Los Angeles's AM radio -- a welcome alternative to FM's Radio Ga Ga

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 9, 2012 05:46pm | Post a Comment

Frank Sant'Agata's Remember When We Listened to the Radio

If you're at all like me, when you're in the mood to listen to music, radio is one of the least likely places you turn. There was a time (1983 till around 2000) when the radio was the primary source of my exposure to new music. When I moved to LA in 1999, I flipped around the FM dial stopping whenever I heard something I liked. Before the introduction of Shazam, I had to rely on memorizing snippets of lyrics and then looking them up since it seemed like DJs rarely announced what they were playing. That’s how I discovered B.G.Los DandysDuncan Dhu, Enanitos Verdes, Los Freddys, Juvenile, Lil' Wayne, Mikel Erentxun, Mystikal, Los Prisioneros (among others).

Dating a Vietnamese New Waver, Napster, and Pandora all provided new avenues of exposure and I pretty much gave up on FM radio except for usually music-less public radio. When I've been subjected to FM radio in the past few years, the playlists seem to have somehow been whittled down to approximately four incredibly overplayed "classics" that serve as bumpers between hour-long blocks of commercials -- or pop music meant to make 12-year-old girls feel like 16-year-old princesses (and anyone else nauseated).

On the other hand, listening to LA’s AM radio is like taking a trip around the world -- or something approaching it for people too poor to actually travel anywhere except locally -- and by public transportation. And as one of those in the latter column, I often listen to it ready to Shazam it, post a screen capture from my phone online and ask foreign language majors to hip me to the artist and song in question.


For decades, AM was where most people turned for old time radio programs and music whilst FM was primarily devoted to classical music. AM was home to taste-making rock 'n' roll personalities like Alan Freed, Paul ShermanPeter Tripp, Cousin Brucie, Murray the K, Dr. Jive, Wolfman Jack and Jock, the Ace from Outer Space. FM was comparatively anonymous.

In the 1960s, FM became known as for album oriented rock – whereas AM was dominated by Top 40. In 1978, almost four decades after its introduction, listenership of FM surpassed that of AM. Over the following years, the Top 40 format moved to where the listeners were and AM became primarily associated with right wing talk radio, sports, religious programming and other niche stations. In LA it’s also home to many ethnic minority-owned stations.


I think my first exposure of LA AM radio was being introduced to the Old Time Radio drama, The Whistler, re-runs of which used to be broadcast on an 1070 KNX. They no longer play any OTR. The next two AM stations I spent considerable time listening to were 670 KIRN and 930 KHJ.

فارسی رادیو


The US is home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran and the largest concentration are in Los AngelesKIRN -- Radio Iran began broadcasting in 1999 and, from its HQ in Hollywood's Cahuenga Pass, plays Persian music and news. I don’t understand Farsi but I love a lot of the music and the spoken Farsi is also appealing to my ears. When I had a car, listening to Radio Iran whilst driving through heavily Iranian neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Encino, Tarzana, Tehrangeles, and/or Woodland Hills added an exciting cinematic element to the commute.


LA County’s largest ethnic group is Mexican-American, who make up 36% of the population. This being the case, it’s not surprising that numerous LA radio stations play a wide variety of Spanish-language genres. However, Burbanks 930 KHJLa Ranchera, is LA’s only Ranchera station. There are many LA stations that play related genres like Norteño and Banda and Inglewood’s 98.3/103.9 Recuerdo plays Ranchera, Bolero and Spanish-language oldies but La Ranchera, as the name implies, is the home of Ranchera in LA.



LA is home to the largest Korean population outside of Korea and Korean-speaking Korean-Americans and Hallyu fans are served by three area Korean language stations: Pasadena’s 1230 KYPA – Radio JBC (Joongang Broadcast Company), Koreatown’s 1540 KMPC – Radio Korea, and Hancock Park’s 1650 KFOX – Radio Seoul. Korean is, to me, another particularly mellifluous language and whether it’s music or talk, it makes a nice soundtrack when one is in Koreatown, Little Seoul, Buena Park, Hancock Park, Park Mile, Wilshire Park or other largely Korean-American communities. 1190 KGBN is currently Korean Gospel Broadcasting Network, and broadcasts religious programming. From 2001 - 2011 it operated as KXMX, which was an amazing multicultural station that broadcast programing in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese



Los Angles has a very large Chinese and Taiwanese-American population. LA County’s Monterey Park is famous for being the first city in the US with a Chinese-American (at the time, mostly Taiwanese-American) population. Chinese and Taiwanese make up the largest group of Asian-Americans in Los Angeles (followed closely by Filipinos). Nonetheless, there’s only one exclusively Mandarin station, Pasadena’s 1300 KAZN. Recommended listening for time spent in LA’s Far East Side -- Alhambra, Arcadia (aka Arcasia), Diamond Bar, Monterey Park, East San Gabriel (aka East Chan Gabriel), Hacienda Heights, Rosemead, Rowland Heights (aka Little Taipei), San Gabriel (aka Chan Gabriel), San Marino (aka Chan Marino), Temple City, and Walnut.



Pasadena’s 1430 KMRB serves LA's Cantonese-speaking population -- a population with roots in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau. It provides a nice backdrop to time spent in Chinatown.

Đài phát thanh tiếng Việt


Nearly half of overseas Vietnamese live in the US – especially in Houston, New Orleans, San Jose, and Orange County’s Little Saigon – the oldest, largest and most prominent Vietnamese-American community. Little Saigon’s 1480 KVNR -- Little Saigon Radio broadcasts Vietnamese programing. I sometimes listen with the hope of improving my extremely limited Vietnamese through exposure or osmosis.

So next time you flip your radio all the way four times over without hearing anything but commercials and bemoan the sorry state of FM radio, remember AM radio and be amazed.


Trip to Hawai'i: Part 4

Posted by Job O Brother, August 24, 2011 02:52pm | Post a Comment

The vaguely menacing charm of vintage postcards.

When on vacation, I am a social snob. It breaks down this way: If you are a resident of where I’m vacationing or its surrounding area, I’ll love to talk with you. Whether banal chit-chat, deep, psychological explorations, or wildly unfounded and ignorant political positioning, I love hob-knobbing with a local of Anytown, Planet Earth.

However, if you are a tourist like me, every second I spend in your presence is like chalk being scrapped down my gutted and exposed spine. Ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time? There’s a moment where the hero discovers a reminder of where he comes from, and it shatters the paradise he’s discovered. That’s what another tourist’s face is to me: a shinny penny sucking me into a loveless present where the only escape is death.

“What do I do for a living? Apparently, I suffer fools gladly. And you?”

Make no mistake: I am not proud of this. It doesn’t come from a sense of elitism, rather, a jealous and desperate need for freedom from the burden of self-identification. I am often exhausted being me, and vacationing offers a rare moment where I get to be a different fellow. If I’m constantly having to re-establish myself to others as “a writer from Los Angeles,” etcetera, it won’t matter that I’m fiendishly clever and dashingly handsome – I’ll still be sick of my effing face.

The boyfriend doesn’t have this problem. Though technically an introvert, according to the Keirsey Temperament Scale, he can navigate most any social situation with aplomb. A master at multi-tasking, he’s capable of satisfying endless rounds of small talk by using them as an opportunity to gather useful information and think about what he needs to do at the office the next day. I, on the other hand, am locked into whatever conversation I’m having, heart and soul – so if it’s small talk, I start to suffer from claustrophobia.

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Rakim, EPMD, Lord Finesse, Jazzy Jay, & Cold Crush Brothers Among Those Doing Free Concerts In NYC's Parks This Week

Posted by Billyjam, August 21, 2011 09:57am | Post a Comment
The summer ain't over yet. Still lots good stuff happening in NYC. And sure, New York City in the summer can endure some extreme and unpredictable weather shifts that can unleash some unbearably hot and humid weather or thunderstorms that come out of nowhere, but that's all part of what makes it New York in the summer. Another defining factor is the jaw-dropping amount of amazing & free outdoor cultural events, especially all the music concerts in the parks. Of these there is no shortage of hip-hop free shows by legends of the genre such as the free SummerStage show in Central Park today (Aug 21) featuring Rakim, EPMD, and DJ Funkmaster Flex or the free Digger's Delight park jam on Tuesday evening (Aug 23) in St Nicholas Park up in Harlem with hip-hop icons Lord Finesse, GrandMaster Caz, Jazzy Jay, and Red Alert. Then on Wednesday evening of this week (August 24), there is a free concert by highly-influential and legendary hip-hop act the Cold Crush Brothers who will be downtown Manhattan on the bandshell in the East River Park.

Today's free SummerStage show, which starts at 3pm and goes til about 7pm, should be a goodie since it features Rakim, who many have called the greatest emcee in the history of the genre. It is also the 25th anniversary of Eric B & Rakim’s iconic album, Paid in Full which is considered to be among the top ten greatest hip-hop album of all time. EPMD's debut album, Strictly Business, is another golden-era hip-hop classic that makes many best of lists, as does their follow up Unfinished Business.  Funkmaster Flex will DJ at the start of the day and throughout the afternoon for which it is likely special guests will stop by. Last summer, I caught Public Enemy in the same spot. Earlier this summer, I saw Brazilian rapper Marcelo D2 on the same Central Park stage. Also this summer, I made it to two park jams at Queensbridge Park (another legendary spot in hip-hop's formative years) to see concerts from both N.O.R.E. and Kool Moe Dee. Each was really good, especially Kool Moe Dee. Then two weeks ago, I trekked over to Tappen Park on Staten Island to catch the Sugarhill Gang. While disappointing overall due to the fact that they spent most of their set doing covers of other old school acts, it was worth it to hear them do "Rapper's Delight" and it was free! Like today's Rakim & EPMD show, these were all part of the public funded City Parks Foundation Summerstage Series, which puts on a wide array of shows in the parks of each NYC borough every summer.

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Trip to Hawai'i: Part 3

Posted by Job O Brother, August 8, 2011 01:37pm | Post a Comment

"But, are they organic?"

When I go somewhere, I like to linger for over a week in the same area – as opposed to globe-trotting – because experience has taught me it takes a good while to get one’s bearings. The first week in a new location is what I call the “expensive week”, because you end up spending a lot of money before you learn how to do things like a local. It’s important to plan ahead and be aware of this: no impulse buying for the first week, and remain flexible for meal planning and lounging locations; most importantly of all, ask as many locals in whatever location you are for where they go, what they eat, what they like; it never fails that, without emphasizing your interest in their preferences, you are going to be led to the same few tourist traps all outsiders are, and they'll be an expensive shadow of the real thing.

Here’s some red-flag words: plush, decadent, local-style, distilled, anything served on ‘skewers’. These are buzz-words that may alert you to the fact that you have been caught in a tourist trap. DON’T PANIC! If it’s too late to leave, just keep ordering down to a minimum (you can always eat again afterwards) and for the love of God, don’t buy anything you can wear (especially if the price tag looks ‘home-made’), or purchase anything you can clean/perfume your body with (beware of soap bars cut into irregular shapes!), or condiments that come in a tiny jar, i.e., raw honey with truffle, jasmine sugar pearls, or virgin priestess eyelashes candied in unicorn mustard.

Absolutely not.

Call me crazy, but unless there’s something vaguely suspicious about local sellers, I don’t buy. Yes, you read that right. If it’s jarred food, I need to think there’s a good chance it was prepared in a kitchen that isn’t up to code. Trinkets, crafts, homemade souvenirs – these should be sold by the person who made them, or their disinterested offspring, and if the maker describes them, they should do so in emotional terms, not technical terms:

“See how this one makes a face like he’s eaten something sour? I love that!” is good.

“It’s constructed with 10 inch wire, so it’s stable. And it’s secured with these brackets here,”  can often be translated as, “I didn’t make these, I took them of out a box shipped from Korea.” What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Well, it means that you yourself could order it from Korea, eliminate the middle-man at a savings to you, and use that savings to support true, local crafts and food. Just saying.

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Trip to Hawai'i: Part 2

Posted by Job O Brother, August 1, 2011 01:28pm | Post a Comment

Waking up on a Hawaiian Island is pretty much the radliest, so I was happy to do it; happier still to begin my first full day on Maui. My brain was brimming with ideas for fun and adventurous activities I could postpone in lieu of doing nothing, but for this I first needed calories I wouldn’t burn.

They don’t make better calories than in Hawaii. It’s all about salty, sweet, and fat, with a side of the freshest, juiciest fruit you’ve ever had. Talk about mixed messages: Here you go, tummy, a meal of simple, raw, nutrient-rich papaya and pineapple. Oh, and also here’s some SPAM fried in noodles with sugar gravy, mayonnaise pork and buttery, buttered butter in butter sauce with butter butter salt butter salted sugar butter. Side of butter. (Salt.)

The boyfriend and I decided to put on some clothing (after repeated, negative breakfast experiences without it) and made our way to the buffet at our hotel. We found a table overlooking the Pacific. Between us and it was a walking trek that many people were using for jogging. How… insensitive. Didn’t they know I was trying to punch as many macadamia nut pancakes down my gullet as possible? And their obnoxious exercise routine was bumming my trip, man – reminding me I was a gross slob with nary a single definable “ab”. But this coconut syrup isn’t going to drink itself, people!

As the boyfriend went out in search of an iced soy latte (you can take the Angelino out of LA, but you can’t LA out of an Angelino), I drank my drip and marveled at the simple beauty of the double-rainbow that stretched from the middle of the turquoise water to the clouds above Kauai. How perfect… how poetic…

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