Popular AM radio station sets up FM channel
Earlier this year, KNDN-FM started broadcasting on 97.5 FM, offering a blend of contemporary country music and programming in both Navajo and English
FARMINGTON — For decades, the call letters KNDN have been a staple on the AM dial.
Now, those same letters can be heard as an FM station that broadcasts country music and programming in both Navajo and English.
Earlier this year, KNDN-FM started offering listeners a blend of contemporary country music at 97.5 FM. Last week, a Navajo blessing ceremony was completed for the station.
The FM station is housed on Farmington's West Main Street alongside its sister station, KNDN 960 AM, and KWYK 94.9 FM, which broadcasts adult contemporary music.
The two KNDN stations and KGAK-AM in Gallup comprise the Navajo Radio Network. KNDN-AM and KGAK-AM broadcast only in Navajo.
Steve Henderson, the network's general manager, said the KNDN call letters are shared between the AM and FM stations, but the FM station broadcasts in Navajo and English and offers different programming.
"This station is more entertainment. It has newer country, a lot more English on this station. ... If you speak English, you should be able to listen to this station and enjoy it. If you speak just Navajo, you should be able to listen to this station and enjoy it," Henderson said.
The music format follows Top 40 country, as well as music from popular country stars such as George Strait, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins.
"We have a good sense of what people like," Henderson said.
Lydell Rafael, producer and director for both KNDN stations, said the FM station plays music from local bands, and its broadcast can be streamed live at kndnfm.com and via the mobile app, TuneIn.
"If it sounds good, we can play it," Rafael said Monday morning while taking a break from his morning show in the FM studio.
Rafael, who speaks fluent Navajo, broadcasts live from 6 to 10 a.m.
"When you hear 'KNDN' everybody says, 'Oh, Navajo, Navajo.' This one is for the newer generation. Anybody that likes country music, but with a little Navajo and English blend, it’s the station to listen to," he said.
It took several years to develop the FM station, Rafael added. Last summer, the station engineer started building a state-of-the art studio to house KNDN-FM, he said.
"We still had the cranking knobs, the old board with the turntable and old reel to reel in here,” Rafael said of the former production room, which has since been converted.
Some listeners may recall KNDN-FM broadcasting on 96.5 FM last fall. But after another station's frequency interfered with the transmission, the company filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission to switch to 97.5 FM, Henderson said.
"As soon as the New Year came in, we flipped the switch," Rafael said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-5636.