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Jamaican music finds Canadian home

Published:Thursday | October 27, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Fitzroy Gordon, founder, president, CEO and station manager, speaks at the October 3 press conference announcing the launch of the radio station, G98.7. - contributed

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

A new radio station committed to playing the sounds of the Caribbean is scheduled to officially hit the Canadian airwaves in November.

The station, G 98.7 (CKFG-FM), began test transmissions in September. Its principal is Jamaican entrepreneur Fitzroy Gordon, who has worked in various areas of Canadian media for almost 30 years.

Recently, he told The Gleaner about G 98.7's format.

"The musical mix will include R&B, soul, soca, hip hop, world beat, gospel and smooth jazz," he said. "In addition to the other genres of black music that we'll be playing, reggae finally has a permanent home on mainstream radio in this country."

Gordon was turned down by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) when he first applied for a broadcast licence in 2002. Three years later, he reapplied and was granted the licence, only for it to be revoked because his frequency (98.7) was considered too close to the Canadian Broadcasting Commission's (99.1) band.

Two years ago, Gordon led a delegation to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, where he presented his case to the country's prime minister, Stephen Harper. With the support of Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, he finally got the green light to start his radio station.

"It's the realisation of a dream not just for me, but for an entire community that has been starved for music and talk programming on the Toronto airwaves that reflects their culture and experiences," Gordon told The Gleaner.

He said G 98.7 - which is located in the Don Mills and York Mills area of Toronto - will get off the ground with just over 30 full-time and part-time workers, including administrators, announcers and technical staff.

Though it has been home to influential Jamaican artistes such as Jackie Mittoo, Leroy Sibbles and Ernie Smith, Canada has never had a dynamic reggae scene.

In recent years, that has slowly changed with the emergence of acts like Tony Anthony, Lenn Hammond and Esco Levi. There are also established reggae festivals in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

A former Sunlight Cup cricketer for St Andrew Technical High School, Gordon immigrated to Canada in 1981 and worked as a freelance writer for The Gleaner and Toronto Sun. He also hosted the Dr Love Show on Chin 100.7 FM in Toronto, for several years.