New KZSC items for your donation!

We just added KZSC stickers and one-of-a-kind handmade KZSC buttons and newly re-issued 88 point 1 tee shirts in all sizes to our website. It’s not too late to grab some of these limited edition items as a thank you for your donation to KZSC.  We’ll put your gift to work, activating our volunteers and listener-sponsored studios to bring you the best local arts, culture, and news from the Monterey Bay!

8 REASONS TO #Give2KZSC

  • KZSC is a student-run, community-based, non-commercial, educational public radio station teaches media making and non-profit management.
  • KZSC airs alternative viewpoints to those found on commercial/mainstream stations. Honesty, balance, and sensitivity fuels our creative and educational endeavors.
  • KZSC strives for completeness in news coverage, conscientiously providing unbiased and fair reporting on all events and topics. We have a newsroom covering the Monterey Bay–made by locals for locals!
  • KZSC provides access in a non-discriminatory, progressive fashion to those traditionally underrepresented in the media, including but not limited to women, cultural, ethnic, and racial minorities, people of various sexual orientations, seniors, youth, children, and the disabled.
  • KZSC is dedicated to serving the public interest, serving as a mouthpiece on air for the community it serves and represents.
  • KZSC does not sell promotional advertising spots or accept payola of any kind. Anything you hear on-air is curated content by our lovely disc-jockeys and fiercely independent, local news editors.
  • KZSC was first known as KRUZ.  Forty-nine years later, KZSC broadcasts at 20,000 watts, reaching 3 million people in Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties!
  • The University of California does not fund KZSC; KZSC receives 32% of our support from student donations; another 32% comes from renting out space on our broadcast tower to other radio stations and cell phone companies; the rest comes from our semiannual on-air fundraiser, local businesses underwriting, and, of course, You! (the listener). (<3)

#Give2KZSC today – or you can call 831-459-4036 to make your donation by phone!

In Praise of Errors: A Case for Radio

Post by DJ MoKat. Image by Tom Palumbo.

Everyone is so scared to make them. Mistakes, I mean. As students in class, we never raise our hands unless we are sure we have the right answer; even then, upon answering we search the faces of our teachers, our classmates for affirmation that we are correct when we speak. The common consensus stands that errors are bad, and so we refrain from making them.

Our pursuit of perfection is a lie that we know well. We have all heard that we are “only human,” and should therefore not expect perfect precision in our endeavors. The very phraseology of this expression attests to the observed inevitability of mistakes.  As it applies to others, and when it is posed as a solely theoretical concept, this idiom is easily accepted and generally upheld. But as it applies to ourselves, we cannot accept that to be human is to be imperfect. We curse ourselves under our breath, flush red with embarrassment when we blunder, rush to immediately correct the wrong that we have committed the moment we discover it. It is another one of those very human paradoxes to know that mistakes are inevitable and yet to seek to eradicate them.

As new deejays, we have a definite fear of mistakes (we can each attest to the onset of heart-palpitations at the mere mention of our first air-check). But there is a case to be made for the benefits of errors. Because of their ubiquity, we find nothing more comforting than the presence of mistakes; they remind us that we are all human, validating our hopes of societal acceptance. Each mistake is a genuine moment of happenstance. In seizing these moments, we make art, enrich our lives, and we evolve. In no other medium is the positive power of the mistake more prevalent than that of the live performance – in our case – live radio.

Miles Davis put it best: “when you hit a wrong note, it’s the next things that make it good or bad.” This statement is remarkable for two reasons. One: a jazz god is admitting that he has experience with mistakes. Two: he does not denounce said mistakes. When listeners conjure up the image of a jazz musician, they see him from atop a pedestal. The term “virtuoso” has fallaciously become associated with flawlessness, much to the detriment of musicians and listeners alike. Although practicing with the intention of achieving perfection is key to virtuosity, true virtuosos come to a point where they realize that mistakes cannot be avoided, and thus must be willingly incorporated into their art. Doing so creates a strength of character and confidence as a musician, and adds a fresh dimension of vivacity to an artist’s music, as unforeseen musical possibilities present themselves. In being able to adapt to a mistake, one conquers the negative connotation associated with error and can then be more free to focus on expression, thereby allowed to make a truer piece of art. If “the emotional reaction is all that matters” as John Coltrane contends, is not an artist then making his work more meaningful by freeing up his attention to focus on the emotional content of his work, as opposed to the aesthetic appeal that many would associate with “perfect” music? Mistakes take on a new meaning when they are seen as an opportunity to create. An incomplete song can finish itself in unpredictable ways, a live performance can take listeners and performers alike down an unexpected path and lead all those present to a wonderful and unanticipated end.

On the surface, many would assume that the appeal of virtuosic genres such as jazz –  or any art-form requiring honed technical skills – would lie said art-form’s faultlessness. Upon closer analysis, quite the opposite is true: we appreciate immensely technical works of art due to the expenditure of energy it takes to make them so near-flawless. Think: would the symmetrical tessellations of the Blue Mosque be so awe-inspiring if not for the knowledge of all the effort the stone mason must have put into his work? When we gaze at the designs, we don’t just see a beautiful motif; we see years of perspiration, careful attention to detail – all that which went into developing expertise. It seems it is only within the context of our errors that we measure our successes. We find work to be exemplary based off the degree to which a work’s creation is steeped in mistakes. Perseverance is beautiful, not perfection.  

That being said, we learn best from mistakes. However, in school, we are rarely ever afforded the time to make mistakes. We realize their happening to our dismay, and then must learn new material. Our brain “alerts us in less than a second of an impending mistake so we don’t make it again.” We police ourselves with much greater efficacy than any instructor ever could, but we need time, repetition, and feedback from our instructors so as to take advantage of our brain’s self-correction system. To be better learners, we must first acknowledge that learning requires error. Furthermore, we must undo the emotional scarring associated with mistakes, so as to allow for better correction of them. When a student “feels stupid” after making a mistake, she generally tries to hide it, to deny its existence; a shortcoming that is enforced from above by the teacher, who does not wish to dwell on mistakes (as their student’s errors might reflect their own inadequacies). Despite the discovery of their students mistakes, teachers immediately move onward with course material,  generally with an ambivalence toward poor scores. To the unconcerned teacher, mistakes represent laziness or lack of intelligence on behalf of the student; a sentiment which is inevitably absorbed into the psyche of students, leading to a negative feedback loop regarding mistakes and lack of improvement.

Although most students and teachers intuit the logic behind the necessity of mistakes (let us recall the ubiquitous use of “we are only human”) and science corroborates this understanding, the sentiment we carry regarding mistakes is just that: sentiment. We feel shame, we don’t think it. Being corrected for our mistakes feels like a personal attack, as though our intelligence is being insulted. However, regardless of how painful it may be at first, we must swallow our pride in order to  learn. Not only do we have to be aware of our mistakes, but we have to be specific about them. “Knowing that answer #3 is wrong doesn’t mean much. Knowing that they didn’t understand mitosis gives them a mandate for getting better.” Knowing that you got something wrong is just the first step; learning how to fix your specific mistakes must follow their identification in order to improve. In letting students know that mistakes are fixable, that learning is a process, one makes success more feasible. We all stand a little straighter knowing that we are capable of success in the face of our inevitable blunders.

As deejays in training, it is important for us to take these last few paragraphs into account. Dead air, flubbing on a PSA or underwriting, clipping, playing the wrong track/entering the wrong track into Spinitron; a whole host of mistakes await us, or have already been committed. And in the live setting that we are throwing ourselves into, it is important that we understand both the inevitability and the power of our mistakes. There is a certain invincibility we have gained in the past few weeks on our mentors’ shows. There was only so much preparation we were allowed. Truthfully, nothing could prepare us in full for our first time on air. However, despite our sweaty palms and racing hearts, we got through our mistakes. Our mentors corrected us when we misstepped, and our breathing eventually slowed as we learned to embrace our mistakes so as to proceed on to becoming better deejays.

Here’s a secret: people listen to us because we mess up. If our listeners wanted perfection and predictability they would listen to Spotify or Pandora. Sixty-three percent of drivers still use traditional AM/FM stations as their main audio source. Why? In a sense, because we are all lonely. Humans crave other humans. It’s why we go to the mall even while we have Amazon at our fingertips. It’s why we go to parties. And it’s why we listen to radio. When a listener hears a deejay on air, they don’t hear a voice, they hear a person. Listeners are not drawn in by perfect enunciation and flawless segues. They are drawn in by a deejay’s humanity. And what is the cornerstone of our humanity? What makes us “only human”? You betcha. Mistakes. And if not overtly mistakes, the possibility of them proves to be enticing enough to both the deejays and the listeners.

As listeners, we love to feel included, as though the deejay is speaking right to us. Although faceless and known only by a pseudonym, radio deejays hold our attention by talking to us conversationally. Errors are abound: twisted tongues, flubbed lines, bad jokes, lost references, nervous laughs, careless sighs. These are inglorious signs of our humanity. This vulnerability is what draws listeners in and keeps them there. From a blunder comes the knowledge that the person on the other side of the transmitter is actually a person. You might be tempted to laugh out loud at their mistakes, and as you do so, you might find it easier to laugh at yourself. To accept their flaws, to see that their mistakes do not bring about the end of the world, – and by extension that yours will not do the same – is a blessing that no algorithm could ever bestow.

Computers make no mistakes. Computer scientists contend that “if you get a wrong answer, it is because you fed in wrong data or set up wrong parameters or calculations.” While this infallibility is comforting, it is not engaging. Computers make no mistakes, but as a result are confined by a strict set of limitations. Because of mankind’s ability to err, we can learn, expand our abilities; mix it up, so to speak. Although an algorithm can predict musical trends with great accuracy, it cannot guess what will make listeners happy. There is no code that provides that level of context; the parameters are not wide enough to accommodate something as abstract as happiness. But deejays can intuit the impact of their actions, and therefore successfully communicate with an audience, giving them the connection they actually desire. Listeners are not tuning in so as to experience an appropriate or logically sequenced playlist. They are listening for songs that make them feel connected, excited.

In order to draw an audience, a deejay must first be enthusiastic about their work. Despite our ardor, if the proper provisions are not taken deejaying can become monotonous and lead to boredom, which compromises the broadcast as a whole. Maintaining energy is key to maintaining an audience. Hence another silver-lining of mistakes: they keep us interesting. A study conducted by students at Emory supports the hypothesis that “‘the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones.’” To see a football player fumble with the ball only to make a spectacular recovery is certainly more entertaining than to see him complete the expected outcome (i.e. to catch the ball). The same applies to radio artists. Both listeners and the deejays themselves find the broadcast enriched by the presence of mistakes. When things go wrong, it is a test of a deejay’s adaptability and prowess to correct their untimely error in a timely manner. The first spike of the adrenaline rush initiated by fear of failure soon fades to the warm glow of self congratulation and perseverance. At no other point will a deejay feel more accomplished than when she has just avoided crisis.

The triumph associated with this moment is dynamic. In the event of dead air, audience members lean in, groping through the static for the voice of the deejay on the other side, anxiously awaiting the reformation of the connection they fear to be lost. But after a brief pause, a bit of “dead air” they are exultant, or in the least relieved at the recommencement of the program. At no other point will they appreciate the voice of the deejay or the power of the songs they play than after a moment of fearing they won’t get to hear them.

Although the FCC does not tolerate the occurrence of mistakes, it makes provisions for them in the event that they occur (disclaimers read after accidental use of profanity, etc). The existence of said provisions attests to the FCC’s uneasy acceptance of the fact that radio deejays are human. The irony that a large bureaucratic organization so removed from the actual production of radio art (being consumed with its regulation) so readily accepts one of the most intimate truths of human production while the individuals that produce the art remain adverse to it is bewildering. It seems in all contexts except those that apply to our own actions, we can forgive mistakes, even celebrate them. As our current adversity to mistakes still stands, we make our jobs more difficult for ourselves by fearing the inevitable, and at times may handicap ourselves from fear of failure. But this failure is temporary. Mistakes do not define our work, but rather force it and us to grow.

The very nature of radio is imperfect. The range of our transmitter fluctuates. The vinyl and CD’s we play music from are prone to scratching and skipping. Equipment must be calibrated, re-calibrated, and tested to ensure that it works. We stutter. Our hands slip. We misspeak. If art is an accurate reflection of our humanity, than our mistakes are but a genuine facet of our  capabilities. We have been taught by prior experience (in school and other social settings) that mistakes are the bane of our existence. But what if they are the crux? Although we have the illusion of control over the airwaves given to us by the impressive presence of the soundboard, there are still variables beyond our control within our medium. And I would argue that those are some of the most exciting elements of radio. To harness the power of the unexpected, and thereby pass it on to others through our artform, we deejays come as close to invincible as any humans can be – but we are forever far from flawless.

 

Concert Review: Noname at the Chapel on 02/18/2017

In the never ending, open seas of modern rap, Fatimah Warner, known better by her stage name, “Noname” is like a glimpse of land or a taste of fresh produce. She is so many things that I, as a hip hop consumer, crave in modern rap: she is lighthearted and fun while taking on important topics, her songs are complex and beautiful, and more importantly she is having the time of her life doing it.

Noname grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, and her roots are very evident in her music. She takes pride in her hometown, and consistently credits the city for her musical inspiration and success. She began as a slam poet, which led her to many open mics around the city, even bringing her to land 3rd place in Chicago’s “Louder than a Bomb” competition. Before long, she began rapping, and in 2013 she was featured on Chance the Rappers “Acid Rap,” with a verse in his song “Lost.” After this, she became visible to the industry’s eye, and over the next few years she was featured on a number of other artists albums such as  Mick Jenkins’ mixtape The Water[s],  Ramaj Eroc’s track “I Love You More“and multiple tracks on Kirk Knight’s album Late Knight Special. She also released a full unofficial mixtape called What the F*ck is a Noname Gypsy on youtube in 2014.  In 2013, with a name change from Noname Gypsy to just Noname, Fatima Warner announced that she was recording her own mixtape, and three years later, in July 2016, her first full mixtape and biggest hit yet, Telefone, was released.  

Her decision to remove “gypsy” from her stage name in 2016 reflects on Noname’s ability to learn and understand her mistakes. For those who may not know, the term “gypsy” is a derogatory term to refer to the Roma people whom have faced an extreme amount of discrimination; being pushed from nation to nation and often denied legal status. The word has been appropriated in the US to mean “carefree” or “traveler,” however to many people across the globe it is still extremely offensive and hurtful. So if you have an instagram bio or forever 21 t-shirt that reads “gypsy soul” or “free spirited gypsy,” it’s time to toss it. Noname was open, understanding and apologetic about her name change, as you can see from this tweet in March:

In November 2016, Noname announced a US tour and by March 2017 half the shows had already sold out. Queen Beats DJ Jinx, along with KZSC staff member and mentee Kaviar were lucky enough to attend her show in San Francisco on February 18th, and have a quick chat with Noname and her incredible opener, Ravyn Lenae, after the show.

While standing in line outside the venue, and waiting in front of the stage for Ravyn Lenae to come out, the excitement and respect was palpable. It felt like every person present was there to witness Noname and her art, not just for a good time. The venue was packed and people were up to typical concert shenanigans, but there was no shoving or hostility; it smelt like soap and flowers. When the DJ backing Ravyn Lenae came out to hype the crowd (with tasteful yet banging throwback jams) people were getting down and dancing together. Not in a “imma do my thing over here as I try to ignore Steven over there groping Sally-May” kind of way, but just sincerely having a good time together. All of this goes to show that Noname has mastered her art and is speaking truths in a way that is immediately recognizable and impossible to disregard. She talks about tragedy and resistance, but is also honest about her experience and insecurities in a way that makes it easy to recognize her humanity.

You don’t have to see Noname in person to know she’s going to give a good live performance. Her vocal style and lyrical personality set her up to be an incredible performer, and as expected, she didn’t disappoint on Saturday evening at the Chapel. Both her and Ravyn Lenae held a kind of on stage presence that is unforgettable; they interacted with the audience in a genuine, sincere way, and it was easy to tell that in that moment, the Chapel stage was exactly where they wanted to be.


Ravyn Lenae made it a point to talk about each of the songs she sang. She emphasized that her intent was communication and gave her words weight. During her set she projected stars and a moon on the ceiling of the Chapel and it fit seamlessly with her bubble-bath low-fi production. She carried herself with an ease that was admirable and soothing. Similarly, Noname had this endearing way of prancing around the stage while the instrumentation was taking over, her big smile and wide eyes not once slipping from her face. She was so clearly living by her own rules and needs, it’s refreshing to see an artist so unconcerned with fitting into the industries expectations and regulations. Her music speaks to her own experiences and feelings, and that’s what makes it so unique.

Once the show finished and the audience was filing out, we decided to hang around for a bit to see if Noname was planning on making an appearance at any point. We introduced ourselves to the security, and they told us they would send the message along that we would love to chat, despite being previously told Noname was not doing any press that night. While we waited in the main bar, we were lucky enough to catch Ravyn Lenae and ask her about her own work and her experience working with Noname, along with the many other artists featured on Telefone.

Lenae, who just like Noname comes from Southside Chicago, was noticeably nonchalant and humble about her impressive success at the young age of 17. When we asked her about working on Telefone, and touring with Noname she explained that it was “all very organic,” going on to note that her and Fatima had been good friends for a while, and working on music together was really just hanging out with a close friend. She said that her part on “Forever” wasn’t even pre written, she just came to the studio and they perfected it together day of recording.

After about ten minutes, Noname came out into the bar and introduced herself to a few fans. We talked to her about KZSC and Queen Beats and what an inspiration she is for the show. She was flattered and happy we were doing our radio show and even though she was clearly exhausted from two back to back concerts, she was more than willing to engage with us (and even take a picture!)

Walking out of The Chapel and  making our way to the Bart that night, it was hard not to feel like we had been imparted with a small piece of Chicago magic. Noname’s Telefone tour swooped through town propelled by respect for craft, words, hip-hop, people, and Chicago. MC Lyte’s utopian view in “If women ran hip-hop” was a reality at Noname’s show, and it was not because she is a female MC, it’s because for that night, she really ran hip hop.

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Queen Beats DJs Jinx and Caviar with Noname

— written by Jinx and Kaviar, for more fun articles about the women of hip hop like us on facebook and tune in every Friday night from 12-2!