Kefentse heads CKCU

Kwende Kefentse / Memetic — Alberta Electronic Music
Kwende Kefentse

Sept 16th, 2020

Kwende Kefentse appointed inaugural Executive Director of CKCU

CKCU is pleased to announce that after a rigorous selection process it has hired accomplished policy maker, researcher, musician, and cultural leader Mr. Kwende Kefentse, as its inaugural Executive Director. Mr. Kefentse will manage all aspects of CKCU with a mandate for transformational growth including working with CKCU’s Board of Directors to develop and execute a new strategic vision for the organization, as well as responsibility for day to day operations at the station.

“We are thrilled to introduce Mr. Kwende Kefentse as our new Executive Director,” said Chris Ikonomopoulos, Chair of the Board of CKCU. “His track record of success in government, along with his deep breadth of expertise and relationships across the arts, music, broadcast, community, and academic sectors will be a great asset to the station and the communities we serve.”

Mr. Kefentse has a B.A. from Carleton University’s Directed Interdisciplinary Studies program, and a Masters of Research from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture where he innovated new methods for quantifying the spatial structure of cultural and creative industries in cities. His major achievements as Cultural Industries Development Officer and Music Lead at the City of Ottawa included being the driving force behind the development of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and leading the successful development, council approval, and execution of the Ottawa Music Strategy (2018-2020). Prior to that he co-led the development of the council-approved Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture (2012-2018). As co-founder of the alternative club-night institution TIMEKODE, he has led and inspired thousands to explore new sounds on the dance floor over 15 years. In 2019, Mr. Kefentse was appointed to the Board of Directors of FACTOR as the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion observer, and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the Carleton University Art Gallery, and the Washington D.C. based Music Policy Forum.

“I’m honoured to be leading CKCU as its first ever Executive Director,” said Mr. Kwende Kefentse. “The unprecedented moment we’re in has recentered the role of broadcast media in our lives. Over the past 45 years, through grassroots grit and with community support CKCU established itself as a meaningful portal of discovery into the region for anyone interested in digging a little deeper. For communities and musicians outside of the mainstream it represents an important independent local platform to connect, make their voices heard, and make their presence felt here. This legacy of music, community, connectivity, discovery, independence, and championing alternative perspectives will be central to the way we reimagine Ottawa-Gatineau’s future media landscape and CKCU’s role in it. We plan to be making space for new voices and sounds in this community for another 45 years and beyond.”

Mr. Kefentse will begin his new role as of September 23rd, 2020.

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Kwende Kefentse, CKCU’s first executive director, has a bold new vision for the station

Author of the article:Lynn Saxberg

Oct 07, 2020  •  

OTTAWA- October 5, 2020 -- Kwende Kefentse, a DJ and former cultural officer for the City of Ottawa, now the new executive director of CKCU-FM.

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Jean Levac/POSTMEDIA
OTTAWA- October 5, 2020 — Kwende Kefentse, a DJ and former cultural officer for the City of Ottawa, is the new executive director of CKCU-FM. PHOTO BY JEAN LEVAC /Postmedia News

Kwende Kefentse has a bold vision to transform Ottawa’s venerable campus radio station, CKCU-FM, into a multimedia, multi-channel community broadcaster with a focus on local news and culture.

“I think we have to think about being a broadcaster in a totally different way,” he said in an interview this week. “We have to think beyond the operation of the FM signal. It’s about recognizing the value of (the signal) in that it connects to lots of people but also recognizing that radio is not actually the most successful way of connecting to media right now. 

“There are a whole range of different ways to connect to media that we could be developing content into that we haven’t done proactively before.” 

The 38-year-old Ottawa resident is the first executive director in the station’s 45-year history, hired last month after an organizational restructuring by the board of directors and an exhaustive search for the right candidate to bring the station, a not-for-profit organization based at Carleton University, into the future as it approaches its 50th anniversary. 

They found their leader in Kefentse, who’s been a cultural industries development officer at Ottawa City Hall for more than a decade and helped develop the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and Ottawa Music Strategy, to name a few highlights of his career. He also has a creative side hustle as DJ Memetic, co-founder of the popular TIMEKODE parties. 

What’s more, he recently took time off work to complete a master’s degree at London, U.K.’s Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) where his research looked at the cultural and creative industries of a city, and how they relate to the structure of the city. Along the way, he started thinking about the role that information networks play in how people access culture. 

“In some of the scenes I was studying, there were these independent networks of information that people were really leveraging to develop and create culture in London,” he said. “These networks played a really important role in actually mainstreaming this culture. It’s how people were able to get together and connect and find out about shows.”

He sees CKCU as a great example of a network that not only disseminates cultural information, but also acts as a “connection point” between mainstream and emerging culture, frequently discovering acts that go on to wider recognition. 

While the station is known for diverse programming aimed at specific communities, including Indigenous, Inuit, East Indian, Somali, Vietnamese and Haitian populations, as well as folks with disabilities, some of its most popular shows are hosted by long-time volunteers, often older, white men, with expertise in a certain style of music, such as jazz, blues or progressive rock. 

They won’t be going anywhere, Kefentse says. His plan to expand diversity will start at the top, by implementing initiatives at the board level.

“I do think that we have to take a different and new approach to content,” he said. “But we have to start with lived experience on the board and develop some committees and structures that will allow us to bring more diverse voices into the decision making.”

Kefentse was born in Etobicoke and grew up in the Greater Toronto Area, tuning in to the Caribbean sounds he found on the multicultural CHIN-FM radio station, and delving into hip hop. The immediacy of Toronto’s independent Citytv station was another key piece of the media landscape at the time, and he sees the opportunity for CKCU-FM to play a similar role in Ottawa, with a hip, local, multimedia focus. 

Kefentse is also inspired by the Seattle public radio station, KEXP-FM. Like CKCU, it started as a student-run station for alternative music, but grew into an entity with a multi-million dollar budget, the capacity to broadcast live performances and a website brimming with podcasts, playlists and video from the live shows.

Still, Kefentse is taking the reins at a challenging time for the station. There was a funding crisis last year prompted by the Ontario government’s so-called “student choice initiative,” which allowed students to opt out of paying fees that had always gone to support services such as campus radio stations, student-run clubs, newspapers, food banks and more. It was struck down by the courts, but the shadow of uncertain funding lingered. 

That dilemma was followed by the departure of the long-time station manager, Matthew Crosier, and the pandemic lockdown, which forced staff and volunteers to scramble to figure out how to run the station without being on site. 

“Oh yeah, it’ll be a lot to lift,” Kefentse says of the challenges ahead. “But to be honest, that’s what I was looking for. I was looking for a different kind of leadership opportunity. I had gone as far as I could go at the city.” 

After this year’s edition of the annual funding drive, which starts Oct. 23 and aims to raise $150,000 from listeners to go towards operating the station, the first step will be a technological upgrade. 

“The systems that we’re using weren’t built for mobile life,” Kefentse says. “We need to upgrade all of our systems to allow us to grow. The future of the organization is being an agent of change and that will require more and different kinds of people and skills. We’re going to need to build up the capacity to be able to do that.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

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