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Eddie Lopez, famed DJ of KXLU’s “Alma del Barrio,” dies at 66



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From the time he was a boy rising up in Koreatown, Eddie Lopez was fascinated with radio.

He tinkered with a Craig Tape recorder, interviewing household and buddies to splice collectively his personal radio program. He stayed up previous his bedtime to tune into stations in Rosarito, Mexico. Then someday in highschool, he heard Latin jazz star Leandro “Gato” Barbieri’s wild, high-pitched saxophone.

“He simply liked that, and it actually drew him” into the world of tropical music, stated his spouse, Vanessa Salum. “The salsa music of the ‘70s a few of it was political and he favored the messages and the African rhythms, the drums, the horns, the flexibility to bop to it.”

Lopez took his love of the music to Pepperdine College’s radio station earlier than he transferred to Loyola Marymount College within the Seventies. There, he started to volunteer for a weekend radio present referred to as “Alma del Barrio,” which was in its third yr and distinctive within the Southern California Latino radio panorama by specializing in Afro-Caribbean music and presenting it with DJs who spoke in English and Spanish.

“Alma del Barrio” turned one of the crucial celebrated radio exhibits of its variety in the US, and Lopez was amongst its most celebrated voices. For years, Lopez hosted each different Sunday from 2 p.m. to six p.m. till the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted his schedule. He started prerecording exhibits till the autumn of 2022.

He spent hours researching music historical past at native libraries, or requested artists about sure songs at native golf equipment to correctly inform his listeners. Earlier than he performed a observe on air, he took time to contextualize the artist’s lyrics, explaining to listeners why the saxophone evoked a sense of ache or the vocalist shrieked in anguish.

And because it was all for faculty radio, Lopez all the time did his work free of charge.

“The very best factor is there are many college students keen to volunteer and maintain the flame going for a few years to come back,” Lopez wrote to a buddy on Fb after they referred to as him a “true keeper of the flame.”

“He understood the significance of this little faculty radio present that had such an inroad into the group,” stated Alan Geik, a longtime buddy and former colleague who hosted “Latin Dimensions” on KCRW after Lopez urged him to take over and later at KXLU for about 25 years. “He was deeply concerned within the politics of what was occurring, greater than anyone else on the station. As a result of he lived it 24/7, he introduced a perspective that I certainty didn’t have that gave us a united view.”

A mentor to many, Lopez died Jan. 8, stated Salum. He was 66. No trigger was given.

“Eddie was a tireless champion of this life-giving style of music, the quintessential radio skilled on air, a seasoned curator of all issues Salsa, and somebody who cared deeply for the radio station,” wrote LMU’s radio director Lydia Ammossow in tribute of her colleague.

Throughout social media, avid followers shared tales of listening to Lopez on weekends whereas cruising Los Angeles.

For Eric Wiig, a 30-year-old Koreatown resident who’s initially from Minnesota, Lopez’s present served as a “cultural trade.”

“It felt like a technique to study in regards to the metropolis of Los Angeles and find out about a few of the folks in it by way of this music,” he stated. “He simply made you’re feeling such as you needed to take care of it as a result of he cared about it a lot.”

“Alma del Barrio” shortly turned a part of the material of Los Angeles below Lopez’s management.

He scouted up-and-coming faculty college students as DJs, and inspired his younger workforce to behave as in the event that they had been professionals at industrial radio stations. If newbies queued pop or rock hits, Lopez was fast to name them throughout their set and remind them of the station’s mission, stated Nelson Rodriguez, who joined “Alma del Barrio” in 2007 and nonetheless hosts at present.

“He’s certainly one of our stars right here of L.A. in terms of our music,” Rodriguez stated. “Some folks assume it’s simply musicians and it’s not folks, however typically it’s the folks behind the scenes.”

Anabel Marquez joined “Alma del Barrio” when she was a 22-year-old scholar at LMU. She was inquisitive about a profession in communications and liked dancing salsa. A buddy launched her to Lopez and he immediately invited her to be his visitor on air.

“My guess is it was type of feeling me out and in addition ensuring that I used to be an excellent match,” she stated. “The chemistry was there. We talked in Spanglish … we shared some laughs but it surely was extra like an interview however a really pleasant type of welcome interview with out essentially having type of employed me.”

Lopez later provided her the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday slot, which she held till she graduated. Typically, Marquez stated, he’d name in throughout her slot to go with her section.

“He was only a very stylish, elegant type of mentor and he simply all the time, actually simply inspired us to do it for the love of music extra for every other private agenda,” she stated.

Buddies say Lopez all the time made certain to marry his ardour for politics and music. He embedded Afro-Caribbean music into information packages in his day job as an editor for KVEA-TV Channel 52 Telemundo, the place he honed his nostril for information to provide award-winning work. In 1980, listeners referred to as into KXLU to accuse employees of being communists for airing Cuban music. Lopez, Geik recalled, reminded his workforce to stay compassionate to callers as a result of some could have that perspective due to the trauma they skilled in Cuba.

“The view needed to be provided that we’ve got a proper to play this and you’ve got a proper to hearken to,” Geik stated. “In the event you don’t wish to contribute to us, we perceive and we’re sorry on your private ache. I by no means stated that as a result of I’ve a little bit harsher view.”

Listeners additionally used “Alma del Barrio” to collectively grieve. In 1985 when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico Metropolis, listeners shared tales about their household experiencing the pure catastrophe whereas additionally offering native assets and plugging mother and pop eating places.

In his private life, the “Alma del Barrio” ethos continued. At his Pasadena residence, events usually led to jam classes with native musicians who grabbed a few of the many devices he collected or spun a few of his many information. Typically Lopez would briefly slam away on his conga drums earlier than leaving it to the professionals. He liked to zip round his neighborhood in his basic 1973 canary yellow Volkswagen Karmann Ghia alongside along with his spouse and their westie, Winston. He additionally stored a kite readily available simply in case the wind was good for flying.

“He was just about far and wide,” Sulam stated. “And he would all the time say ‘I don’t have sufficient time to do all of the issues I like to do!’”

Lopez is survived by his spouse and their 25-year-old daughter, Nina. “Alma del Barrio” plans to honor Lopez at its annual salsa pageant this summer time, when it’ll have a good time its fiftieth anniversary.

“It’s laborious to consider I’ve been with the present and KXLU for over 40 years,” Lopez wrote in his KXLU biography. “It doesn’t appear attainable so please maintain it to your self! lol It’s been one of the crucial satisfying experiences of my life.”