Star-Bulletin Features

Program director Mahlon Moore, left, and Jeff Schatz, vice president and general manager of New Wave Broadcasting visited one of the broadcasting booths at KHUI-FM last week.

‘The Breeze’ wafts onto
isle radio scene

By John Berger

Hawaii's music got a huge boost when KORL 99.5 became "The Breeze" (a.k.a. "The Spirit of Hawaii") with an all-local music playlist.

The station's owner, New Wave Broadcasting, dropped its '80s light-rock playlist and retired the KORL call letters on April 12. The station is now KHUI-FM -- the Breeze -- airing commercial-free for the time being. Disc jockeys (and commercials) well be added in about two weeks.

"For now we just want to focus on the music," said Jeff Schatz, minutes after the change took place. Schatz, vice president and general manager of New Wave Broadcasting, is launching the new station with Hawaii radio veteran Mahlon Moore as program director and Alan Yamamoto as sales promotion and marketing director.

"There's been so many negative articles about radio and how it's not localized any more -- how everybody takes their orders from corporate (offices on the mainland). We really did a lot a research and a lot of testing of all the music that you're going to hear to make sure that it was familiar and what people really wanted to hear," Schatz said.

What they really wanted to hear seems to be almost everything from the last 35 years, except reggae-based Jawaiian "island music," local-style "urban" groups and gangsta-wannabe island rappers. The ambiance of the Breeze during the first few days has been what Schatz describes as "an adult contemporary format but with local (and) Hawaiian music."

Willie K's "Waterfall" and Henry Kapono's 1981 breakthrough solo hit, "Stand in the Light," are about as loud as it gets. However, considering that the playlist embraces both Tony Conjugacion ("Ka Beauty A'o Manoa") and the Fabulous Krush ("Blame It on the Night"), there seem to be few other limits.

Artists in the mix include Kui Lee ("I'll Remember You"), Na Leo ("Friends"), Cecilio & Kapono ("Life's Different Now"), Jay Larrin ("The Snows of Mauna Kea"), Keola Beamer ("Wooden Boat"), Rob & Gary ("Manoa Rain"), Olomana ("E Ku'u Sweet Lei Poina'ole"), the Brothers Cazimero ("Home in the Islands"), Del Beazley ("Brown Man Blues") and Keali'i Reichel ("Kawaipunahele").

There is also a smaller but noteworthy amount of traditional Hawaiian falsetto and "chalang-a-lang" music.

Schatz sees the target audience as adults ages 25 to 54 with the core audience probably 35 to 50 and "probably skewing 60 percent female."

The Breeze is also available worldwide to listeners via the Internet. Schatz says he's been amazed by the amount of interest in local music. "I get probably 15 to 20 e-mails a week from people all over the world who were here (at some time).

"Those guys can't fill out Arbitron diaries, but it's nice to be able to brag that you've got listeners all over the world."

Schatz say there are no current plans to include new releases on the Breeze.

"The Spirit of Hawaii" is about memories -- at least for the moment. "We want to play very, very familiar music, but we may -- through different types of program features or specialty programing at certain times -- introduce music, and then as it becomes more familiar, incorporate it," he said.

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