Los Angeles is the world’s great Pan-Asian city, a melting pot within a melting pot. Arguments could be made for multicultural metropolises like Birmingham, Honolulu, London, New York, Toronto, and Vancouver which in some case have more numbers or larger percentages but none come close to matching Los Angeles’s sheer breadth and vibrancy.
In the Southland, there are more than two dozen suburbs with Asian majorities, ten designated Asian enclaves, and the largest communities of Cambodians, Filipinos, Koreans, Persians, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese outside their respective homelands. There are cinemas which regularly show films from China, Hong Kong, Korea, India, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan (and formerly, one showing Vietnamese films). Local television stations broadcast programs from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan. And then there’s the radio, where one can audibly experience some of Los Angeles’s staggering diversity and, since this is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’m here breaking down the Asian language offerings.
The first Asian radio station in Los Angeles may’ve been Radio Manila, the nation’s first 24-hour Filipino station, which debuted in 1988. I believe it was originally broadcast on 107.1 FM but by the team it ceased operation, sometime after 2012, it was an online-only station.
RADIO IRAN — 670 KIRN AM
The US is home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran and the largest concentration are in Los Angeles. KIRN — Radio Iran began broadcasting Persian music and news in 1999.
URADIO – XEMW 690 AM
URadio‘s radio towers are located near Rosarito but the station operates an additional studio facility in Irwindale. It was founded by Jorge Rivera as XEAC in 1936. Owners, formats, and call letters changed many times. In the 1970s, it broadcast “Beautiful Music” as XTRA. In the 1980s, it played oldies. From 1987-2005 it was the home of sportscaster Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton. In August 2018, the station was purchased by Hong Kong-based television network Phoenix TV which was enough to trigger Marco Rubio who warned that it would be used to disseminate CCP propaganda. My Chinese is too rudimentary to comment on whether or not there is a politcal slant to the station’s commentary but unless there are subliminal messages hidden in Mandopop tracks, I think potential non-Chinese fluent listeners like the Florida Senator should be safe.
DESI 980 — 980 KFWB AM
KFWB began broadcasting in 1925 and was for many of its years a news station. In 2014 it became a sports-talk station called “The Beast” which transformed into “Hollywood’s Bollywood station” in 2016. They haven’t posted a program schedule yet but every time I’ve listened it’s been Hindi pop music. And judging by the amount of autotune, most of it is pretty contemporary although I did hear a Lata Mangeshkar song from 1991 the other day. UPDATE: Desi 980 ceased to exist on 31 October 2016.
KOREAN GOSPEL BROADCASTING COMPANY — 1190 KGBC AM
1190 KGBC is currently Korean Gospel Broadcasting Company. From 2001-2011 it operated as KXMX, which was an amazing multicultural station that broadcast programing in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. It began, in 1959, as KEZY. Since 201 it’s been around the clock religious programming… but there are three other 24-hour Korean stations so secular radio fans read on.
RADIO JBC (JOONGANG BROADCAST COMPANY) — 1230 KYPA AM
KYPA began in 1926 as KGFJ, when it became the first station in the US to broadcast 24 hours a day. I can’t find a schedule online but rare is the occasion when I tune in and hear anything but DJs talking.
中文廣播電臺 (CHINESE RADIO) — 1300 KAZN AM
In 1989, KAZN was created by Dwight Case and George Fritzinger as the US’s first and only pan-Asian radio station and it used to broadcast programing in, I believe, sixteen different mostly-Asian languages. Now it is a 24-hour Mandarin station. It’s mostly a talk radio station but there’s music from Hong Kong and Taiwan on DJ 郭文斌’s 音樂地球村 (“Global Village”) and DJs 冰冰 and 果凍 host 全球華語風雲榜 (“Global Chinese Billboard”) on Saturdays at 20:00-22:00 and Monday-Friday at 13:00-14:00. It’s based in Pasadena.
粵語廣播電臺 (CANTONESE RADIO) — 1430 KMRB AM
1430 KMRB broadcasts 24-hour Cantonese programming. It’s mostly discussion programs and news — which are no doubt possibly interesting to those fluent in Cantonese. More broadly appealing are the music programs. DJ 上山小麥’s 鋒尚音樂 (“Top Music”) airs Sunday-Thursday 23:00-0:00. DJs 梁少芯 and 文千歲 host 千連芯戲曲雅集, which airs Monday 20:00-22:00, Friday 6:00-7:00, and Saturday 8:00-9:00, is devoted to Cantonese Opera. 何可晴’s 流金歲月 (“Golden Years”) airs Saturday 7:00-8:00 and is focused on Cantopop from the 1960s-1990s. Finally, 蘇娜’s 音樂人生 (“Music and Life”) airs on Saturday 17:30-19:00.
라디오코리아 (RADIO KOREA) — 1540 KMPC AM
KMPC first went on the air in 1952, when it began broadcasting as KPOL. It’s changed formats many times, often airing sports programming, at either times Spanish, and sometimes Spanish sports programming. In 2007 it was sold to Radio Korea. It’s mostly news and chat but Music Cafe airs from 23:00-2:00.
RADIO SEOUL — 1650 KFOX AM
KFOX began airing in 1997 as KKJZ, as a simulcast of “adult standards” station KGIL. It switched to the Korean language Radio Seoul in 2001. Again I can’t find a program schedule online but although most seems to be talk I’ve heard Korean pop, Argentine pop songstress Amelita Baltar and Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel — both of whom I nominate for inclusion into the “adult standard” pantheon.
SAIGON RADIO — 106.3 KALI FM/VIETNAM RADIO — 1480 KVNR AM
The FM side of the dial is a much less diverse place than the AM. As far as I know there’s only one station on the entire frequency band that’s not in Spanish or English — that’s Saigon Radio, which also broadcasts at 106.3 FM AND 1480 AM and was launched in 1995. I don’t see it on the current schedule but sometimes when I hear it in the morning, there is a Japanese-language chat show being broadcast. The rest of the day is largely chat in Vietnamese but 1:00-6:00 and 14:00-16:00 and set aside for music. There are also weekday programs such as Folk Music With Co Hai Lan, which airs from 8:00-12:00, and Late Night Love Songs, which airs from 21:00-0:00. On Saturdays there’s music from 1:00-6:00, 14:00-18:00, Folk Music With Co Hai Lan airs again from 20:00-21:00 and Late Night Love Songs airs from 21:00-0:00. Sundays are apparently set aside for music all day.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LA, Amoeblog, Boom: A Journal of California, diaCRITICS, Hidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft Contemporary, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, the book Sidewalking, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, CurbedLA, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Ameba, Duolingo, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Mubi, and Twitter.