Words on World Music

Wayne Vernon celebrates 12 years of Caribbean Express

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Wayne Vernon presents Cal Koat with a plaque in appreciation of Cal's loyal support of Caribbean Express

Wayne Vernon presents Cal Koat with a plaque in appreciation of Cal's loyal support of Caribbean Express

Saturday, November 14, a large and enthusiastic crowd gathered to celebrate 12 years of Caribbean Express with the show’s host, Wayne Vernon.

Caribbean Express is Canada’s only Caribbean music program on commercial radio, and for 12 years Wayne Vernon, Mr. Sunshine, has been bringing the culture of the Caribbean to his community — and a multicultural audience.

Cal Koat was invited to give a toast to Wayne as part of the celebration — and found the tables turned when he was presented with a plaque in honour of his continuing support of the program.

Here’s Cal’s toast to the man of the hour:

Multicultural broadcasting is a strange duck but nevertheless challenging and important as a reflection of Canadian society, which is probably why it’s kept me engaged for most of the 30 years I’ve been in this business. Lord knows, it’s not the money!

When we were mapping out the programming for 96.1 FM, we were working with the challenge of putting not the biggest cultural community but international programming in the valuable morning hours so we thought it would be a good idea to cast our net as far as possible with cross- cultural entertainment, which would target both specific cultural groups and the general population. So, we had to consider what Metro Vancouver could use that it just doesn’t get enough of. Surprisingly, because we live in a temperate rain forest, that one was a no-brainer. We all needed more of the kind of sunshine that doesn’t fall from the sky. And so, the legend of Mr. Sunshine was born.

We decided on a parade of programs representing the sunnier places on the planet, like the Caribbean, Latin America, Italy and even Polynesia on the weekends. But, the hosts of these shows would have to possess a very specific skill set. They would have to be passionate about the music and material they would be presenting. They would have to be fair and equitable to all the communities within their larger cultural group, they would have to be ambassadors, developing a profile within and working throughout their respective communities. And, since the bottom line is the bottom line, they would have to be astute business people as well as accomplished broadcasters, who could convince their communities without the benefit of tangible statistics that their shows were potentially powerful advertising vehicles through which small businesses, organizations and associations could reach their audience.

It narrowed the field of potential candidates substantially and in the end, as far as a Caribbean producer goes, there really was only one choice, and you need only look over Wayne Vernon’s profile in tonight’s programme to understand why WV would become chief cook and bottle washer of Caribbean Express on 96.1 FM.

In the proceeding 12 years, Wayne has thrived under the challenges and mandates he was given, helping to galvanize the disparate Caribbean cultural groups under his charge, partnering with business to create effective and affordable advertising and reaching out through the airwaves to bring young and old the feel good rhythms of reggae, soca and calypso, programmed with a skilled ear, trained to separate the quality from the slackness.

And by taking his role to heart, Wayne became more than a team player, he became a team leader. Would you believe he had 96 One club jackets, t shirts and bumper stickers made up for himself long before the station ever got around to it! As a colleague, I could admire his professionalism, as an OCD clean freak, I could appreciate his sense of tidiness and respect for the facilities and equipment and it wasn’t long before I was happy to count him among my most trusted and valued friends in the business.

And, I’ll wrap this quickly, because your lips are probably getting dry; with a nod to Wayne’s organizational skills and a memorable moment. Wayne also managed to orchestrate one of the most thrilling escapades of my broadcast career. It was the first year that we were invited to take The Worldbeat Wakeup and Caribbean Express down to Jamaica to broadcast live from Sandals and Beaches at 3 different properties in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Often, my mind flashes back to one morning in particular in MoBay when we were set up on a terrace at the beach with the sunshine, ocean breeze and breakers rolling in. I had spent a half hour in the Sandals’ office at their computer, gathering news, weather and sports from the internet to print off. Nearing the end of my program, the print outs were stacked in messy piles on the desk underneath rocks to keep them from blowing into the surf, when Wayne shows up, cool and casual and flips open a single binder with all his notes, information and music selections neatly organized in plastic sleeves. I felt like a rank amateur. Mr. Sunshine has taught me a lot over the years and right now, on the occasion of its 12th anniversary, I’d like you to raise your glasses and join me in wishing Wayne many more years to come behind the mike on Caribbean Express.

Cal Koat, Wayne Vernon, and Seme Ho of Fairchild Radio celebrate 12 years of Caribbean programming on 96.1 FM

Cal Koat, Wayne Vernon, and Seme Ho of Fairchild Radio celebrate 12 years of Caribbean programming on 96.1 FM

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