Written in 2019 by Marj Dente with the help from the many friends of ‘Puff’.
Once upon a time in the mystic land of Hanalei, at the Canoe Club Tahiti Fete, a Chili and Rice fundraiser was held on the beach with the salty mist of the ocean and the swaying palms. Everyone was invited including “PUFF”…and the magic began. Over $500 was raised to help start a Community radio station.
The momentum to have a station on Kaua‘i in the late 1980’s, not subject to censorship or control by the underwriters, was the brainstorm of Janet Newman Friend, aka Janet Planet and Princeville resident Sally O’Donnell who had Community radio station experience at KMUN in Astoria, Oregon. Janet had a very popular reggae show on a local AM commercial station, but it came to an end when she encouraged her listeners to join a public protest at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kekaha. The issue was the U.S. Navy’s plan to go forward with President Reagan’s Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative.
With the Sovereignty Movement trying to gain ground over the illegal occupation by the U.S. Military of the Hawaiian Islands, ever since the overthrow of Queen Liliu‘okalani’s reign in 1893, and the illegal annexation into the U.S.A. in 1898, there was an added incentive by Hawaiians, the host culture, to have access to the airwaves to get their message out to the public.
In the land of rainbows, waterfalls and volcanoes, on a small 500 square mile island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, considered to be the ‘Center of the Universe’ by the Ancients, and the farthest away from any inhabited landmass, Janet and Sally realized they had an enormous task ahead of them. Once they researched the legal ramifications, including having to be at least 100 miles from any other Community station, and the permits and costs of the necessary equipment to get a professional station up and running, they started producing dance fundraisers at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei. They also circulated petitions in the community with names of folks wanting to become members and actually started collecting membership fees. They attached flyers to power poles to announce the first formal meeting to gather volunteers. Our Founders knew Kaua‘i needed a radio station that could broadcast the voice of the people without content restrictions.
Several Kanaka Maoli (Aboriginal Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands) families contacted Janet to lend support including Butch, Mikala, and Kawika Kekahu. Butch had always wanted to run his own radio station. He and Uncle Vernon White had dreamed of setting up a station in their car ports in Anahola back in the late 80’s but were challenged by the necessary funds to make it happen. Then one day, at a campaign meeting when Butch ran the first time for Kaua‘i County Council in the early 90’s, Butch met the answer to his dreams….a real feisty lady, namely Janet Planet.
Butch and his ‘ohana, with their overwhelming aloha spirit, gathered several kindred souls who joined them at the first meeting of the Steering Committee in March, 1993 at the Puamana Clubhouse in Princeville. The other folks who attended with them were Janet and Sally, Julie Leong, Van Cummings and Tim Freeley of Pacific Rim Sound Company, Venus, Oracle, Marj Dente, and Roy Richardson. Knowing that there were expenses needing to be paid, Marj made the first cash donation and offered to draw a draft idea for a station logo, which was faxed to Sally that same month.
Soon afterward, a large handful of volunteers, sitting on the floor in a room on the third floor ‘walk up’ of the brand new Asian Pacific Building in Kapa’a (donated by Jack Young), decided to form a non-profit corporation. Needing a name to submit with our many legal papers, it was decided on the recommendation of Butch to call ourselves the Kekahu Foundation, not after his family’s surname, but for the actual meaning of the Kanaka Maoli word: caretaker. We tried to obtain the call letters ‘KLEO’ (the Voice), unfortunately it was already taken. KKCR, Kaua‘i Community Radio is definitely the Caretaker of our Community Voice.
It took more than a year to write the necessary Articles of Incorporation, By Laws of the Foundation and a written statement of purpose, borrowed from Doug Sweet of KMUN. These documents were registered with the Hawaii Secretary of State in April 1994. This would not have happened without the support of many. Marj, had considerable experience writing documents for non-profits and her husband Fred, had commercial radio experience in Los Angles and non-profit community radio experience in Seattle and Everett, Washington. Marj was involved for many years with one of the original Pacifica stations, KPFK in Los Angeles. Janet also enlisted the support of Maui Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Levine to formally write the documents in legalese and to advise us. We all had to learn and acknowledge that the Kanaka Maoli operate on ‘process time’, and the Kanaka Maoli had to recognize the ‘lineal time’ concept that Westerners live by. The original Directors of the Kekahu Foundation were Sally O’Donnell, President; Roy Richardson, Vice President; Fred Dente, Secretary; and Butch Kekahu, Treasurer.
Unfortunately, soon after, Sally had to move off the Island, leaving Janet to take over as President. Using her passion as motivation, she did the research, got many petitions signed and found public money available from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). After a necessary trip to Washington, D.C. with the help of FCC attorney William Cooperman, she returned to Kaua‘i with the information needed to plan out the next steps. Janet was responsible for setting it all in motion.
As many meetings progressed, and the ‘Buzz’ was out on the Coconut Wireless (no email or social media in those days), more folks joined our ‘ohana . They had much to do with early organizing and helping the Steering Committee: Koko Kaneali‘i, Shanti and Gary Lee, Andy Parks, Diane Gardner, Mary McPadden, Vic De Anda and Richard Fernandez with considerable music production experience. Howard Schlossberg, Seratin Garcia, Layne Sanford and Jon and Lorraine Scott, who had experience in the Los Angeles music industry, became involved in 1995.
Janet, with the help of Fred, found Don Mussell, a highly recommended licensed engineer living on mainland U.S.A. Don ventured over to Kaua‘i on many occasions to conduct all the studies and maps necessary to determine where transmitters and translators had to be located in order for our broadcast signal to reach every corner of this very mountainous island. Without Don’s dedication to get and keep us up and running all these years, KKCR would not exist.
In order to obtain all the necessary equipment, with a possible matching fund grant from the CPB, Janet enlisted the support of her friends and neighbors Cindy and husband Glenn Frey of the Eagles. They agreed to donate $1.50 of every ticket sold for their Hell Freezes Over tour performance, of Nov.6,1995, at Aloha Stadium on O‘ahu. Richard Fernandez, with his Los Angeles music connections also helped to obtain the donation with over $38,500 coming from the Eagles, plus private donations from local residents. There were now enough matching funds to push forward with the process to locate a building and purchase the equipment.
About the same time, Julie, keeping her ears open for a possible office and broadcasting studio building, heard from Princeville resident Ken Bernard. He knew that a small cement block building, high on the hill way above the village of Hanalei, (out of the flood zone) and deep in the jungle of Princeville, was going to become available. Since the Kaua‘i Cable Company had been renting it, it came with a sixty foot metal tower, perfect for the needs of KKCR. A rental agreement was made with the owner, Princeville Corporation, and the work to convert the building and grounds to our needs soon began.
After the CPB money was received, a Board of Directors of the Kekahu Foundation replaced the Steering Committee with Janet as President, Julie as Treasurer and adding Richard Fernandez, Vic De Anda, Jeff the Chef Sheppard, and Jon and Lorraine Scott.
In early 1996, an amazing volunteer construction crew was assembled, headed by Richard Harder, Art Rodarte and John Hawthorne. They enlisted their friends who were electricians, carpenters, plumbers, earth movers, roofers and painters. They all volunteered months of professional labor and a huge amount of donated materials to transform a two car garage, attached to the cement block building, into a magical broadcasting studio. They also provided a production studio with music storage within the total square footage, all of which we are still using as of this writing. Our studios are affectionately called ‘The Jungle Shack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
New members who joined the the existing Board were John Hawthorn, Laurie Ho, Chris Kauwe, Char Dyer, Judy Arrigo, Lani Petranek, Michael Van de Veer and Noel Brooks. Fred Dente resigned his position in protest, as he was not yet a permanent resident of Kaua’i, required in the Bylaws.
In early 1997, in spite of many delays, as all the necessary final applications and forms were filed with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in order to get our broadcasting license, the Federal Emergency Alert System (FAS) became aware of our actual location and of severe weather issues. On September 11, 1992, ‘Iniki’, a Category 4 hurricane with sustaining winds of 145 mph and gusts of up to 226 mph, the North Shore community was completely out of range to hear any emergency information on any radio station. That awareness definitely helped us to obtain our license, allowing us to start official broadcasting in September, 1997. Before anyone could be trained with the equipment and to monitor all the signals, Don Mussel, our First Class engineer, played Hawaiian music for many weeks, flushing out any problems.
Our first programmers, and many still with us today as dedicated supporters were include Scott Giarman, Richard Fernandez, Richard Harder, Vic de Anda, Dean and Julian Rogers, Donna Lewis, Noel Brooks, Karlos de Treaux, Ann Tickle West, Terry Brown, Ken Stokes, Puanani Rogers, Antion Meredith, Manulele Clarke, Captain Mike and Chris Kauwe, the first ‘local’ to surf with his pig. Joining in very quickly were Michele Rundgren, Jones, Kevin ‘Swamp Daddy’ Rogers, Willy Judah, Sandy Swift, Cousin Rich, Dove Liddle, Kamran Taleb, Dr. Basko, Aunty Maria, Linda Lester, and Jack (Shaka Keaka) Alex.
Over the years, with the help of Richard Fernandez’s production skills, we have been blessed with the very generous support from fundraising concerts, events and major donations by Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Ledward Kaapana, Mike Ka’awa, Buffy Saint Marie, George Winston, Cedella Marley Booker, Cindy Combs, Kenny Emerson, Reverend Dennis and David Kamakahi, Mike Young, Graham Nash, Tom Petty, Sudden Rush, Makana, and Todd and Michele Rundgren.
On Sunday, November 21, 2004, Fred Dente was responsible for co-producing with Otherworld Media of Whidbey Island, Washington the live, six hour radio broadcast of the 12th Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival, which was produced by Milton Lau at the Radisson Kaua‘i Beach Resort. This was the first ever remote national and worldwide streaming radio broadcast from Kaua‘i, so all the wonderful musicians, volunteers and sponsors felt very proud of that accomplishment. It was a successful, fun and very challenging collaborative media effort, in the true spirit of community radio. This amazing experience paved the way for many future KKCR remote broadcasts, which are now an essential part of the service we provide to our Kaua‘i community.
Honoring our Mission Statement, we begin every day with the beautiful Hawai‘i National Anthem ‘Hawai‘i Pono‘i’. We broadcast 107 hours of live hosted programming each week, which includes 89% music, 7% talk / community affairs and 4% Democracy Now and New Dimensions. Our live programmer DJ’s bring us Hawaiian, classical, jazz, world, hip hop, reggae, rap, blues, rock ‘n roll, country western, surf, Cajun and alternative music. Overnight programming features Hawaiian music.
Legend has it that Kaua‘i, the very independent Island, was the only Hawaiian Island not conquered by King Kamehameha the First. Part of the kuleana of the Kekahu Foundation – KKCR, is to protect the legacy, history and ancient legends, from whence we come. This is our story in a ‘Kukui nut shell’.
Meantime, our friend ‘Puff’ is heard frolicking in our jungle every once in awhile, lifting us up on his enormous tail, helping everyone through all our difficulties along the way.
Written in 2019 by Marj Dente with the help from the many friends of ‘Puff’.