Episode Thirty One: Indie 88


Yesterday I spent most of the day recuperating from a lingering ear infection/head cold. Virtute, ever the nurturer stayed mostly by my side to hang out and keep me company. Realizing that it must not be a lot of fun for him to just lie around while I sniffle and toss around the bed, I decided to flick open my little green radio.  I spun the dial through the stations until I found a moderately acceptable song to land on and dozed off.

I awoke to find Virtute distraught and flustered.  I asked him if he was alright and he responded tersely, “Of course I’m not alright! How could you leave the radio tuned into Indie 88?”  I felt bad. I definitely shared his sadness.  Indie 88 is the corporate radio station that replaced the vibrant and grassroots CKLN, a station I had volunteered with as a programmer for the Word of Mouth News show.   I explained that I simply wanted to find a station that was playing modestly decent music and didn’t even consider what station I had landed on.

Virtute rebuffed my response and in a patient, though evidently annoyed tone began, “Even the name ‘indie” in Indie 88 is an attempt at a theft of the true independent spirit of CKLN.  From Norman Otis Richmond to Queen Nzinga; from OCAP radio to Don Weitz’s memorable voice rattling out ‘stop shocking our mothers!’, CKLN for over three decades was the heart and soul of grassroots community organizing in this city.  It nurtured real independent music like Lal, D’bi Young, and a great number of underground hip hop, punk, reggae, and other musicians.  CKLN explored serious political issues that normally don’t make it onto the airwaves: Indigenous resistance, anti-colonial struggles around the world, sex worker struggles, migrant justice, anti-capitalism.  It’s replacement by the base and empty vapidness of Indie 88 is made worse by the station’s attempt to claim some sort of radical/social justice cred.”

It was hard to argue with Virtute, while I’ve never fully rejected listening to Indie 88 or actively boycotted the station, there are times when I have such a visceral reaction to something the djs are talking about or a song that they are playing that I have to turn the dial or risk getting into a car accident.  Virtute reminded me what it was like that day in 2011 when the CKLN director came into the studio and told Ryan, Yogi, Sheila and I that the station would be going off the air forever in two minutes and we’d have to close it out.  He finished, “I was just a kitten lying on Jenny’s bed listening to your show streaming online when that happened. There was no way for you guys to do the station’s history justice.  But the memory of CKLN lives on in the spirit of independent and interdependent media that continues to blossom in our communities and though it might have stolen the sound dial and laid claims to some of the station’s cred, Indie 88 will never erase the spirit and histories that CKLN planted in Toronto.”

I turned off the radio and threw on a track by Lal, Virtute smiled cuddled up next to me and we healed together.

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