Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hawaiian Music Hurt by Santa Cruz Fire

APTOS -- Hawaiian music lovers across the county had their listening schedules thrown off by last week's Trabing Fire.

The blaze, which scorched 640 acres, also knocked out power in the Larkin Valley area, which temporarily halted broadcasts by KAPU, the all-Hawaiian music radio station that has a broadcast antenna on Trabing Road.

KAPU hasn't broadcast its trademark island tunes since around 3 p.m. Friday, according to Norman Markowitz, a member of the station's board of directors and one of the station's volunteer DJs.

Flames crept up to the base of the antenna and might have damaged it, he said, but the damage can't be assessed until the antenna can be tested after power is restored to the area.

"It all depends on PG&E," said Markowitz, who goes by the handle "Kaukini Norm." "They're working very hard."

Power won't be restored for a few days, said a Cal Fire spokesman.

Meanwhile, the station has been receiving phone calls and e-mails from listeners curious where the music has gone.

Markowitz said listeners yearning for a Hawaiian music fix should check out the station online at, which has recordings of several interviews with Hawaiian artists as well as links to local bands and music samples.

The station, which transmits at 104.7 FM, began operation in September 2004 as a low-power station; it uses a

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52-watt antenna, which allows coverage from the edges of Santa Cruz to Watsonville. A link on the station's Web site encourages viewers to write letters to the Federal Communications Commission requesting that KAPU be licensed for 100-200 watts, which would increase coverage to most of Santa Cruz County and hopefully swell the ranks of listeners, now estimated at roughly 5,000, according to Markowitz.

There is a strong interest in Hawaiian music and culture in the Santa Cruz area, Markowitz said. Local musicians who play Hawaiian music often visit the radio station, located in Watsonville, to perform live on the air.

"We're one of the hubs of groups of people that love all things Hawaiian," he said. "It's an important part of the Hawaiian community in Santa Cruz."

Contact Keenan Weatherford at 706-3254 or

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