The charter for KBOO, Portland's left-of-the-dial community radio station, vows to use its frequency to fill needs that other media doesn't, bringing content to underserved groups. Tune in to KBOO anytime and you'll hear that mission in action, but the signal is strongest on Sundays, when DJs from all over the world bring their records to the station.
Niche music genres—klezmer, Persian pop and Tejano among them—are broadcast to sometimes isolated communities, creating a connection between their homeland and their adopted home. WW wanted to meet the people behind the voices to learn about their shows and get recommendations for what every Portlander should be hearing.
One of the longest-running radio programs in Portland,
began some 40 years ago on an AM outlet before moving to KBOO in 1998. Like most of KBOO's Sunday shows, hosts Lucia Galizia and Andrea Scasso offer up both music and community news. The style of music you'll hear depends on who has the mic. "Lucia will play more traditional stuff," Scasso says, "but I keep in touch a lot more with what's going on in the top 20 in Italy." That doesn't mean the listeners are different. "Older listeners know about modern artists," she says. "My mother came here when she was 69 and was a big fan when she started listening to my show because it was the same stuff that was on the radio back home in Italy."
Recommendation: Pop singer Jovanotti's 2011 double album, Ora. "He started off doing some sappy, pretend Beastie Boys style," Scasso says, "but his music now is mostly electronic and very melodic." The latest from Jovanotti, who will be making a rare Northwest appearance at the Aladdin Theater on Aug. 19, also boasts appearances by Amadou & Mariam and Michael Franti.
The Portland Yiddish Hour's original hosts, Jack and Reva Falk, stepped down in 2009 after 30 years on the air. Taking their place is a rotating cast of personalities. As you might expect, having a different DJ each week means a variety of tunes. "One of the things we try to stress is that we all have different interests and come at it from different perspectives," says Barry Lavine, one of the hosts. "Jacob [Rosenblum] is really in love with Israeli pop and a lot of the modern stuff the rest of us aren't tuned into." Lavine, himself a local klezmer musician, skews toward more traditional fare, with a particular bent for the genre's jazzier side. "Jewish music has always been a part of my life," he says. "The show is just another excuse to learn a lot more about the hidden corners of the genre.â
Recommendation: Lavine says every music fan's collection should include In The Fiddler's House, a 1995 release by revered violin player Itzhak Perlman, which finds the Israeli-born musician collaborating with Brave Old World and the Klezmatics. "It features superb musicianship, is well-produced, and is a great sampling of representative tunes from the best klezmer bands," Lavine says.
Yes, the Yiddish and Persian shows run back to back—how's that for peacemaking? As with many of KBOO's longest-running shows, this hour-long program has evolved in 30 years. "A lot of our listeners are the newer generation of Iranian-Americans," says Barry Bahmanyar, one of the show's hosts. "So, a lot of our music now is geared toward them." Between discussions of world events and sports news, Bahmanyar and co-host Davood Fatehi sprinkle in current hits by rap and pop artists like YAS and Ebi.
Recommendation: For all the hosts' love of contemporary Iranian pop, Bahmanyar points to a traditional song as a great entry point for new listeners: "Sarv e Chamaan" by Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Homayoun Shajarian. The song, which translates to "My Evergreen," pulls its lyrics from 14th-century Iranian poet Hafez. Bahmanyar says the aching love song "is about Hafez's tall and slender lover—the evergreen—not wanting to spend time with him, his struggle with lack of attention and not having the chance of spending time with her."
The name of this weekly show—"fierce women"—is good shorthand for what host Elizabeth Perry has tried to focus on since getting her own time slot on KBOO 14 years ago. "There was no women's programming in Spanish here," she says. "We want to give a woman's perspective." Not only does this mean a fine selection of female Tejano and conjunto artists including Elida Reyna and Shelly Lares, but also some heartfelt conversations about issues affecting women and their families. For example, Perry recently invited an expert in real-estate law to hold a series of conversations about home foreclosure.
Recommendation: A mainstay of Mujeres Bravas and the Tejano scene is the music of the late singer Selena, particularly her 1993 live album, Selena Live!."It just shows how much love she generated from her fans, and how much energy she brought to the stage," Perry says. "Even now, so many years later, there's just something about her as an artist that is undeniable.â
1:30-3:30 pm Sunday
The fact that the host of this bilingual show has the same first name as his program is a mere coincidence. But Armando Gonzales is really the perfect person to do as the show's title suggests—build bridges. When he's not on the air, Gonzales is a guidance counselor at Gresham High School and an independent concert promoter. On the air, he connects lively discussions of social issues and quick drop-ins from callers with an energetic mix of Tejano, blues, mariachi and Latin funk. "This is what KBOO does," he says emphatically. "It plays music that nobody else plays! I get calls from New York, Chicago, Texas, Germany, Mexico...all over the world; this music has a big following!"
Recommendation: "I started my show 23 years ago with this one song by the Latin Breed," Gonzales says. "It's called 'Reunion Medley' and it takes the listener through the history of the band. It's bluesy, jazzy, and has some horns and some accordion in the mix. A really upbeat, happy song.â
HEAR: Listen to KBOO at 90.7 FM and kboo.fm.