UbuntuFM's Ikenna Okeh linked up with David Owen Rama, Canada's John Peel. Dave is consultant to Canada's JUNO Awards, writer for several music magazines, a self-declared 'schizophonic', and host and producer of the LoveCast show which is broadcasted on UbuntuFM Radio International. Get ready for an interesting read!
Thank you Dave for this interview opportunity and for allowing us to pose a few questions. You are a writer, a journalist, a broadcaster, an artist, DJ, a curator, and a musicologist.
How do you manage to be all of these in one package?
These are just a variety of areas where I love to spend my time. All of these aspects of myself are connected to one another and all revolve around art and music. So they are very much like different facets of my personality, each having a strong connection to my deep love for music.
I’m a little curious; did you set out being them all? What is the actual story?
From the time I was very young, my family helped connect me to various aspects of artistic expression; music, dance, film, photography, fine art, and other forms of creative interpretation. More than anything else, I was drawn to art and artists without any specific bias. The less mainstream a musician or a filmmaker was, the more I was drawn to them.
I have always inhabited the margins of culture. I'm both a cultural nomad and a cultural explorer. I don't have the type of ego that requires me to adopt a tribe to be a part of. Instead, I travel from one musical tribe to another like different families residing on the borders of a long musical path. I don't belong to one tribe, but I am welcomed by them all when I arrive in their midst.
My voracious attitude toward music started at a very young age, and I was always open to new sounds coming from different schools of expression. I am still like that, always seeking out new artists and new approaches to sound. So, because of what I refer to as my 'schizophonic' nature I was very attracted to radio, especially the more experimental and none mainstream radio stations I could find when I was young, which were very rare, and even more rare today.
When I was 18 years old I managed to make a connection with a very alternative radio station close to where I lived. Over the years I have helped establish two community radio stations, one in Toronto, and one on Canada's west coast. But even after 40 years in radio I still dream of making a living as a broadcaster. That would be a sweet dream, but Canadian commercial radio is the most stagnant uninspired radio there is, and people with my broad musical appreciation and knowledge don't get those jobs.
I see The Lovecast as my own effort at infecting the world with my personal positive musical virus. I just keep putting it out there hoping I can make the world a more beautiful place by sharing as much incredible music as I can with the people of the planet.
Musicology, DJing, curating, broadcasting, and journalism are all branches of the same river.
So, about The Lovecast radio show for which you are widely known, what is the inspiration behind it?
I began helping a new community radio station establish itself on Vancouver Island back in spring 2001. I was very excited to have an opportunity to get back on the radio after having moved from Toronto to Vancouver and then switching things up and going completely rural when I relocated from Vancouver to a small island in the Salish Sea between the west coast of Canada and Vancouver Island. After spending about 18 months involved in administrating this new station, CHLY FM, I then moved into the welcome responsibility of hosting and producing my own show.
The Lovecast first went to air in November 2002 on Saturdays from 4 pm to 7 pm (Pacific Time) from the studios of CHLY 101.7 FM, and it has remained in that time slot for the past 15 years. I'm known to my friends as a deep-thinking person with a dry sense of humor and a generous heart. I'm fully aware of the troubles and hypocrisies in this world of which I am a citizen.
I can speak on hot topics anytime and usually do. I do not do small talk. But I also recognize the need to also acknowledge that we humans are biologically wired to fixate on the negative, as this is a strong survival mechanism that serves to help us navigate treacherous waters and the dangers of life.
Yet, with The Lovecast I decided I wanted to celebrate all the good things in the world while still drawing attention to methods and movements and ways of thinking that could serve us better for the future. Ultimately The Lovecast is a weekly broad spectrum celebration of music. I self describe myself as 'Schizophonic', which is a clever and amusing way of saying that I work with numerous musical identities. I say identities because the majority of people out there tend to attach their identity to a specific genre of music and then adopt the culture associated with that music to fill out their personality. I do the opposite. I am nomadic. I travel far and wide through numerous musical tribes. That is my true nature.
On The Lovecast, the music spans from traditional folk music through to different forms of electronic music and everything in between from as many cultures that I can access music from. The only criteria that I have to connect with the sound. As I also tend to interview musicians quite regularly on the show, this can also dictate the sound of the show. If I'm interviewing a rockabilly band then the show might lean more toward blues, hillbilly, folk, surf, rhythm n' blues, and other styles that complement the style of music created by my interview subjects. If my guest is an electronic music creator, a dub reggae producer, an African guitarist, or a First Nations songwriter, their presence on a particular show will influence the general tone of the program's musical selection. It will still be broad-spectrum, but the presence of the guest on a specific show will definitely help set a mood. Which I see is a good thing and helps keep each individual show always fresh.
The Lovecast is for the true music lover.
The Lovecast show is to be syndicated on UbuntuFM International. What are our listeners to expect?
Listeners of The Lovecast can expect to hear three hours of uplifting sets of broad-spectrum musical programming that explores a myriad of sonic avenues that traverse the entire planet. The Lovecast is for the true music lover. The kind of listener that embraces an exciting musical journey that hopefully will shine a spotlight on the never-ending river of incredible musical offerings that are constantly flowing. The Lovecast also features interviews with local, national, and sometimes international talent all for the love of music, because music is Dave O Rama's favorite drug. There are also annual features on local music festivals and the occasional tribute to a phenomenal artist.
Does The Lovecast show champion any causes, or does it solely intend to entertain?
For me everything is political and music is one of the best messengers. Nothing about what I do translates as mindless entertainment, but on The Lovecast the music is where the message is mostly found. The show also features a lot of guests who bring their political concerns to the air, and we support positive initiatives that are presented through artistic culture and creative expression. We've even done features on political musical icons like Fela Kuti, so there's always a message in the mix.
Our African audience, in particular, boasts quite an appetite for great artistic content from different parts of the world; the U.S, the UK, the Caribbean, and of course PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ from South Korea. In recent times, not much has reached the African audience from Canada. So, can you give us a heads-up on what the Canadian flavor of music feels like?
Canada considers itself to be a multicultural country where it embraces people from all over the world and celebrates our diversity. That's in a perfect world, and of course, as with everywhere in the world Canada is still very Eurocentric and has a dark history of ethnic warfare and genocide against its First Nations people.
The beauty of multiculturalism is very apparent in our major Canadian cities, but when I moved to a small rural community on the western edge of Canada, where there are no treaties with the indigenous peoples of the area, I witnessed a far more narrow view of art and music with a big emphasis on corporate cultural appropriation. So, I felt it was the perfect location to launch my sonic Lovecast schizophonic broadcast virus from.
The Lovecast is broad-spectrum, and that spectrum is fully international in scope.
Because it is community radio, I put a lot of emphasis on western Canadian artists, as well as Canadian and international artists touring western Canada. Also, Canada is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world and so there is an incredible diversity of musical expression and cross-cultural hybrids. In fact, in Canada, we have broadcast laws that require Canadian radio stations to play 35% to 40% Canadian content (CanCon). This is because we are located next to the most culturally dominant country on the entire planet, while we only have a tenth of the population, so if we did not secure ways to promote our own artists the U.S.A would completely dominate our media culture, which it pretty much does at this point.
The CanCon laws and recording arts grants greatly help Canadian artists receive the exposure they need in order to get noticed in such an American-influenced market. The Lovecast is broad-spectrum, so audiences can count on an incredible diversity of amazing sounds from thousands of talented Canadian artists working in dozens of genres.
The main thing I ask forgiveness for from my audience is my tendency to struggle with names that are outside of my own ethnic culture. I am so very open to playing music from all over the world, which makes me very vulnerable to mispronouncing the names of artists.
I ask my UbuntuFM listeners forgiveness for this in advance.
A lot has been coming out from Africa in recent times. Do you think they are getting any acceptance in Canada, like say, in the U.S?
I love African music and would so much love to visit and tour the African continent.
I am a consultant for the Canadian JUNO Awards, which is the Canadian version of The Grammy's. One of the committees that I sit on oversees the World Music category. There is so much amazing music made by Canadians from so many different cultures and African Music is a big part of that. Many of our most well-attended festivals feature loads of African touring artists and Canadian producers and the Canadian government regularly book African artists to perform at many of their free cultural events. But the sad truth is the media is dominated by corporate interests that relentlessly push sanitized sugary pop music.
If you are an African artist who wants more attention in Canada then my advice to you would be to research outsider broadcasters and journalists like myself, agents, and promoters who regularly focus on international "world music" and African artists. Festivals like Toronto's Afrofest and Montreal's Mundial Festival. Also, make sure you put broadcasters like me on your media list to receive high-quality downloads of your music to play and review. Also, send your music to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). especially the french CBC radio, because they play more of a broad spectrum of musical genres and much more African music than CBC English radio, unfortunately.
I am very open to hearing from artists from all around the world.
Will you be welcoming new foreign arts for features on your show or any others that are sure to come? And how will they reach out to you?
I am very open to hearing from artists from all around the world. When you write to me please include biomaterial about yourself or your band or record label. Include contact information, any touring information, and please provide me with music downloads that are of a certain quality, MP3 320, FLAC, or WAV files.
For artists who want to connect to the LoveCast
Artists who want to connect with me can either email me at [email protected] or by traditional mail at Dave O Rama 1782 El Verano Dr. Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada V0R 1X6
You also are a writer. Apart from Margaret Atwood’s, there appear to be no other literary works of modern Canadian origin reaching the thirsty African audience. Could that be solely attributed to distribution or the nature of the local publishing industry?
Canada has produced thousands of great writers and we are very proud of them. From Alice Munro to Yan Martel, Mordecai Richler to Malcolm Gladwell, Rohinton Mistry, Lawrence Hill, Robertson Davies, Michael Ondaatje, and so many others. If you are interested in Canadian authors write to their publishers, order their books online, listen to Canada Reads on CBC Radio Canada, and check out pencanada.ca
Thank you, Dave. It has been a pleasant one with you. We are very excited about having The Lovecast show on UbuntuFM Radio International.
Thank you so much Ikenna for your interest in me and The Lovecast.
I very much appreciate you taking the time to ask me all of these great questions.
I'm looking forward to hearing how The Lovecast is received by your listeners on UbuntuFM.
Dave O Rama is a writer, broadcaster, journalist, artist, DJ, curator, cinephile, and musicologist. Dave is passionate about art, culture, music, film, media, travel, food, festivals, social justice, community, stewardship, and the health of this incredible planet we call Earth. Dave is the host and producer of The Lovecast, a weekly radio program presenting a positive broad-spectrum focus on music exploration.