Although Toronto’s Flow 93.5 FM was officially sold to CHUM FM / CTV Media more than 5 months ago, February 2nd, 2011 goes down in history as the day our city’s sole urban music radio outlet for a decade had been effectively, ‘shut down’.
When I first caught the news this afternoon I literally sat in my office chair devastated and speechless. Soon afterwards flashbacks of 2001 spurned as I re-collected the first couple of weeks of the station’s existence, those of which did not include commercials or even DJs. I was a 21 year-old university student, Hip Hop head, R&B/Soul connoisseur and emerging DJ who was ecstatic at the fact that I was actually hearing my favourite black artists on a local station. Slowly after its launch, Flow’s audience grew as it became an ‘alternative’ to the GTA’s long-standing urban music mainstay, 93.7 WBLK, which broadcasted from Buffalo, NY.
Over the next ten years, a small group of extremely talented & hard-working individuals went in and defined a new era of Canadian radio broadcasting. Notwithstanding the steady stream of US-based urban music that Toronto’s audience yearned for, Flow’s airwaves slowly acted as a voice for new and emerging Canadian urban music artists and producers to access their target audience and vice versa. In time it became the most effective platform for the Canadian scene to mature and achieve its growth.
It’s no coincidence that Canadian urban music is currently enjoying the success that it has received over the past several years; Flow’s music programming – including OTA Live & The Real Frequency, were staples for underground and home-grown music fans across the city. Both programs, which had an uncanny appeal to their fan base for their professional yet personal approach to music – will be dearly missed. Several other programs, including This House, The Riddum Track, Soca Therapy also had loyal fan bases that were equally as shocked when the news broke.
From a DJ’s perspective, Flow provided a stage for some of Toronto’s most talented DJs to perform and innovate in front of the entire city everyday. Mixshow DJs Starting From Scratch, P-Plus, Jason Chambers, Tricky Moreira, Christopher Michaels & Jester all laid down countless memorable mixes that were both an inspiration and a reminder that Toronto DJs didn’t mess around.
At the end of the day, business is business – when CTV gauged the potential of capturing Flow’s share of the market, there’s no question that the opportunity to blend this audience together with their existing CHUM FM demographic was a no-brainer for them. With new ownership comes new ideas, new business models, new visionaries, (hopefully) new listeners, and (hopefully) new money. Although commenting on the surrounding politics of the situation has already been rampant on Twitter and Facebook, now is not the time to point fingers or even ask rude questions.
I’d rather take this opportunity to give the respect due to the members of the Flow staff who will not be entering the new era of the station.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot more than just your voices missing on the radio tonight.
It’s ironic that last night’s (February 1st, 2011) UBX on Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five become the last instalment of the series. As you saluted a group of Hip Hop industry pioneers, I hope these words do the same for the people who have left their own mark on this city in a similar fashion.
Much respect goes out to Devo Brown, JWyze/Jus Red, P-Plus/Arcee/Musiklee Inzane, Boogeyman/Ty Harper/Rez Digital, Tricky, Strizzy, Gemini & The Soca Prince himself for all of your contributions over the years. Keep doing what you do, because it’s working.
The Real Frequency