University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

UCR Professor is On the Air

UCR Professor is On the Air

(January 20, 2000)

Josh Kun, a new assistant professor of English, spends weekdays teaching Latino and African-American literature to roomfuls of students at the University of California, Riverside.

At 5 p.m. Sundays, his audience gets bigger.

He is the on-air personality for The Red Zone, a groundbreaking "Rock en Espanol" radio show on KLYY-FM (107.1) in Los Angeles, a station now known as Viva-107.

Kun, who had no radio experience before being tapped for this role last summer, likes to mix it up. He might play a song from the Mexico City band "Maldita Vecindad," (the damned neighborhood) next to the '70s classic, "Low Rider," a song that has become a Latino anthem. The U.S. band that sings it is "War," which is, of course, made up of African-Americans.

A song from the band "Los Lobos" could be sandwiched between the L.A.-based band "Ozomatli (Gods of Dance) and Columbia's "Aterciopleados. For real international appeal, he plays a song from "Bayu,"a band that mixes lyrics in Portuguese, Spanish and English. The exotic home of the band? Sherman Oaks, Calif.

For mainstream flavor, Kun chooses "Rage Against the Machine," a band with a Chicano lead singer. In the past, Kun has interviewed guest artists in English, while they respond in Spanish.

"I really like to see how I can put more than one language together and bring different voices into contact," said Kun, 28.

"I get to be a mouthpiece for this music that is so important," he said. "I get to introduce new people to what has been going on in Latin America since the 1960s. I do see it as a pedagogical project. I am not throwing dates at you, but ideally, you are learning something new."

As a graduate student, he started with music criticism that appeared in Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where he still writes a bi-weekly column called "Frequencies." [Examples are available on the Web at]

The radio show and the newspaper columns are just sidelines to his academic career. His essay, Life According to the Beat: Bessie Smith and the Perilous Sounds of Love, appears in a new book, "James Baldwin Now," from New York University Press.

Kun's own book, "Strangers Among Sounds: Listening, Difference and the Unmaking of Americans," is expected in 2001 from the University of California Press. It examines how the simple act of listening to music creates new ideas about race, culture, gender and national identity.

Kun attended Duke University, earned his advanced degrees in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at the Center for Crossroads in the Study of the Americas at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He said he is glad to have found a home in the English department at UCR, even if English is not the only language he finds interesting.

"I think most people know that the English department incorporates more than its name might let on," he said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Media Relations
900 University Avenue
1156 Hinderaker Hall
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-6397 (951) UCR-NEWS
Fax: (951) 827-5008

Related Links