KFAI continues tradition of cultural diversity

by Abdel Shakur

There’s a saying at radio station KFAI-FM in Minneapolis: “Don’t like what we’re playing? Just wait an hour.”

With 20 program categories including news, music and community affairs, KFAI – 90.3 on the FM dial – boasts one of the most diverse programming lineups in the nation.

Listeners can hear 14 languages on KFAI, which illustrates the radio station’s commitment to reflecting the community it serves, said KFAI executive director Janis Lane Ewart. “We are for, and of, the community,” she said.

Although Ewart said the station has a focus similar to public radio, she thinks KFAI’s diversity is unique.

Melissa A. Mendelson, KFAI news director, said her department strives to establish a direct connection with the community on which it reports.

“I think that connection definitely brings out stories that mainstream media isn’t paying any attention to,” she said.

The station’s community affairs programming, which features several shows for and about the East African and Hmong communities, helps the news department’s reporting, she said. “We can get a special angle on the news because we have the resources right here in the station.”

Although KFAI volunteer E.G. Bailey does listen to the station for news, he said, he really likes its diverse arts programs.

“You get arts programming from just about every discipline,” he said. “It’s one of the few stations that help promote the spoken word, poetry and literary communities.”

On Saturday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., KFAI features “2 Da Break of Dawn” with Siddiq Sayers and DJ Abilities. The program showcases local and underground hip-hop.

“The stuff I play, you’d be lucky to hear it on any of the other local radio stations in Minneapolis,” Sayers said.

He called KFAI a “microcosm” of Minnesota and said the station’s diversity helps broaden his show’s audience.

Sayers said Minneapolis’ burgeoning hip-hop scene has found a home on KFAI.

“There’s a lot of (hip-hop) talent (in Minnesota). Its nice to represent those cats, even if they aren’t getting a lot of play on major radio stations,” he said.


Abdel Shakur welcomes comments at [email protected]