As proud as he is of his Native American Music Awards “Artist of the Year” accolades and “Best International Album” recognition from the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, guitarist Gabriel Ayala is equally proud of his latest accomplishment—his own show on tribal radio, KPYT, Yoeme Radio, The Voice of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
The 100 watt community radio station, started from scratch in 2005, has a signal range of only four miles (broadcast from the tribal fire station), is housed in a former smoke shop, and fields a staff of some 30 volunteer DJs. Ayala is happy to be one of them, bringing an eclectic music mix to his people.
Ayala kicked off his new show, Liner Notes, on July 12, telling listeners: “I’m proud and honored to be here to share my voice and share music. The intent of this show is to showcase Native artists from all around the country in both the U.S. and in Canada, our brothers and sisters up north, all of our Aboriginal people.”
Ayala laments the fact that, with so much music now downloaded off of iTunes, “People never know the concept of the CD, why the song was written, who did the artwork.” His show takes its name from the increasingly rare informational material that was part of the packaging of the records he grew up listening to. “I’m a man who loves vinyl,” he says. “I love to look at the images and pull out the liner notes and read where it was recorded, where it was produced. I want to bring in musical guests and ask them ‘why was this recorded, what was the concept of the album, what’s next.’ Talking about why the music is happening, rather than just letting it happen.”
“Listeners will hear every genre from Pow Wow to Paskola, Old Skool, Round Dance—my mission is to educate, inform, and entertain,” he says. “There’s no real demographic aside from people who simply want to hear music of all kinds.”
The FM signal serves many purposes aside from just music and news; it also informs the tribal community of events of local interest. “This is what community radio is all about,” says KPYT General Manager Hector Youtsey who admits to being excited about Ayala’s participation. “He’ll be a big asset to the station and I know we’re going to pick up a lot of new listeners on the Internet where we stream loud and clear. He’s got so many connections, and with his vast collection of music, people will be tuning in to his show.”
With so many accolades already received, how does a volunteer community radio station gig fit in to Ayala’s master plan? “I’m still a man of prayer,” he says, “a traditional singer and regular attendee at ceremonies that keep me grounded. I’ve been fortunate as a musician, and in our culture it’s important to give back. I want to show Native music is more than hitting a drum.”
And it’s a safe bet that the eclectic mix on Liner Notes will include some tunes from the nine critically-acclaimed albums Ayala himself has released.
Ayala may need to take a break from the new show in October to play a once-in-a-lifetime gig: A performance of an original arrangement for Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. The opportunity arose out of a concert he played in the Windy City at the request of the Diocese of Chicago. “Once I was there, they said ‘Look at this piece of music, it’s a triple melody.’ I said ‘It’s really nice.’ They said, ‘What do you hear in this?’ I said ‘It needs guitar, and needs to be harmonized,’ and they said ‘Here’s the piece of music, arrange it,’ and that was that. I’m going to do an SATB arrangement—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—and I’m hoping to have 16 performers, four from each category, plus guitar and Native American flute. I’ve worked on the piece and it’s about where I want it.”
Performing for the Pope “will show me on a different level as a Native artisan,” Ayala says, although he admits that the date is tentative. “Musicians are always the last to know what’s going on,” he chuckles. “We show up and play when we’re told and leave when we’re done.”
To listen to the KPYT 100.3 FM Internet stream, visit media.pascuayaqui-nsn.gov. Listeners are invited to send requests or dedications to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (520) 838-7111. To learn more about Ayala and his music, visit ayalaguitarist.com.