OHSWEKEN – To commemorate their 25th anniversary, CKRZ kicked off a year of celebratory events and new programming this past Wednesday.
“We actually started in 1987,” admits CKRZ board member Sabrina Saunders, “but those first few years were pirate radio. People were holding the antenna out the window hoping it would work. January 21, 1990 is when we went for full day broadcasting around the clock.”
The Sonics radio station serving Six Nations/New Credit and surrounding communities has plans to get even bigger and better. Throughout the year, the station will be hosting draws, a street dance, new activities and new shows as part of their effort to launch the new CKRZ. In addition, their signal is being boosted, so soon it will reach as far as Kitchener.
“The board has been working on cleaning up policies, cleaning up the building, working with staff to try to get some new targets for what we would like to see in the coming years.”
In an effort to really make CKRZ a community station, they’ve opened up the station to the public so anyone can write a proposal for a weekly radio show.
“We have applications right now with proposals for a radio show that they can host for an hour or two through the week and pick your music, have your theme, do your show,” says Saunders. They also have opening for high school students to do co-op placements to attain credits.
One of the new shows they’re particularly pleased with is “The Playlist.” For an hour, anyone can write in, call or email the request line (email@example.com) with up to 15 songs they want to hear and their name. What follows is a personally curated hour of music, which will always be different depending on whose “playlist” is being aired.
Longtime CKRZ member Wilma Green shared some of her early memories of the station: “I started back in 1989 in the basement of the RCMP barracks with people living upstairs and we were in the basement. We had flooding with all the electrical equipment down there, mice would run across my desk sometimes or see a snake staring down at me. We have come a long way from the basement.”
Award-winning DJ John McNaughton was in attendance, co-host of the twenty-years-long and still running bluegrass show. He and his sister, Angel McNaughton, won the Central Canadian Bluegrass Award for best DJ five times – the maximum amount one can win. They’ve since been placed on the “Honor Roll” for their contributions to bluegrass music.
“I remember making up cassettes, when we had cassettes, to play all night for programming. It’s been wonderful. All the friends, different DJ’s, volunteers, and guests who performed that have come through here has been great,” says McNaughton.
“If anyone is thinking about volunteering here, it’s a great place to start.”
CKRZ mainstay Al Sault spoke about the way CKRZ gives a voice to those who are otherwise ignored.
“Whether we have had award winners or not, all of the musicians we have at Six Nations and New Credit have a talent level that’s comparable to or greater than artists off of our territories. What’s unfortunate is that mainstream radio will not play their music,” says Sault. “That’s why it’s so important that we have a place for our own voice and our own musicians, so they can be heard by the mainstream. It’s a part of who we are.”