and hanging out, encouraging and nurturing emerging talent is what the station values the most.

With Radar, young people really support us, and really back us and really ride for us because we really ride for them; it’s a beneficial relationship. We have four radio studios at Radar, we have people come and practice, we’ve had people learn to DJ here…” Ollie talks about workshops the station has started and the station’s grassroots approach to supporting and teaching new artists.

Ollie’s background at Rinse and NTS inspired elements of what grew into Radar. Fondly recalling working on shows where Four Tet would casually come through to play, and “being the guy to run to the shop for Skepta and Jammer to get Rizlas and beer,” Ollie eventually became Rinse FM’s first full-time evening producer.

He speaks to the nature of the small networks that are built in London’s music scene—meeting Femy Adeyami, founder of NTS and one of the original members of Boiler Room through Floating Points, he moved on to NTS as a studio manager. It was working in internet radio where Ollie saw a lot of the freedom he so champions at Radar. “Midday on a Wednesday, you’re hearing an uncensored grime set.”

As exciting as it was to work with established DJs at a station where the lack of restrictions meant working on their own terms, Ollie noticed he’d have friends asking if he could get them on-air, or there would be young people coming by to do guest mixes trying to get their own shows. It felt like “there wasn’t really a space for them on the schedule.” Ollie wanted Radar to have those spaces.

Josephine Cruz, aka JAYEMKAYEM, knows about finding a spot on Radar this way. Originally from Calgary and recently relocated to Toronto, Josephine is the only Canadian who currently has a show on Radar Radio. While visiting a friend in London last year, she was invited to do a guest spot, which subsequently led to a regular time slot every other Monday, with a separate monthly show. Her show has featured such Calgary DJs as OAKK, C-SIK and Dan Solo.

It’s helped me hone in on the kind of music that I really want to be playing and pushing,” Josephine says, speaking to the benefits radio had had on her skills in curating and programming music.

As a remote host with a pre-recorded show, Josephine’s ability to participate from across the world speaks to the exciting future of digital radio. But she also acknowledges missing the hub of the station itself with a transatlantic broadcast. “One of the amazing things that radio does is build a community. You go to Radar and the building is full of other hosts/DJs, producers, emcees and rappers, or just people hanging out. It’s an amazing place to link up with other like-minded folks.”

We’re probably a station full of brats that don’t like being told what to do,” Ollie laughs. “Our whole slogan is, ‘say what you want, play what you want’,” lamenting that commercial FM radio in the UK is controlled by government board Ofcom, with the government effectually regulating content, similarly to Canada’s CRTC.

That’s why I always thought pirate radio was so exciting because by definition, it was illegal, they didn’t follow any rules and […] the most interesting music out [of] the UK came from places like that—jungle, garage, grime, funky, dubstep, and all the stuff that’s been happening afterwards that no one wants to give a name to yet.”

Ollie explains that the station doesn’t do playlists or tell the DJs what to play. “For us it’s not about picking the music necessarily, it’s about picking the people that pick the music.”

Ollie notes that healthy doses of both risk and competition—but also carving out something for yourself—foster the development of scenes and music. “That’s how a lot of really cool stuff happens. You know, Geeneus started Rinse because he couldn’t get on Kool FM. And he started that with Slimzee and Slimzee knew Major Ace and Wiley. [They] started playing jungle records at 33 instead of 45 and that was kind of like the basis of grime and they started their own genre.” Radio is a hub for artists to push each other, practice and perform—“especially with grime, with the emcees, the radio’s a massive part of that.”

It’s great to be part of the story while it’s still being written.”

Staying relevant throughout history, broadcasting across distances and time, and evolving in its iterations of analogue and digital, radio has indelibly streamed culture along its airwaves. Perhaps the reason for this longevity is because the medium itself galvanizes the endlessness of conversations possible within it.

Catch Kendra Scanlon’s show What Will the Neighbours Think from 10 -11pm every Friday and The Lotus Queen’s Remote Emissions Fridays from 11pm -12am on cjsw.com and join JAYEMKAYEM on Radar Radio, broadcasting every other Monday from noon to 1pm GMT on radarradio.com .

By: Magdalena Gorski

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