KANW-New Mexico Public Radio Nurtures its Unique Music Beat
New Mexico music stretches back centuries, with roots in 13th century Pueblo music and incorporating Ranchera, Navajo, Country and Western and folk. This unique musical genre, distinguished by its steady, uptempo rhythms, thrives today thanks to a boost from KANW-New Mexico Public Radio.
KANW started serving as a platform for New Mexico Spanish Music in 1973 and currently devotes 95 percent of its playlist to these distinctive Ranchera polka, waltz, and bolero rhythms and vocals. Audiences have been introduced to New Mexico artists such as Al Hurricane, Al Hurricane Jr., Tobias Rene, Gonzalo, Blue Ventures, Sparx, Lorenzo Antonio, and Darren Córdova.
"Without KANW, these artists would not receive airplay in Albuquerque and many other radio stations across the state,” said KANW General Manager Michael Brasher.
Licensed to Albuquerque Public Schools, KANW airs NPR and other public radio programming but devotes most afternoons, evenings and much of Saturdays to New Mexico music. The station’s reach extends from Albuquerque across central New Mexico on KIDS-Grants and KNLK-Santa Rosa, and globally through its online stream.
The KANW Music Store, launched in the 1990s to support the station’s music programming, has now become an important venue to support local artists and record companies as well. “The KANW Music Store provides a financial opportunity for local talent to sustain itself,” Brasher said.
Community engagement is an important component of the music programming and includes live music broadcasts from parish fiestas and community events as well as annual awards presented with the New Mexico Hispano Music Association and New Mexico Latin Music Academy. In 2007, the New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs Cultural Properties Review Committee honored Brasher with the Historic Preservation Award, citing his work at KANW preserving New Mexico culture and community radio.
Key to KANW’s role connecting the community and culture are its Saturday morning dedications, a New Mexico radio tradition. “Hearing family members on the radio recognizing loved ones’ birthdays, first communions, wedding days, anniversaries, and graduations — the important personal events in people’s lives — puts the spotlight of the station clearly on the listener,” Brasher said. “Dedications give a small town, very local feel to the largest broadcast market in the state.”
Local and state elected officials, including members of Congress, even volunteer to answer the dedication line and read dedications on the air.
Importantly, the Saturday show brings in the highest ratings of all KANW's programs, with four or five times as many listeners as the market’s timeslot runner-up. The results reinforce the station’s programmatic lineage that builds upon the traditions and culture that make up the unique history of New Mexico.
“As the only New Mexico Spanish format in the Albuquerque market providing live and local programing, KANW allows listeners to not only enjoy great music but share in life events through the airing of dedications,” said Casey Gallegos, New Mexico Hispano Music Association president.