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Introducing Charlotte K: KALW Music's new DJ bringing international flair

KALW Music Charlotte K

KALW Music has always been about connecting listeners to music from the Bay and beyond, and with our latest edition to the weeknight roster, we’re bringing more of the beyond. Charlotte K, whose first show on KALW airs Monday, October 9, 2023, was born in Paris, studied in Berlin, and curated music and shows in New York City before landing in the Bay. While in NYC, Charlotte promoted shows featuring the likes of Gilles Peterson, Q-Tip, and Questlove and was part of a collective called Disco Teheran, drawing on her influences from around the globe to curate shows. We spoke to Charlotte ahead of her KALW debut to find out what the international spinner has in store for our ears.

Tell me about your background. 

My journey in life can be defined by different travels or different stops through different cities of the world. And it has definitely defined my education and knowledge of music, which is, of course, still evolving, and will never be complete. That's the excitement of music.

I was born in Paris, and I grew up more in an environment of jazz from my parents and a bit of rock and another genre of music in France that we call the yéyé noir- it's a kind of the French wave. Then I moved to Berlin as a student in the mid-2000s, and I encountered the early days of the Club Berghain and all the techno around it. Then I spent a decade in New York where I worked for Vice Media and a promoter called Giant Step, and curated shows at DIY venues with collectives like The Lot Radio or Disco Teheran. So naturally, I was immersed in the jazz and hip hop, a bit of world music too, and electronic shows.

I did a quick stop in North Carolina during the pandemic, specifically between Durham, Chapel Hill and Asheville. I got immersed in the roots of legends such as Elizabeth Cotten, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, John Coltrane as well the synth heritage of Moog and modular synth heroes. And then I ended up in San Francisco, which is another city with an amazing hip-hop scene as well, and so much more that I'm still discovering lots of great shows.

What made you go from being a music listener to a music curator?

I always wanted to share music. I still have that feeling – I remember before I did my current profession of music supervisor, I remember playing stuff and being excited by music, either by going to shows or listening to stuff and having the urge to celebrate this and share it with as many people as possible.

So I think naturally I started doing that with people and I think also by curating shows. The Lot Radio saw me having a certain taste and they wanted to expand their genre of music beyond electronic music and DJs and so they tapped into me and then I was like, great.

Why radio?

For me, it's a platform to give back to the community and be part of the community. We are fortunate to have all these tools to discover music, of course, record stores, which I think I'm still very influenced by, but also all sorts of platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. We’re very spoiled and to me, giving it back to the people is sharing the love, sharing the artists that are giving us so much good music.

How is radio different in America compared to in Europe?

I think it's more of a geographical thing. We do have radio stations which are very central in the capital, but then of course dispatched in the different regions with sublocal radios. But I think in America, I tend to see that each university has a college radio, which is not something we initially have in Europe, and I think this is very strong. I feel like there's kind of a democratization early on about who can access radio, who can be doing radio, and I really like that. I think it's pretty open to everybody. I kind of also see that with the KALW roster.

What I thought was really cool is that the roster has amazing, talented people with such great taste and it's so eclectic, but it's not necessarily people who have done DJing their whole life. I think it's actually very fresh and very authentic and it speaks a lot to the radio, how empowering it is for people to bring them on the radio.

What can listeners expect from your shows?

I think my show will definitely focus on new and older stuff, but as much as possible, new stuff. And as much international as possible.

My shows will feature what I've been experiencing during each week, whether it was a show, or whether it was a discovery at a record store, or maybe an artist that I've met while I was traveling in the States or on vacation. I'm always trying to include a puzzle and collage of everything that I've experienced in the last week.