Ten years ago today, J Dilla celebrated his 32nd birthday by releasing Donuts, an album produced entirely from his hospital bed. Three days later, he died.
He and a few other tragically early losses in the hip-hop world, plus those in our families, inspired the last radio show I hosted. When I was home in California for the holidays, I signed up to sub a Christmas Eve slot on KDVS, and it felt a fitting hour to honor those no longer celebrating and creating.
In this episode, you’ll hear tributes to J Dilla, Nujabes, and Gang Starr, a song for our mother, a song for your father, and more.
This winter I have biked in the rain and through the snow, wiped out in ice, and tasted road salt. It’s the gloomiest time of year, but we have to remember to find small adventures and musical sources of warmth.
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Ten years ago on this night, I walked into a UC Davis lecture hall, and my life changed forever. No, I didn’t find a new favorite author or a new major—nothing that would go on my transcript. I discovered a whole new world of underground music and community media. It was my first KDVS volunteer class.
Over the seven years I DJ’ed, three years I served on staff, and ten years I’ve volunteered (in various capacities, to varying degrees), I learned so much about belonging to and being an active part of a community. KDVS was my home base in college, where I knew there would always be friendly faces, good tunes, and a comfy couch. Even when I visit now, surrounded by much younger DJs, I still feel like this is where I belong—the same feeling I had when I got my first hip-hop lecture and station tour on December 15, 2004.
Since my last love letter to KDVS, I moved across the country for a job that I couldn’t have gotten, wouldn’t have even known about, without the enriching, invigorating, (sometimes enraging) experiences I had in 14 Lower Freeborn Hall.
To celebrate, and to shake off some of the impending winter doldrums, here is my first daytime radio show from the beginning of summer 2006.
A few weeks ago, I was digging around in my external hard drive and found this piece of Microsoft Paint art I made in high school. I had dreamt that the moon flew down from the sky in a U.S. Postal Service package, through my bedroom window, and onto my floor where it started shrinking away. It was so silly and scary, I had to draw it.
Then last week, I was digging around my archive of mixtape playlists and remembered that I made a mix inspired by that dream and the subsequent events of that day. I discovered that, as the school theater’s lighting technician, I had access to the roof—the beginning of an urban exploration obsession. I saw Confessions of a Dangerous Mind with some friends, and we were all overcome by a strange, conflicted emotion at the end that Nick ApRoberts coined “gelabergrief.” I finally admitted to myself that I had a crush on someone new. (Two weeks later, I sealed the deal with a Valentine’s Day candygram.)
As I wrote back then, “It was a cheery ending to a depressing week that I partially blame on watching Donnie Darko for the first time.”
So, here’s what me and my Limewire account were up to on February 1, 2003.
In the winter of 2005, I was a freshman at UC Davis, a new volunteer at KDVS, and a night owl. Because my dorm roommate always went to sleep much earlier than I did, I created a Fortress of Solitude underneath my partially lofted bed, complete with futon, stereo, party lights, and a blanket big enough to hang down from my bed like a curtain and close myself in.
In the middle of one crazy day — wherein I overslept because Rob Roy was playing metal on the radio and it made me so upset that I turned it off and forgot to wake up, almost got hit by a semi truck riding my bike, missed two classes and an oral presentation, and was forced to get a shot for the first time in like 15 years — I bought some blank cassettes and made this mixtape.
This is all the kind of stuff I was listening to at age 18. It was all on the fly, since I wanted to practice sequencing songs for my future radio show. I called it “Analog Oatmeal” referencing something John McCrea from Cake said at a concert: “There are a lot of good things in life, and there are a lot of bad things. And they’re all stirred up into a confusing, oatmeal-like mixture.”
Note: This recreation of the mix is missing “Time Is Now” by The Hi-Fives after Tori Amos, “Real Love” by John Lennon after Ani DiFranco, and “Black Sand Beach” by Mr. T Experience after Green Day because Grooveshark didn’t have them. Sorry! I gave the original away!
Four years ago today I got up at like 5 a.m. and flew to Okinawa, Japan. (I was pretty sure I remembered the date, but I double-checked my Google Calendar, and sure enough I had February 11, 2010, labeled “HOLY SHIT.”)
Our 12-week trip was part vacation with my family, part English-teaching internship with my cousin, and part musical traditions study in an oceanic cultural crossroads. It’s the reason I bought a portable recorder, the place I started recording live music and found sounds. It was the greatest adventure I’ve ever had, and it opened my heart to ethnomusicological research. You can read all about it on our travel/music blog: oki yo!
It took me over a year to synthesize all my recordings, photos and stories into one compilation album, which was my goal all along. After many hours drudging through audio content and getting frustrated at Kinko’s, I had this neat little CD package, an oki yo! time capsule in four chapters: traditional concerts, private performances, adventures, and originals.
Each of these songs has a story on oki yo! if you want to search around or in the liner notes if you want to order the album!
After spending the summer as an intern at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in Washington, D.C., my No. 1 goal for my trip home to California in the fall was to sub a radio show at KDVS. I wanted to share all my Folkways favorites, all the new music I had learned about.
While Folkways is best known for its collection of American folk music (i.e. Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie), I was introduced to it at KDVS as an incredible source for regional folk music from all over the world. In this show I focused mostly on Africa, Asia and South America.
See the KDVS playlist page to follow along!