CKDU turns 25 years old

CKDU remembers more than two decades of alternative music and opinionated radio shows


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Tarek Al-Zand, program director, rummages through a box of old CKDU photos on the 25th anniversary of the station. Photo: Aly Thomson

CKDU marked its silver jubilee on Monday in front of old and new friends – the community radio station has made many over past 25 years.

The station hit airwaves on Feb. 1, 1985 at 4 p.m.

About 15 people celebrated the landmark year by eating cake and drinking ice tea in the CKDU office of the Student Union Building at Dalhousie University. A repertoire of stained CKDU T-shirts lined the ceiling as a reminder of more than two decades of community radio. 

Tarek Al-Zand, program director (and fairly new to CKDU), stood amid the bustle with a box of old photographs. He said CKDU has left a lasting legacy upon Halifax.

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Station volunteer Steve Kokic snaps a shot of Gianna Lauren, volunteer, and Joel Robitaille, board chair, holding up their favourtie albums from the CKDU library. Photo: Aly Thomson


1987: CKDU hosted a summer concert entitled “Lawn Jam” in front of what is now the Dalhousie Tech building. Local bands and artists, including Sarah McLachlan, played on an outdoor stage for a crowd of locals. 

1993: CKDU caught some heat from the CRTC for their annual All Day, All Gay show. The comission complained the show was too “specific” during daytime hours, said Doug Taylor. 

2004 – 2007: CKDU was voted best local radio station five times in a row by the readers of The Coast for their annual “Best of Music” issue.


“There are not a lot of stations like this … The opinions and perspectives that are on the station are different. It’s not what you would here in the mainstream,” he said, highlighting CKDU’s unique role in broadcasting alternative music and unconventional radio shows, such as Democracy Now, which is broadcast on a national level. The station has a different CRTC license than commercial radio and is mandated to involve the community.

“CKDU is a place that is open to absolutely everyone.”

Way back, play back

The station honoured the ghosts of CKDU’s past with Joy Division’s “Novelty” – the first song ever played on air, which was mistakenly played instead of the band’s song “Transmission.”

But CKDU’s community mandate was around long before their first transmission – Radio Tiger, a club at Dalhousie University broadcasted on a closed circuit around campus beginning in the 1960’s, said Al-Zand. 

Doug Taylor – known as Nick Barrington on air – has been the programmer of his radio show Elegant Voltage for 23 years. Taylor, who has worked in commercial radio, said the difference between CKDU and the mainstream is simple: “freedom.”

“You can play just about anything you want to play, and talk about anything you want to talk about within reason,” he said. 

In 2006, the station went high power, moving from around 50 watts to more than 3,000, said Taylor.

A number of notables have graced the airwaves of CKDU over the years including Jay Ferguson of Sloan, and Richard Terfry, better known is Buck 65, who had his own show under the name DJ Critical for more than 10 years, said Taylor. 

In 1986, the station produced a compilation called Out in the Fog, in partnership with Flamingo Records, which featured Sarah MacLauchlan in her recording debut with the October Game. 

Al-Zand said he thinks the station will continue to grow, but will never be torn away from its alternative roots. 

“The station will continue doing what it does, which is provide a voice.” 



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