Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

I don’t see any chance for my type of programming on any commercial stations in Portland.... There’s only one black-owned radio station west of the Mississippi.... The kind of programming I do would not be allowed because you can’t tell the truth and please sponsors. Commercial radio is designed for one thing, to make money, and country music is what makes money in this market.... I actually got some action from KKSN, but I turned them down, because I know what would happen: they’d have me on for six months, and then they’d say, “Well, gee, your ratings aren’t high enough, why don’t you play a little more rock?” And I’d say no, and wind up on the street without a radio show. The only way I won’t have a show on KBOO is if I’m incarcerated. I’m very responsible for popular black music being on the air at KBOO. When KQIV went off the air, I got their most popular DJ and stuck him in the middle of my show for an hour and a half every Saturday playing nothing but popular black music. And the station just raised hell, saying, “You can’t do that, the music’s terrible, etc.” But black music’s not going to hurt anyone, and I told them, “I’m putting it on my show until you give this kind of music a time slot.” And it finally got two hours, which JW Friday later expanded to four. Of course I direct my show to the black community—who else is? If the few blacks on the air don’t do that, then anything having to do with the black community that should be on would not make it.... There are 29 radio stations in town, but you’ve only got 32 hours for black people.... They disregard the existence of blacks!.... Remember Martin Luther King Day? If we hadn’t done that, do you think KEX or KGW would have? So that’s why I do my show. And I never have a week when I don’t want to do it. I have an obligation to let people know that things aren’t as they’ve been portrayed to be. I could give you examples of how the industry in every instance has come up with a white dude who is basically a good enough copy of black music to prevent blacks from making the money off it........ Lester Young, they come up with Stan Getz. Charlie Parker—Art Pepper. J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding.. .. And they do it over and over and over again. I don’t consider myself on a mission, but these guys go out of their way to create these guys who make all the money while the black artists don’t get any. I can give you a hundred examples in popular black music.... They had this Wayne Cochran who used to imitate the James Brown Show, he even had his hair like James Brown except it was blonde. All these guys wore capes and danced and played exactly like James Brown, even did his tunes. They had him on Ed Sullivan; James never made it. Some people say I shouldn’t play the same cuts every week, but there are just some tunes that I can’t go on the air without playing. In radio, one phone call is supposed to represent seven people, so when I get 15 or 20 calls for a record, then I figure I’m supposed to be playing it. I get 20 calls for “Go Away Little Boy” by Marlena Shaw every week.... But let’s get down to basics. I never hear anybody raise any question about a whole pile of white people traipsing up to Seattle to hear Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” every year, over and over again. Let’s turn on KGW and I’ll give you two bucks for every time they don’t play Blondie! Those people replay stuff every two or three hours, but nobody reacts to that! KBOO people have come to me and said, “We’re an alternative radio station, why do you keep playing that over and over?” And my answer is, “I feel like that’s my alternative; if you can find it anyplace else in town, then I’ll stop playing it.” The KBOO administration does a lot of things that make it very uncomfortable for black people to be there. I’ve never seen it fail yet that a broadcasting institution doesn’t fuck with you if you’re black—if you’re good and popular. See, I’ve been through all the wars. I’ve almost been put in jail.... I’ve been accused of theft.... People tried to frame me .... You’d be surprised to know some of the shit white people have done to try to get me off the air.... I’m amazed that it continues to go on, but I expect it to always happen. I’ll burn out one day and stop doing the show.. .but that’ll probably be 20 or 30 years from now. Pablo Innis M ■ ■ M HEN YOU LOOK at I me, the first thing I you see is a black ■ man and a West I Indian. All right? Now, forget about I all that. And look at me as a person.... On my shows I tend to talk in certain spaces of the songs, inserting just a small rap. It’s purely a Jamaican style, to not just say, “Alright, how you doing? Are you having a good time?” We interject some words of wisdom pertaining to the particular song or the particular time.... So there’s a constant flow of messages. Reggae music is like that. The style of the reggae DJ is to get involved with his music. You will rarely see a reggae DJ playing his music while sitting down. You’ve got to be on the move because it’s that rhythm.... You find people wanting to tell the truth, and let’s say they don’t have access to a free press.... So the people start to sing! And this is what happened with the evolution of reggae music.... All it takes is one man to start a cry, you know. And when the rest of the people hear that man’s cry, they’ll say, “Well, hey, this man is telling the truth.” And they start a cry and you can’t stop it. Because it’s a form of judgment that comes right down on the leaders of a country when the people start a cry. . . . When I was growing, I was in the heart of the whole thing, and it came at the right time in my life.... Ska is the original reggae sound. Before Ska the popular music in Jamaica was R&B and rock from the States, rock of the ’50s. I was six, seven years old when that was coming out. You see, radio was the main form of mass communication.... In fact, you didn’t even have to have a transistor radio, because on every comer there is music, for miles and miles along the street, just sheer music from end to end. And the “Street Chart” is always Number One, because every corner you travel they’re playing the same tune. You can’t get away from it. That’s how the message keeps traveling and traveling. But in some ways it’s like black music here: you have songs that carry a message, but how many people listen to it? How many people really do listen to the music? But the DJ can help to reinforce the message. With reggae, that was how the awareness started growing. But there are people who were born in Jamaica and lived their whole lives there who don’t know anything about Jamaican culture. When I speak about the music, I address myself to all the people. But it is with this in mind: this is a black man’s music. It is something I’d like to present to you, but it’s got to be presented my way .... The music is definitely my conviction. But I don’t go around telling people that this is it for them, you see. That is what I think people should not do-.. . . There is common ground between the black West Indians in the USA and the American blacks, but the difference is that the black West Indians will easily recognize the black Americans’ culture, but for the black Americans to recognize the West Indians’ culture has been very hard. American blacks were the last set of people to become attracted to reggae.... But it has changed now. When I started the show in November of 1978, ten percent of my audience was black; now it’s between 25 and 40 When I speak about the music9 I address myself to all the people. But it is with this in mind: this is a blackman's music. percent. I used sounds like “Groovin’ ” by the Rascals remade in a reggae beat to pull their attention, because they’re hearing sounds they can relate to. And pretty soon they can relate to the beat. And in relating to the beat you start relating to West Indians.... Some black Americans are using calypso and reggae sounds now, and that is because of the common culture. Regardless of where we come from, we have the same color skin, we have a common culture. And that is the key for black people to get along: pan-Africanism. I remember when I was a youth, I used to look at a Rastafarian in a very negative way because I was a clean- cut high school kid. I didn’t really become fully aware of my Jamaican Times and Places Art Alexander “Ebony Nights” George Page “Jazz Rap” Art Alexander ‘‘Ebony Nights” Pablo Innis “Roots Rock Reggae” Art Alexander ‘‘^bony Nights” designer print cover. $115. Other sizes available. We also feature English cotton flannel sheets, rice paper shades and tatami mats. Northwest Futon Co. Unique Oriental Gifts and Furnishings 3159 Southeast Belmont, Portland. Oregon 97214 503-238-0936 Hours: 11 to 6, Mon.-Wed.; 11 to 7, Thurs.; 11 to 6, Fri.; 11 to 5, Sat. [ - 20%'OFF 1 with this ad offer good thru July & August heritage until after I left Jamaica. While I was in New York, I started really listening and seeing what Jamaica was like from the outside, after I’d experienced it from the inside.... I don’t feel out of touch with Jamaica. I create a certain atmosphere that keeps me in touch. I don’t have to go to Jamaica to be in touch with Jamaica; I don’t have to go to Africa to feel Africa.... You can’t always be in the Caribbean, but there will always be someone to bring a little of the Caribbean to you. Peace and Love is still manifest within man, even though you don’t hear much talk about it anymore. Now everybody wants to beat the other man down. Armageddon is at hand, Armageddon is at hand. But we’ll survive. With love. That’s the key to man’s survival. Love. It’s a feeling everyone can carry.... And the sound is going to spread, the message will live on. Guaranteed. As long as there’s a Rastaman around, that message will travel. Friday Saturday Saturday Sunday Sunday 10-Midnite 2-6 p.m. 7-Midnite 6-8 p.m. 8-Midnite KOAP-FM KBOO-FM KOAP-FM KBOO-FM KOAP-FM Clinton St. Quarterly 37