It's Different

By Vidya Pradhan
With the kind of Indian population we have in the Bay Area, I half-expect to hear the shehnai strains from Vividh Bharati when I turn the radio on during the morning commute. So it was with very pleasant surprise that I discovered ‘It’s Different’, a radio program that airs 6-9 a.m. on Wednesdays on the Stanford FM station KZSU 90.1.

It’s Different is the creation of the multi-talented Srikanth Srinivasa, humorist, actor, compere and computer geek. In the 3 hour segment, Sri, as he is popularly known, manages to interweave a whole variety of subjects into a stream of classical and popular music.

KZSU 90.1 FM , a channel run out of Stanford University, was primarily started as a medium to air sports shows devoted to the rabid fans of the college’s teams. Today, a large segment of time is offered to local community groups with a great deal of freedom to be innovative with respect to content and structure. It’s Different is by no means the first or only Indian show on the station. Popular shows like Garam Chai, Voice of India and Silicon Sollai have been on and off the air in the last few years. But It’s Different is the first one to try and bring an inclusive perspective to the Indian community in the Bay Area and the credit for that must largely be given to Sri’s commitment.

Sri, who works as a project manager at Verisign during the day, was first introduced to KZSU by a friend who ran a show known as ‘Mostly Tamil’. After co hosting a couple of shows, he was bitten by the radio bug and decided to start his own show. He was determined that the show should not restrict itself to any one language group and wanted to incorporate Hindi, Telegu, Kannada into the format along with his core competency in Tamil. It’s Different has segments in all these languages.

It’s Different’s tagline is ‘News, Views and Music.’ While the listening public is blearily waking up and getting ready for the commute, Sri plays a mix of Carnatic music and devotional songs from 6-7 a.m. From 7 -7:30 is the talk show segment where well known guests are invited to talk about their areas of expertise. Sri is amazed at the encouragement and support he gets from the celebrities he interviews in this segment. “Really senior people have shown up 6:45 at the doors of the studio,” he says. The segment has covered spirituality, business and parenting, among other varied topics of interest to Indians.

7:30-8:30 is ‘prime time’ and in this segment Sri and his co-hosts try to present a theme with appropriate songs.

Aarti Johri and Anju Varma have co-hosted several successful thematic segments for It’s Different. Very familiar with the long history of Indian film songs, their first presentation was called ‘Barkha’ in which they wove in 10-15 songs picturised on rain into a piece on the nostalgic memories of Indian monsoons. “We discussed the format with Sri a few times,” says Aarti, “and then showed up at the radio station with script and songs.” Other popular themes hosted by the duo have been on ‘Holi’, ‘Shammi Kapoor ‘ and of course, the mega successful ‘Train Tarana’ where “there were so many calls from the listeners talking about their train experiences in India that we had to seriously edit the number of songs!” says Aarti.

Many other co-hosts assist Sri with the segments but ultimately It’s Different works because of his vision. Fitting a weekly radio show into an already busy schedule is only possible because of his ‘project management’ as he calls it.

The program has earned a fair amount of recognition in the Bay Area. Most segments are sponsored by local Indian organizations with the proceeds going to Stanford. Sri and his co hosts are all volunteers with an amazing commitment to waking up early on cold Wednesday mornings and dragging themselves week after week to Stanford to produce the show. Listeners from all over the world tune in and on their Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day specials they have even had calls from non-Indians who stumbled on to the show during their commute and stayed to listen.

It’s Different recently completed 100 shows(not out!) and celebrated with ‘Sangamam’, an evening of cultural commingling. The event featured Carnatic and Hindustani vocals and instrumentals, dance performances from local troupes and even a quiz program and a fashion show. “It was my attempt to let the listeners put a face to the voices they hear every week,” says Sri. In keeping with It’s Different’s commitment to the community, part of the proceeds benefited Jeena, a support group for parents of children with special needs.

  Sri is profoundly grateful to all his co-hosts for their generosity with their time. As for the future of this volunteer driven show, ““I will do it as long as I can,” says Sri, “but I want more people from the community to come forward and help continue the service.”

To get a taste of It’s Different, check out the archives on their website. You might be a better person after listening to segments on Vedanta philosophy or stress management. Hey, you may even discover what ‘Core Incompetency’ is! Better still, tune in to 90.1 FM next Wednesday on your way to work.

If you think you have an idea for a segment or some feedback for the show, contact It’s Different here.

It’s Different
Wednesday 6 a.m.-9 a.m.
KZSU 90.1 FM

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