Jove grew up constantly listening to music. There was always an AM station on in his family's house in La Paz, Bolivia, where they lived before moving to St. Louis in 1969. In St. Louis, he started listening to R&B and rock radio stations, which is music he still enjoys to this day in addition to the incredible variety of Latin music he's played on the various shows he's had on KDHX over the past decade: "Alma Latina," "Night Latin Jass Y Mucho Mas in the Morning" and, his current show, "Latin Hemispheres."
I caught up with Jove at MoKaBe's cafe to discuss "Latin Hemispheres" and the variety of music that it encompasses.
Mariam Shahsavarani: How did you get started at KDHX?
Carlos Jove: In the late '80s I was turned onto KDHX because commercial radio was just, we'd had enough of that. I was listening to the broadcasts and enjoying the variety, and then volunteered as a volunteer to answer phones. In the late '80s, maybe '87, somewhere in there.
When did you get started with a radio show?
It was in 2002, when the long-running "Sabados Tropicales" was ready to change DJs. Mateo had been there a while, and I would always tune into him, and that's where I volunteered for "Sabados Tropicales." They made an announcement that Mateo was going to be leaving and they were looking for someone to do the Latin show. It took a little encouragement, but I said, "Okay, I think I can. I think I can."
For the Saturday afternoon [slot] they were pairing me up with a partner. I think that it's always kind of nicer to have two people, especially with something that's not quite familiar to everybody: Latin music. I said, "Yeah, it'd be good to have two people, especially a woman." A woman's perspective and a man's perspective to make that dialogue and the interchange and the banter. It worked out perfectly. My cohost, her name was Lydia, came up with the name "Alma Latina," which I agreed to.
Friday morning was open and that was the initial Latin Hemispheres show. It was somewhat of an experimental stage, I suppose you could say. I was doing that Friday slot for two months or so when they found a more appropriate show for that time slot.
What's kind of really wonderful about KDHX is that there's a nice variety of music, a nice variety of shows, and the schedule gets changed, gets flipped around from time to time. For a short time they put me on a time slot from 3-5 a.m. For that show, I changed the name and I used slightly different playlists since it was at 3 in the morning, and this was slightly before everyone was encouraged to go online to listen to music and pick up a previous show.
Since it was the middle of the night I named the show very peculiarly; it was on purpose to give it a long name and make people wonder "What is that about?" The name of the show was "Night Latin Jass Y Mucho Mas in the Morning." Because the first word of the title was "night" and the last word of it was "morning," hopefully people [would] just hear that, and everything in the middle [would] be lost, and they'd know that it's Latin, so hopefully that connected with some people.
For that show I played a lot of Latin jazz, old school jazz, a lot of mambo, and just kind of some of the standard jazz tunes. It kind of grew boring [for] me, and after many shows I expanded. I needed more excitement. So then I would incorporate some traditional tunes and some modern electronic stuff. I think those are the three shows. The initial "Latin Hemispheres" way back so many years ago, "Alma Latina," "Night Latin Jass Y Mucho Mas in the Morning," and then the current "Latin Hemispheres."
How would you describe "Latin Hemispheres" to someone who's never listened to it before?
I guess electronic is somewhat of a key word that I like using. I tend to gravitate to that. It just seems like the "thing," so to speak. So‚ Latin music with an electronic feel or contemporary vibe, yet still connected to Latin roots or to some traditional rhythms.
Does the time slot of your show, late Saturday nights, influence what you decide to play?
When the show was on Saturday afternoon and with my cohost Lydia, we somewhat catered to a wider crowd and to a wider audience, in our perception more of a family crowd. It was more of a, I wouldn't want to say mainstream, but slightly more mainstream, whereas now I tend to gear it to the younger crowd or to the crowd that's out and about at 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning. But I tend to go into the electronic, modern, contemporary music.
Do you have a typical format for the show?
Initially, when I first got that [1-3 a.m.] time slot I always started out with more electronic and really, really bumping music, and then kind of tapered off into the more relaxed, more jazz tunes -- something a little less bumpy as the show ended. But that's kind of changed because I'm more comfortable with that slot, and I seem to get slightly more feedback if I play something traditional, for example if a Mexican ranchera gets played in between a few electronic tunes, someone will call and say, "Oh, it's been a while since I've heard a ranchera." That's why I, for some reason or another, will tend to throw in more of a traditional tune or more of a mainstream song from time to time.
Do you have any sort of criteria for the music you pick? For example, I've noticed a Diana Krall cover.
Every once in a while I like to diverge slightly off the wide spectrum. When Lydia and I did "Alma Latina," there were parameters that we kept in, and even though previously the show was "Sabados Tropicales" and there were even narrower parameters. They would only play tropical tunes, your Caribbean rhythms, the salsas and meringues, cumbias, mambos. Lydia and I wanted to expand it, so we broadened that.
In the new slot, I wanted to expand it even more. I didn't want to play your traditional cumbia or your rhythm that's familiar. I like to go further. In the past I did a show called "Almost Latin," and that was an extremely wide take on Latin music, something like Madonna's song, "La Isla Bonita," only because it has a Spanish title. There's no real Latin format to it. There's a little bit of a Latin rhythm in there.
Another one would be Steely Dan, "Only a Fool." That was on my playlist for the "Almost Latin" show because there's a Latin percussionist on that track, and at the very end of that tune, he says in Spanish, "Solo un tonto puede hacer eso." From time to time I like to do something just slightly off, get [listeners] a little excited, catch them off guard. Maybe grab another listener that wouldn't be quite particularly fond of an electronic cumbia, but he or she is familiar with that Steely Dan tune. My aim is to grab them and sort of try to keep them.
Do you try to do more themed shows like that?
From time to time. I've done Latin soundtrack, movies that have Spanish or Latin tunes. Most of them are kind of mainstream movies, but in the movies there's a song that's Spanish because there's a scene in a Latin neighborhood or something like that.
Recently, I did my first all-women's show. I had a collaboration from a guest that came in, and for that show it was mostly older, traditional tunes from Latin women. I wanted to expand that, so the next week I did more electronic [music]. Again, it's sort of just to catch people or expand it and see who else I can net.
How do you pick the music for the show when it isn't a themed show?
New tunes are always good. It's really hard to stay on top of the music world. There's so much of it. There's an incredible amount of new music always coming out. And I stay away from the mainstream, or I kind of really don't concentrate much on mainstream artists like whoever is big nowadays. So I kind of have an idea of what I don't want to play.
The new music will be from a known record company that specializes in alternative Latin music. And then I'll look online to see what else catches my eye from one or two or three different websites. So, new music, alternative music, electronic music. That's kind of how I've been doing it recently.
About how long does it take you to prepare for one of the shows?
It can take anywhere from a couple of hours, say two to three hours, and it can be as little as half an hour. And also, a planned playlist may have up to three hours worth of music, 20-30 different artists, so from that long list during the show I'll select the tunes, and then whatever's leftover will be carried on to not necessarily the following week, but somewhere in the future. There are some artists that are on my waiting list for a couple weeks now because I still haven't gotten around to them, but they've been on my list a while. It goes from a big giant list and then it gets dwindled down, but that giant list continues to be expanded.
How do you decide what songs from the list to play during the shows?
The muse works in mysterious ways. It has a little to do with timing and also how it flows, although I like to jump from a chill, relaxed [track] to a more upbeat song just to grab someone else's ears. Someone may not like that relaxed, chill tune but if they listen for another four minutes, there'll be a bumping song after that. It's just a matter of catching people off guard to some degree, as much as you can do that.
Do you have a background in music?
No, not a formal education. As a child I took piano lessons and I tried to teach myself guitar. That would be the extent of my formal education. No music theory or music composition or music history, nothing like that. I do that on my own, reading online, picking up an article here or there, but nothing quite like an instructor or professor.
I guess I did do a formal education, not necessarily music, but broadcast. I graduated from the Broadcast Center in 2006 or 2007, I forget now. Part of my intention was to go into commercial radio as a living, but it was like a second or third option. I just wanted to get my degree in broadcasting and get that kind of formal training, I suppose. And at the Broadcast Center they really gear you for commercial broadcasting, so your message has to be direct, forceful, timed. It was really rigid, whereas with community radio and independent media it's more of a relaxed environment, and you can say, "Well, it might be 70 degrees and the forecast calls for 75." In a commercial setting, you have maybe six seconds to say that. In a non-commercial setting you can expand on that, say, "You don't need to wash your car because it's going to rain." Or, "Don't worry about digging things up because it's going to be extremely hot." Things like that.
What was your very first album that you purchased?
I remember this one. It was the double-release of "Frampton Comes Alive!"
What do you do with your time outside of your show on KDHX?
Music is really a big part of my life. Besides Latin music I have an interest also in classic rock and I like listening to older rock tunes. And then just researching music. That does really take out a lot of time outside my show prep, listening to music and tunes. Then what I do for a living as far as a job isn't full-time, it's barely part-time, so I don't devote a lot of time to some fixed work schedule.
During the Spring and Summer and parts of the Fall I enjoy working on my yard and gardening. I call it playing in the dirt, but it's a little more than that. It's just kind of sectioned off in areas that are put to sleep or put to rest with plenty of mulch and then areas I'm cultivating. Lately it's been garlic and I'm going to try my luck at other veggies. I've done tomatoes and bell peppers in the past, but I've never had luck with that. I think there's a squirrel population that targets my garden; I don't think there's many gardens in my neighborhood. Maybe they just figure that's the best pickings, but I don't do tomatoes anymore.
What's your favorite thing about having a show?
Just being on the air, connecting with people. That's a big thrill. It's always a big thrill to provide this music. It's an honor to provide this transport to let people know there's more than just Shakira and more than just Juanes and more than any of those commercial artists, and that's kind of my goal. My goal is to let folks know that there is a big electronic music scene in the Latin world, and how world music plays into that. Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Peruvian, the whole flamenco genre expands, the tango genre expands through the electronic music world, and hopefully people will get a feel for that.
What keeps you doing your show -- or, the different shows over the year -- on KDHX?
It's a thrill. As a kid, as an adult as well, listening to the DJs on air, as they guide you through your day they inform you on the music, they give you tidbits and information about the artist. I was always fascinated by that. It's just fun to hear someone that's knowledgeable that can tell you, "Oh yeah, they recorded this when they were on a three-day drunk, or they were up 24-hours trying to record this track, and things like that." I kind of like that: to inform the crowd, to inform the listeners, just to get them a little closer to the music.
That's the nice thing about KDHX, that they give you the opportunity, and if you're committed and if you show your passion, you carry on, you're still there. So hopefully this will be a continually long run. I don't want to go anywhere.