The believer: DJ Wal marks 25 years on air at KSPC

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Waleed Rashidi, better known as DJ Wal to listeners of KSPC 88.7 FM, hit a broadcast milestone this month: 25 years on the air at the venerable Pomona College radio station.

Although he’s been with KSPC so long that he’s forgotten when he actually started, he’s enjoyed every second on the job.

From sometime in December 1997 to today, Rashidi has been sharing his unique taste in music with KSPC listeners. With a playlist made up of mid- and up-tempo classic instrumental jazz, he broadcasts from 3 to 5 p.m. every Saturday. One of his taglines is “no ballads, no big bands, no vocals.”

Rashidi has been a fan of radio, including KSPC, since he was a child. He recently found a tape recording of himself from the sixth grade pretending to be a KSPC DJ. He also recalls calling the station to speak with fellow jazz enthusiast and KSPC DJ the late Tony Palkovic as a young boy.

That dream persisted throughout high school and college. Then, in early 1997 while an undergraduate journalism major at Cal Poly Pomona, Rashidi heard an on-air message that the station was seeking volunteer DJs and applied.

“It was something that was perhaps destined to be in a sense,” Rashidi said.

KSPC 88.7 FM DJ Waleed Rashidi, pictured during a recent Saturday broadcast, hit a milestone this month: 25 years on the air. Photo/courtesy of Waleed Rashidi.

In December 1997 he got his own time slot.

There was no game plan. The avid radio and KSPC fan was simply excited to be on the air.

“My whole goal was just to gain experience,” he said. “At the time, I thought I could get in with a rock show first and then maybe ease my way into a jazz show at some point in time. And that’s exactly what ended up happening.”

His early shows focused on late-‘90s independent and alternative rock. In the early 2000s, he debuted his two-hour “Bop, Drop and Roll” program.

Rashidi earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Cal Poly Pomona in 2001. He is currently an assistant professor at Cal State Fullerton, in its department of communications.

Outside of radio, Rashidi is a musician and drummer with the local combo, Centre Street Jazz.

He takes pride in sharing his curated playlists with audiences every week.

“I like that. It’s kind of cultivated and crafted,” he said. “As a listener, to me, I think that that’s really kind of a neat thing. It’s a nice human connection that you have.

“I find [radio] to be a connection that I’ve had as a listener to the stations I’ve listened to, to the shows I’ve listened to, and that tradition over the past several decades in my life. I also find it to be a relevant source of information still.”

Though terrestrial radio may not be the powerhouse is once was, with streaming and satellite sources gobbling up much of its former target audience, Rashidi remains a believer in its power to entertain, enrich, and inform.

“Growing up the radio was where you hear all the latest and greatest stuff,” he said. “I was very interested in listening and wanting to learn about up-and-coming artists, and KSPC was playing and continues to play a lot of artists that are underrepresented.

“Traditional media has been challenged by a lot of new ways in which people can consume media. However, I do think that radio is still vital. It’s still a medium that I believe still has a connection in today’s audiences even though there are so many people connecting on a digital front.”

Through KSPC’s digital stream, Rashidi has listeners around the globe.

“Radio still has this persistency to it,” he said. “People in previous decades said, ‘The demise of radio is imminent.’ It’s still available, there’s still lots of stations out there. There’s still a lot of listeners out there. People are still interested in it.”

Asked what’s next, Rashidi said retirement is not in the plan.

“If I can do this for the next 25 years, I hope that will be next for me,” Rashidi said. “I just want to continue to get new listeners and continue to share this particular subgenre of jazz music. I would love to continue to do ‘Bop, Drop and Roll’ for as long as I can.”

“Bop, Drop and Roll” is broadcast from 3 to 5 p.m. every Saturday at KSPC 88.7 FM. Archived shows are available at kspc.org.

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