Eddie Lopez, famed DJ of KXLU’s “Alma del Barrio,” dies at 66

From the time he was a boy rising up in Koreatown, Eddie Lopez was fascinated with radio.

He tinkered with a Craig Tape recorder, interviewing household and associates to splice collectively his personal radio program. He stayed up previous his bedtime to tune into stations in Rosarito, Mexico. Then sooner or later in highschool, he heard Latin jazz star Leandro “Gato” Barbieri’s wild, high-pitched saxophone.

“He just loved that, and it really drew him” into the world of tropical music, stated his spouse, Vanessa Salum. “The salsa music of the ‘70s some of it was political and he liked the messages and the African rhythms, the drums, the horns, the ability to dance to it.”

Lopez took his love of the music to Pepperdine University’s radio station earlier than he transferred to Loyola Marymount College within the Seventies. There, he started to volunteer for a weekend radio present known as “Alma del Barrio,” which was in its third yr and distinctive within the Southern California Latino radio panorama by specializing in Afro-Caribbean music and presenting it with DJs who spoke in English and Spanish.

“Alma del Barrio” turned probably the most celebrated radio reveals of its sort in the USA, and Lopez was amongst its most celebrated voices. For years, Lopez hosted each different Sunday from 2 p.m. to six p.m. till the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted his schedule. He started prerecording reveals till the autumn of 2022.

He spent hours researching music historical past at native libraries, or requested artists about sure songs at native golf equipment to correctly inform his listeners. Earlier than he performed a observe on air, he took time to contextualize the artist’s lyrics, explaining to listeners why the saxophone evoked a sense of ache or the vocalist shrieked in anguish.

And because it was all for school radio, Lopez at all times did his work without spending a dime.

“The best thing is there are plenty of students willing to volunteer and keep the flame going for many years to come,” Lopez wrote to a buddy on Fb after they known as him a “true keeper of the flame.”

“He understood the importance of this little college radio show that had such an inroad into the community,” stated Alan Geik, a longtime buddy and former colleague who hosted “Latin Dimensions” on KCRW after Lopez urged him to take over and later at KXLU for about 25 years. “He was deeply involved in the politics of what was going on, more than anybody else at the station. Because he lived it 24/7, he brought a perspective that I certainty didn’t have that gave us a united view.”

A mentor to many, Lopez died Jan. 8, stated Salum. He was 66. No trigger was given.

“Eddie was a tireless champion of this life-giving genre of music, the quintessential radio professional on air, a seasoned curator of all things Salsa, and someone who cared deeply for the radio station,” wrote LMU’s radio director Lydia Ammossow in tribute of her colleague.

Throughout social media, avid followers shared tales of listening to Lopez on weekends whereas cruising Los Angeles.

For Eric Wiig, a 30-year-old Koreatown resident who’s initially from Minnesota, Lopez’s present served as a “cultural exchange.”

“It felt like a way to learn about the city of Los Angeles and learn about some of the people in it through this music,” he stated. “He just made you feel like you had to care for it because he cared about it so much.”

“Alma del Barrio” rapidly turned a part of the material of Los Angeles underneath Lopez’s management.

He scouted up-and-coming faculty college students as DJs, and inspired his younger workforce to behave as in the event that they have been professionals at business radio stations. If newbies queued pop or rock hits, Lopez was fast to name them throughout their set and remind them of the station’s mission, stated Nelson Rodriguez, who joined “Alma del Barrio” in 2007 and nonetheless hosts immediately.

“He’s one of our stars here of L.A. when it comes to our music,” Rodriguez stated. “Some people think it’s just musicians and it’s not people, but sometimes it’s the people behind the scenes.”

Anabel Marquez joined “Alma del Barrio” when she was a 22-year-old pupil at LMU. She was enthusiastic about a profession in communications and cherished dancing salsa. A buddy launched her to Lopez and he immediately invited her to be his visitor on air.

“My guess is it was sort of feeling me out and also making sure that I was a good fit,” she stated. “The chemistry was there. We talked in Spanglish … we shared some laughs but it was more like an interview but a very friendly sort of welcome interview without necessarily having sort of hired me.”

Lopez later supplied her the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday slot, which she held till she graduated. Typically, Marquez stated, he’d name in throughout her slot to go with her phase.

“He was just a very classy, elegant sort of mentor and he just always, really just encouraged us to do it for the love of music more for any other personal agenda,” she stated.

Buddies say Lopez at all times made positive to marry his ardour for politics and music. He embedded Afro-Caribbean music into information packages in his day job as an editor for KVEA-TV Channel 52 Telemundo, the place he honed his nostril for information to supply award-winning work. In 1980, listeners known as into KXLU to accuse workers of being communists for airing Cuban music. Lopez, Geik recalled, reminded his workforce to stay compassionate to callers as a result of some could have that angle due to the trauma they skilled in Cuba.

“The view had to be given that we have a right to play this and you have a right to listen to,” Geik stated. “If you don’t want to contribute to us, we understand and we’re sorry for your personal pain. I never said that because I have a little harsher view.”

Listeners additionally used “Alma del Barrio” to collectively grieve. In 1985 when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico Metropolis, listeners shared tales about their household experiencing the pure catastrophe whereas additionally offering native sources and plugging mother and pop eating places.

In his private life, the “Alma del Barrio” ethos continued. At his Pasadena residence, events usually led to jam classes with native musicians who grabbed among the many devices he collected or spun a few of his many data. Typically Lopez would briefly slam away on his conga drums earlier than leaving it to the professionals. He cherished to zip round his neighborhood in his basic 1973 canary yellow Volkswagen Karmann Ghia alongside together with his spouse and their westie, Winston. He additionally stored a kite readily available simply in case the wind was excellent for flying.

“He was pretty much all over the place,” Sulam stated. “And he would always say ‘I don’t have enough time to do all the things I love to do!’”

Lopez is survived by his spouse and their 25-year-old daughter, Nina. “Alma del Barrio” plans to honor Lopez at its annual salsa pageant this summer season, when it should have fun its fiftieth anniversary.

“It’s hard to believe I have been with the show and KXLU for over 40 years,” Lopez wrote in his KXLU biography. “It doesn’t seem possible so please keep it to yourself! lol It’s been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.”