The positive vibrations championed by Bob Marley are not exactly what’s driving the increase in reggae airtime on local airwaves.
A few weeks ago, 91X brought back Brunch with Bob and Friends. The 10 a.m.-to-noon Sunday show is hosted and produced by Tommy Hough, just as it was when it first aired on FM-94/9 (2000–2010). It still focuses on the catalog of reggae godfather Bob Marley.
Not to let 91X get an inch of rasta ratings redemption, alt-rock competitor FM-94/9 decided to counter-program with its own reggae show in the same two-hour time slot, hosted by longtime reggae impresario Carlos (Torres) Culture.
San Diego radio has historically supported reggae. Makeda Dread hosted a Sunday-night reggae show on 91X from 1983 to 2008. But local mainstream radio has ignored reggae specialty shows for seven years. Now there are two. Airing at the same time.
Torres makes it clear he’s not part of any radio station F-U ploy. “I’m not anyone’s pawn,” he says. “I’m not doing this as a part of anyone’s agenda. I’m doing it because I like the music. I don’t care what the other station is doing.”
Torres has been involved in reggae radio going back to 1984 at Ohio State Radio/WOSR and then at a station in Boston’s Emerson College. That’s when he says he couldn’t get enough of “Anthem” by Black Uhuru and “True Democracy” by Steel Pulse.
Torres started promoting reggae culture locally in 1991 by spinning reggae vinyl at Winstons Thursday night in O.B. “I dealt directly with Bill,” he says of the club’s late founder, Bill Winston.
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Eventually he started promoting live shows by artists such as Luciano, Mykal Rose, and the Dub Syndicate. He worked with Makeda Dread on her 91X show until 2007 when “I turned in my key [over differences with her].” Torres continued doing DJ shows at Winstons and the defunct Gallagher’s in O.B. when FM-94/9 asked him to host his own Sunday night show on their all-reggae HD-2 “sub-channel” station, Bob Radio.
Regarding his new Sunday show on FM-94/9: “I’m honored just to be doing it. I’m not throwing salt on anyone’s game. I’m just doing the stuff I like to play.” He still organizes live shows. “If a local band asks me for a show, nine times out of ten I will find a slot for them.”
But aren’t there a lot of P.B./fratboy/reggae poser bands out there? “Some are fun. Some are not. I support the ones who are.”