What could a three-year-old girl and a 98-year-old man have in common? Don’t know the answer?
Well, let me enlighten you. They both have a love for reggae and are among the avid listeners of KZFR’s Devastation Sounds, a program broadcasting three solid hours of the best in roots reggae every Friday from 3–6pm. Hosted by Chico State and Butte College mathematics professor Sanjay Dev, this show reaches people in every corner of the world. With the unique and rare blend of songs that Sanjay plays, Devastation Sounds has gained a great deal of popularity; even some great reggae artists such as Earl 16, Michael Prophet, Linval, Thompson, and Alpha Blondy tune in to the show.
For those not familiar, Devastation Sounds is a gem among radio shows. Sanjay plays about fifty songs for his listeners each week; all the selections come from his own collection—from those 50 songs, about 45 of them can’t be purchased, since the vinyl is no longer in print. I learned that over the years a few singers have even asked Sanjay if they could get his copy of their record for their collections, since they didn’t have it themselves.
Tell me a little bit about your record collection.
Reggae music is a highly collected genre with many record[ings] only available on 45s (seven-inch)…I have about 12,000 reggae vinyls, including many tracks of Bob Marley rarities that only a handful of people have [around the] world.
That’s an impressive number, how did you come to accumulate so many?
Lots of hard work. I looked in record stores, auction sites, and even received about 500 records from a Marley fan and regular listener of the show who passed away from cancer. I’ve been collecting for almost 25 years.
How were you first introduced to reggae?
I grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal in the ‘70s. My only exposure to English music was once a week for an hour on the radio. In the winter of 1976, I remember listening to the record of Bob Marley live in London. The song that was playing was “No Woman No Cry.” There was magic in the voice and melody. [People became] captivated by reggae music because of its rebellious, militant, and spiritual message, as well as its positive and universal message dealing with equality and the rights of everyone.
How did you end up as a DJ for KZFR?
I started [the show] the third week of September in 1993. My close friend Jay was in a reggae band as well as a great DJ at the station. He really encouraged me to come and join the team.
Okay, so why the name “Devastation Sounds”?
My listeners responded well when I would say “Increase the volume, increase the bass, disturb the neighbors; let me blow up your woofers with this shattering, devastating sound.” My friend Nick suggested I change my name to Dev-A-Station Sounds, which incorporates my last name into it.
I heard you were voted Professor of the Year in ’06. As a professor, do you see a connection between mathematics and reggae?
Absolutely. Music is my passion, and education is my salvation. I love math, as it helps me understand this universe—and I love reggae music, as it gives me serenity. I take the approach of educating my listeners with reggae history rather than just playing music, and I take the approach of showing the beauty of math rather than just lecturing the subject.
I’ve been told that you sold some of your records to raise money for an education center back in Nepal. What was the reason behind doing this?
I sold about 300 prized records on Ebay and made $19,000. I used this money to buy computers as well as to establish scholarships for underprivileged kids for the education center located in the village my dad grew up in. My dad is my inspiration. If it weren’t for his education, I would still be herding water buffalo back in Nepal. The scholarships have helped support 32 kids at one time, but hopefully in the future I will be able to increase this number so that more kids will have the opportunity to receive an education.
The 20th anniversary of Devastation Sounds is this month; what’s the exact date? And do you have anything special planned?
September 20th of 1993 was when I first started. I am trying to see if I can compile my 20 best shows—one from each year—and give CDs to dedicated listeners, although it may be a huge task; there would be about 60 hours’ worth of music. Or, I will just compile 20 of my favorite singers and record hard-to-find cuts from each of them and give it away. Or better yet, I will ask all my listeners to donate $20 each to an orphanage or a school in a third-world country in the name of KZFR. Maybe I will come up with something more creative, but it will certainly revolve around the idea of giving.
Lastly, what message do you want to send to your listeners?
I am so blessed to have received so much love and support over the years. With their love and support we have raised thousands of dollars for KZFR over the years. We have great volunteers and staff, including the general manager Rick Anderson, whom I have the utmost respect for. Reggae music unites us all, and we have strength in unity. I feel so lucky to be a part of the radio station spreading this passion with reggae music, and it’s my privilege to serve as a volunteer for KZFR.
I know what I’ll be chilling to on Friday. It’s time to listen to some “devastating sounds” on 90.1 FM.