Marking 15 Years Of Community Radio

There have been ups and downs, but thanks to many loyal volunteers, KKCR is going strong after 15 years

Kaua‘i community radio station KKCR just celebrated its 15th anniversary.

“It’s a vital part of the community,” said KKCR Kaua‘i Vibrations disc jockey Tracey Schavone during the station’s August birthday bash held at Lydgate Beach Park. “It’s a wonderful community service.”

The North Shore nonprofit is the only “full-powered” community radio station in the state, according to one of its original founders Marj Dente.

Audiences can tune in not only around the island and the North Shore of O‘ahu, but also across the entire globe through the station’s website.

Seven years ago, it was the only station of its kind in the Islands. It was this distinction that lured longtime DJ Lynn McNutt here from Alaska.

“I love the music and the people,” she says about the station that captured her attention many years ago.

KKCR 91.9 FM is still the only station in the United States that broadcasts some of its programs entirely in the Hawaiian language.

“For these and other reasons, I believe that KKCR is probably the most important contribution to the entire Kaua‘i community because of what we strive to do 24/7/365,” Dente says.

In addition, the station provides the only forum on Kaua‘i for under-represented music and voices.

“We reflect the diversity of the local and world community with particular attention paid to preserving, perpetuating and celebrating the Hawaiian culture,” says Dente.

She is especially proud of the station’s eclectic blend of music and the many talk shows and call-in programs offered throughout the week.

Dente, who currently serves as the vice president of the Kekahu Foundation board that governs KKCR, first planted the radio station’s seeds with her husband, Fred, as well as Janet Planet and Butch Kekahu and his ‘ohana in 1993.

After four years of securing grants, writing the bylaws and articles, acquiring licenses and nonprofit status, KKCR officially hit the airwaves.

“To achieve this over these 19 years (total) with an all-volunteer organization except for one full-time station manager and two part-time staff has been a labor of love, passion and commitment that my husband, Fred, and I made to Janet and Butch before they passed away several years ago,” says Dente. “I am constantly amazed at the diversity of talent and expertise on Kaua‘i to attract quality volunteers to keep our broadcasting schedule, staff, the board of directors and our community advisory board intact.”

It is the ongoing dedication of the volunteers that truly keeps the station in tune.

“I’m not thinking of anything returning to me,” says DJ Kamran Taleb, one of the station’s long-time volunteers. “It’s more like, if I have an audience enjoying it, it’s like a cash payment in itself.”

Schavone, another veteran volunteer, agrees.

“I like sharing the air-waves with other people,” she says.

Unfortunately, however, diminished federal funding has recently threatened to take these opportunities away. Underwriting from local businesses and fund drives are what keep the station on the air.

“These are different times financially,” says volunteer McNutt, who has noticed the financial pinch.

“We’re on the edge, somehow making it by a hair,” agrees Taleb, host of Back to the Garden and Oasis.

Without the station there would no longer be a vehicle for people’s authentic voices to be heard, like Andrew Cabebe, host of Himeni O Hawai‘i, who says his show spreads the word of God and prays for the Hawaiian people.

And it would be a pity to lose the only station without prescribed playlists, says McNutt.

Despite economic woes, Dente is still hopeful that the station will continue on for another 15 years.

“And for the future, it is my wish that more ethnic communities and our kupuna find a significant place within our weekly programming,” she says.

Next month KKCR will hold its annual Fall Fund Drive. Visit kkcr.org for more information.

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