As is the tradition, coming September, Studio Brussel will present the programme for its new radio season. And If all goes well, their showpiece Zender will be aired for a third time in a row. The music platform initially had the difficult task of replacing Select, which had grown into an institute. By playing the card of adventurous, cutting edge music and digging into subgenres and music actuality, Zender succeeded in becoming an established value in Belgian media in a relative short period. We met up with Zender’s hostess, Michèle Cuvelier, to discuss their success formula.
How would you describe Zender to those who still need to discover the show?
"It’s the best show on the planet! No, enough bragging. Zender is a radio show that offers a lineup of exciting and brand-new music, going from indie and hip hop, to electronica and metal, with a special focus on fresh Belgian talent - think WWWater or Oathbreaker. Another important central aspect is music experience, which means we bring a lot of live music, coming from our session studio as well as concert venues. We like to give our audience a lot of input too, and anyone who spots new music can introduce it during our show. Further, there’s a lot of attention for music news, like single premieres and concert reviews. We also bring a decent online presence, with a representation of our radio show on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, but also on Facebook - where we offer sessions and interviews, which you might have missed on air."
As you said, Zender is bringing cutting edge and adventurous music. How do you trace new acts?
"It happens in so many ways, that’s the beauty of it! Of course, radio stations depend on the import of record labels. They’ll pass by every week to present the new singles on their label, which is called 'plugging'. Those singles are reviewed by Studio Brussel’s playlist editors and if the single gets a positive review, it gets distributed to the radio show that fits the single. However, there are other possibilities! Everyone at Studio Brussel has their own network, through which they can discover new tips, but our listeners can provide new music as well. And, sometimes, artists themselves recommend something when they pass by. For example, Netsky introduced me to the the French trio Point Point."
What requirements should artists hold to be featured in Zender?
"I don’t think there’s such a thing as a typical Zender artist, so there are no measurable criteria. What I personally would like to hear from artists who are on the show, is that they dare to think outside of the box. They should sound fresh and introduce something new. Each genre deserves the same attention. New drum ‘n' bass or metal is equally right to be signalled as a new pop song by Lorde. In addition, it’s important to focus on Belgium’s music scene. For example, the recent boom in Brussels hip hop absolutely deserves a pedestal, and Zender can be an appropriate platform. As a logical consequence, we had a Brussels hip hop week a few months ago (link)."
In September Zender’s third season will kick off. How did you experience the first 2 years?
"On a personal level, it has been extremely instructive, because when I started working at Zender, I had absolutely no radio experience. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but I think we've taken a nice course so far. It’s not an obvious show, because every music lover - from bloggers to record company people to concert organizers - has its own definition of what exactly it should be. We don’t want to be haughty and we also have to respect some radio rules and laws. Not every listener is waiting for 7 minutes of experimental jazz electronica. Therefore, we need to bring the right balance between diving into the niche and signaling music in a funky way."
Speaking of which: how would you see the program’s evolution during the next season.
"The core business is to keep our finger on the pulse, and we plan to continue doing so with pleasure. There are still tons of hidden gems to be discovered on numerous music blogs. Nothing beats the feeling of discovering something after a long search. Our listeners their input remains an important aspect and I hope they’ll continue to give tips and recommendations. We can’t listen to everything, so it’s Inevitable we miss out on a few things. Therefore, we’re very glad to have an attentive audience. Furthermore, the balance I just mentioned between niche and general public must be monitored closely. When a funk legend like William Onyeabor dies, he should get his tribute. And when a number goes viral for any reason – Future’s Mask Off for example -, that should be signalled too. The most important thing is that we keep our love and passion for (new) music in check. We should stay hungry and keep our eyes peeled. As long as we keep that in mind, the program will have a favorable evolution."
You’ve been able to highlight some interesting Belgian musical trends in the past months. Which phenomena struck you as impressive?
"Certainly, our native hip hop scene’s emergence during the last months. Blackwave. was a very welcome discovery with an interesting sound. And Brussels hip hop has been booming, with Roméo Elvis as its main man. It’s a major compliment, but he fits in the same tradition as Brel and Stromae. DVTCH NORRIS aka Ekeren’s very own Jay-Z is also someone to keep an eye on and the fabulous singer Yann Gaudeuille too, who is part of DVTCH's inner circle. I also heard a lot of exciting electronica from LTGL, Seizoensklanken and STUFF. Long live the experiment! And when talking about the harder stuff, Brutus and Oathbreaker are forces to be reckoned with. It seems like we’re being spoiled in Belgium nowadays!"
You can keep up with Zender and its signals by following the Facebook page.