KYAT-FM offers 24-hour Navajo language

By Erny Zah
Navajo Times

GALLUP, Oct. 17, 2011

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Eugene Plummer announces at the new FM radio station K-YA-T early in the morning on Oct. 1, when the new station, found at 94.5, first went on the air.

BOTTOM: Eugene Plummer announces on the first morning of broadcasting for new radio station K-YA-T in Gallup. The station offers 24-hour, all-Navajo language broadcasts.

Local FM radio listeners this week started hearing some unusual sounds at 94.5 on the dial - Navajo-language broadcasts.

Last Saturday, KYAT became the only FM station known to be dedicated entirely to speaking in Diné bizaad.

The station, formerly known by the call letters KKOR, is owned by Millennium Media Inc. and broadcasts around the clock.

"It's been a year in the making," said George Malti, station manager.

The 85,000-watt signal will allow listeners to tune in late at night when most AM stations - including the three Navajo-language AM stations in the area - are off the air or are drowned out by atmospheric interference.

Malti said KYAT can be heard from Albuquerque to Holbrook, Ariz., and from Farmington to Cibola National Forest, depending on the listener's radio antenna.

Malti and disc jockeys Eugene Plummer, Buddy Lee and Roy Keeto, collaborated to put together a Navajo-language station that has a broadcast philosophy based in traditional Navajo teachings.

Rather than a linear plan, they envision a circular structure with goals to achieve along the way until they have achieved the creation of an enduring community resource to reach and uplift listeners.

More than just music and announcements, Malti said he plans to incorporate history, stories and information that gives a picture of Navajo life, both contemporary and traditional.

When it comes to music programming, KYAT plans to maintain a mix of classic and contemporary country, Native American and Western music.

"We're definitely going to be a country station," Malti said.

The station welcomes announcements from community members about scheduled ceremonies, rodeos, powwows, revivals and other community events.

Drop by the station at 300 W. Aztec Ave. in Gallup or call 505-863-6851 with your announcement.

Plummer, who handles DJ duties from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., said he also wants to give airtime to local bands and their music, including some favorites from a generation ago like the original Fenders and the Wingate Valley Boys.

Station officials are hoping their playlist will reach a broad audience that transcends age, but also understand that the music might not appeal to the younger people.

"Our listenership will probably be the elderlies," Lee said.

However, there will be a regularly scheduled segment in English, including daily local news updates from the Navajo Times.

Tom Arviso Jr., Navajo Times publisher, said the news segment, which runs Monday through Saturday at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m., gives the newspaper additional exposure to Navajo listeners.

"I think the key value to our partnership is that the station is all Navajo, 24 hours, and is on the FM dial," Arviso said.

"It's important to do what we can to get the Navajo Times as much exposure as possible," he said, adding that the paper has tried to expand into radio news with other stations before but it did not work out.

Arviso shares KYAT's vision of service to the Navajo Nation.

"It's about informing the Navajo listeners with important information and news," he said.

Sammy Chioda, president and general manager of Millennium Media, said the Navajo Times will add to the station's strength in Navajo language programming.

"Let's go with what we're going strong with and go forth with that into the future," Chioda said.

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