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Ken Laymance-DJ Kenny Mac
Post photo by Dima Gavrish

Kenny "Mac" Laymance lends Power FM a foreign accent.

American brings classic rock to Kyiv radio

By Dana Liss, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
September 2002

    Flipping through the radio stations on your way home from work this summer, you may have heard a lone American voice amid the customary wilderness of Russian pop music and monotoned Ukrainian news broadcasters.
    That distinctive baritone belongs to Kenny Laymance, better known to his radio listeners as DJ Kenny Mac. Laymance hosts "The All English Hour" show, which has been airing twice weekly on Power FM (104.0) for the past month. The program runs Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and mixes short comedy skits with American and British classic rock favorites.
    Laymance said that the goal of the program is to "play unique, great American and Western rock classics that most Ukrainians don't get to hear." He singled out such bands as the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Midnight Oil, Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, the Beatles and German heavy metal group Ramstein.
    Laymance said that he plays more than just popular hits that everyone knows by heart. He also spins lesser?known singles that never got airtime.
    That makes for a pretty broad play list. "We have yet to repeat a song," boasted Laymance, adding that the majority of his selection comes from his own collection of CDs.
    In classic rock DJ style, Laymance launches each song with a pithy and energetic, albeit generic, introduction, such as, "It's time to get down with Black Sabbath." "Hey, music should support the DJ and vice?versa," he said.In between music, Laymance peppers each program with commentary and skits - for both his Ukrainian and Western listeners.
    In a segment titled "English You Will Never Learn in School," Laymance and his cohorts introduce local listeners to American slang. He gives the definition of words like "knocked up," (unplanned pregnancy) and "hammered" (drunk), then gives an example of their usage, such as "Damn, I got hammered last night."
    Although "The English Hour" was launched only a month ago, it has already garnered some loyal fans. Fourteen year old Alexander Whitlock from England said he enjoys listening to the music and the skits. "I like his choice of songs, and he is fun to listen to," Whitlock said.
    Hearing Laymance talk about his trade, one would think that he has been in the radio business for years. Not so. Like most children of the 1960s and 70s, the radio was his constant companion. He listened to popular shows like Kasey Kasem's "American Top 40" and Wolfman Jack. During his teenage years he played in a band and made friends on the Los Angeles music scene.
    He first career was as a construction worker in Washington state. In 1996, because of "circumstances in his life," as he put it, he set out for Eastern Europe. He arrived in Ukraine with little more than $1,500 and two guitars. "You can say I was a little naive at the time," he said.Since then he has dabbled in various business activities in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. And while he still does business in Ukraine, he prefers to remain mum on the details of those activities and talk about radio instead.
    His first experience in Eastern European radio was with state run Radio Slovakia International, where he worked for two months as a music reporter. But during a brief trip to Los Angeles earlier this year, Laymance said he hooked up with some musician friends who were playing in a band called "United State." Laymance helped them come up with a plan to promote their music in Eastern Europe. He came back to Ukraine with a load of the band's CDs and started pitching them to local Kyiv radio stations.
    It was on just such a visit to Power FM that he met Anton Tselik, the station's program manager. Tselik asked Laymance to give him a demonstration of how American radio DJs conduct shows in the United States. After producing a few demos, Laymance came up with the idea for "The All English Hour," and Tselik went for it.
    Laymance said one of the perks of the job is that he's pretty much free to play whatever he thinks his listeners want to hear."Radio stations in the States are slaves to record labels," he said. "Ukrainian stations and DJs are not afraid to be different and take chances."Just how well the show is received by Kyivans is hard to tell, Laymance said."I just heard a taped show in a store the other day, so I think we're doing well," he said, adding that it is difficult in a country that doesn't have a ratings system. "It's still too early to get a clear picture."
    There is now a better opportunity for feedback, however. Listeners can now email their requests to DJ Kenny Mac at kmusa@ua.fm.

 

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