"One world, two frequencies" may be the only slogan in local radio that isn't either glib or patently false. In fact, KFAI brings more communities to "community radio" than any other station in Minnesota. Weekly programming includes Hmong pop music, jazz for people who listen to too much jazz, hip-hop freestyling, a chat session in the East African Oromo language, a hardcore punk soiree, and much more. The politics of airing such noncommercial fare is implicit: By showing how listeners and on-air personalities can sidestep advertisers, the station demonstrates the small-D democratic potential of volunteering and organizing, of becoming active rather than passive in the culture. With swelling levels of support, KFAI proves a neglected old point: that "popular" and "commercial" aren't necessarily synonymous. No wonder this institution has become the local soul of what used to be called the counterculture. Listeners may not necessarily agree with all the views expressed on, say, Amy Goodman's nationally syndicated talk show Democracy Now! (whose parent chain, Pacifica Radio, could learn a thing or two from KFAI about nourishing audiences). Perhaps only someone with multiple personalities could like everything on KFAI. Yet as other radio stations bank on the familiar, the discomfort you may feel listening to KFAI is sometimes oddly comforting.


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