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In 2006, hip hop music already was a global phenomenon but was under-represented on Austin radio stations. That was the chief reason KOOP programmer Leah Manners proposed Hip Hop Hooray: “There was one local hip hop show and it was a public affairs show with more interviews than music. But the city needed hip hop because it’s among the most popular music in the world. So I proposed a show and it’s still on the air in 2021!”

Leah says doing Hip Hop Hooray is lots of fun: “Austin has so many amazing rap and hip hop artists. It’s truly a gift to be able to share them with the KOOP audience who may otherwise not know about them.” Indeed, with so many music venues closed during the pandemic, KOOP is one of the few places hip hop fans can enjoy their local talent.

Producing Hip Hop Hooray from home during the pandemic is quite a challenge: “When we’re broadcasting live from the studio, I could plan out the songs but then change things around in real-time. In pre-records, I have to be much more methodical. It takes longer but I can make sure everything is just right for the air.”

As Austin music has evolved, so has the programming at KOOP, and Leah likes that: “We encourage new and different people to volunteer and become programmers, which makes for diversity and many musical genres.” That’s why you hear so much of what you like!

Besides producing her show, Leah is vice president of KOOP’s Board of Directors. She says the BoD is examining what station staff and volunteers have learned during the pandemic that may be relevant in post-Covid broadcasting. For example, should we go back to all-live programming, or might some shows remain pre-recorded as their programmers prefer? “Another BoD goal is to assure that the station is stable and prepared for future disruptions,” she says.

Leah also emphasizes that KOOP positions itself as in touch with, and very responsive to, Austin’s underserved communities. She explains, “We are conducting virtual meetings so more people with diverse interests can participate. We’re doing a lot more community outreach via social media and signing up more non-profit community organizations.”

Going forward, Leah says, “We hope to work with other non-profit radio stations to promote public media as a great resource in Austin. Maybe produce events and shows to support local artists. We want to assure that all voices are heard and no group gets left behind.”

You can hear Hip Hop Hooray with Leah Manners every Sunday from 2-3:30pm at 91.7FM in Austin, worldwide at www.KOOP.org.

– Michael A. Brown

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