Positive Vibes and Rhythms International break new ground on Montreal radio
Following a summer of much-hyped reggae concerts – Lucky Dube, Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Alpha Blondy – the September anniversaries of two ground-breaking Montreal radio shows, Positive Vibes on CKUT and Rhythms International on Mix 96, have gone comparatively unnoticed.
But Positive Vibes has been spreading the reggae message for two full decades while Daniel Fiest started Rhythms International 15 years ago.
Feist, now based in Warsaw (where he has launched a Polish version of Rhythms International), has interviewed everyone from Panamanian presidential hopeful Rueben Blades to the Lion of Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo.
"When South African poet Mzwakhe Mbuli played in Montreal years ago, we hung together for a while," Feist recalls. "So when I moved to South Africa I wanted to see him again but was told he was in jail. This wouldn’t have been the first time – he’s been harassed and his house was firebombed – but this time he was in for armed robbery and it’s a story people have been following because he is a revered figure. He claims he was set up because he has dirt on top ANC officials.
"Now here’s a guy who stood up for the struggle and no one was sticking up for him. When I went to see him in prison – I hadn’t seen him in 10 years – he stood up and said, ‘Daniel, how are you!’ The second time I saw him he was practically running the prison. He’d organized a concert to fight violence against women, and he was the only person not dressed in prison greens. And he read a stanza of new poetry just for my radio show."
There have been many memorable moments over at Positive Vibes too.
Back in 1989, former host Pat (Sista P) Dillon-Moore recalls, "There was a lot of murder and mayhem and because we were providing comfort as well as entertainment for the black community, we decided to invite an Anglican minister, the Nation of Islam and a Pentecostal minister on a live telephone conference call. I was on one side of the studio [glass wall] and [Positive Vibes founder] Janice Dayle was on the other and things kept breaking down in the studio. So she started to cuss, ‘Bumbo here, bumbo there! Rass here, rass there!’ A whole bunch of ‘claat’ was flying and I’m waving my arms like a madwoman until she saw me pointing at the phone. We were still live. Oh God! The ministers didn’t say a word. But that was radio on the fly."
CKUT production co-ordinator Prym Tym has hosted Positive Vibes for the last 11 years. "I’m really proud of him," Dayle says. Dillon-Moore adds, "All generations continue to listen to Positive Vibes. Every local reggae act has come through this studio."
Rhythms International, meanwhile, is more world-music oriented. When Feist isn’t hanging out with the likes of Youssou N’Dour in Senegal ("Youssou loves to see white people come into his club because he says they can’t dance"), he still enjoys his show. "I’d love to do it another 15 years but I’m old, man," Feist laughs. "It’s a blessing for me that I get to share this music."
Positive Vibes airs on CKUT, Thursdays, 3-5 p.m.
Rhythms International airs on Mix 96, Sundays, 8-10 p.m.
Celebrate Positive Vibes’ 20th anniversary at an AIDS benefit headlined by The Melodians ("Rivers of Babylon") and Ken Bootme, for The Mustard Seed Community which funds children’s AIDS centres in Jamaica, Haiti, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, at Le Manoir (5319 Notre-Dame), Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.