Home is where the radio is

Judging by the current output of the likes of Gilad Kahana and Yoav Kutner, it is how you do your job, rather than where you do it, that makes the all-important difference.

Yoav Kutner (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Yoav Kutner
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
There is nothing like the ambiance of a radio station studio. Having occupied one myself for quite a few years I can attest to the electric atmosphere that fulminates instantaneously when you go on air, when you talk into an impersonal microphone knowing – hoping – that someone out there is listening. And it was always a thrill to share with others music that turns me on – spreading the good word, as it were.
When the show presenter does his or her job well enough, that excitement comes across the airwaves, almost tangibly. But, does the setting really matter? Or is it all down to the DJs working their magic?
Judging by the current output of the likes of Gilad Kahana and Yoav Kutner, it is how you do your job, rather than where you do it, that makes the all-important difference.
With the Health Ministry’s coronavirus-related directives coming ever thicker, faster and more inhibiting, radio station personnel are unable to pound their regular beat. With the lockdown becoming increasingly restrictive, those who are able to are now working from home. Kahana, whose professional purview takes in serving as frontman for the popular long-running Girafot rock group, as well as writing and treading the boards, is now also sharing his insight on life and, in particular, on the current predicament, along with some musical vibes he digs.
His COVID-88 hour-long show goes out from his Tel Aviv residence Sunday-Wednesday at 10 p.m., on KAN 88. The show blurb explains that the idea for the program came out “as a spontaneous reaction to the new day-by-day reality, which is changing at a dizzying pace, and allows us to view things from new perspectives.” With the mercurial Kahana behind the mic, one would expect nothing less.
“The idea is to respond, online, in real time to what is happening every day. And there is something new happening every day, by the minute,” he explains. “There are updates all the time, and even if nothing really updates, you want to keep up with things,” he adds somewhat enigmatically. Sounds a little like listening to the hourly news, then the half-hourly bulletins, and then feverishly following the news website of your choice, as you are fed information that may or may not be fully accurate, or comprehensive, or politically fueled.
In the show promotional material Kahana also observes that: “From a clinical, scientific point of view, optimism is the cure for everything. The question is how many shows we will manage to broadcast until it arrives.”  The quick answer is, probably not too many. “My personal subtext is always positive. Even when I am very sad, when I am angry, and even when I am, sometimes, desperate, the optimist in me comes out on top.” Sounds good.
KUTNER IS indisputably our finest, most knowledgeable and professional pop and rock show DJ. He has been playing quality material from both fields, while introducing Israeli radio listeners to artists they may not have otherwise encountered, for over four decades. 
The domestic format is familiar terrain for him. “Five years ago I had a small home studio installed in my apartment, because I broadcast on a station called Radio Hakatzeh,” he explains. That is a voluntary position, while Kutner is best known for his long tenure on the books of Army Radio.
Kutner says continuing to put out his show, even without being able to make it over to the station’s Jaffa base, benefits all concerned. “I am simply incapable of being in a position of not broadcasting. I was once suspended for half a year, and for a few months I was head of the Music Department so I could do shows myself. If I can’t play music [that] I love to people, I [will] go out of my mind. That is me, in total. If anyone asks what I am, I say I am a person who plays [what] I love for other people.”
All of which adds to the boon of being able to do his beloved thing from the comfort of his own pad, especially in these socially trying times. “It’s great fun. At least for a few hours a day it gives the feeling that I’m actually doing something.” Besides his radio work, Kutner normally earns a crust from talks, lectures and shows he presents, about pop and rock music, up and down the country. That has gone out of the window for now.
But he says there are all sorts of logistical advantages to not straying from home. “Between running errands, doing the dishes and making myself a cup of coffee I can get a show going,” he chuckles. On a more serious note, Kutner says the new temporary arrangement allows him more room for maneuver, and the ability to introduce an off-the-cuff element to the flow of the evolving show. “I am a pretty spontaneous type of person anyway, in my work, so if I suddenly think of a song, while something is playing, I can go over to the relevant shelf and take out the CD, or LP, or get it off my computer. Working from home means I can [do] whatever I like.” 
Kutner is not the only homebound Radio Hakatzeh presenter right now. Quami – he prefers to go by his adopted name – not only runs the station, he also has his own show. “I started broadcasting from home a week or so ago. It’s going really well,” he says. “I feel really comfortable about that.”
The rapid developments of recent weeks caught Quami and his colleagues at a challenging time, regardless of the pandemic. “Our sound card crashed, and then we realized we’d have to get equipment to as many presenters as possible. We only had access to seven microphones and, with the help of our soundman, Omer Senesh, he really is the most important person at the station, we managed to keep things going.”
Radio Hakatzeh is an alternative outfit that prides itself on playing the kind of music listeners are unlikely to hear anywhere else. Kutner’s two-hour show, for example, features long tracks from all quarters of the rock-pop firmament that no commercially-based station would ever dare to play, well maybe in the dead of night. “We have a community of listeners and we want to give them the feeling that they are not alone,” says Quami, “now especially.”