KAREN KARABIAN–STAFF WRITER
If Greg Tchaparian had one million dollars, he would open a recording studio, start a Ska record label, produce and release promising Ska bands, and re-release traditional Ska music.
Greg, a.k.a. TopCat, hosts his own radio show on KFSR 90.7. He lives for “pure, from the heart, traditional” Ska. Every Thursday from twelve to three, he lets loose inside the studio, for the roomy closet is his Sca outlet. Greg admits to sneaking in some fancy footwork during songs, and daring to groove dangerously close to the stacks of records that have become the walls.
For those who are unfamiliar with Ska, Greg can best describe it as “a get up, get off your feet, energetic rhythm” that comes from a talented mix of drums, sax, trombone, trumpet, piano, organ, guitar, and base. Ska can be considered a combination of American Jazz and Soul. It requires a side to side swing of the arms and hips while creating the illusion of running in place.
At nineteen, Greg is a Junior at Fresno State. He is now debating if his future path lies in medicine or mass communications. Greg’s family moved to Fresno from Torrance, California. His parents moved to the United States from Lebanon, a place Greg wishes to visit soon. He has a desire to see their homeland, a place where Armenians once fled, a place where Armenian traditions originated.
Over the radio waves Greg reaches a diverse group of listeners, loyal fans and newcomers. Greg’s timeslot consists of non-mainstream progressive music for the first two hours of his show, and in the final hour–the sound of Ska. “I get a lot of requests for old traditional Ska, there is a definite listening audience.”
Why KFSR? “In college radio there is freedom, I can play and say what I want. I can express who I am and what I live for.”
Why Ska? “The great musicians of the Traditional Era (early 60’s) and the Two Tone Era (late 70’s) enjoyed playing, enjoyed playing for themselves. My favorite band is HepCat because every time I see them, I appreciate them more and more. I admire how they have stuck to the their roots and how much they respect the sacred tradition of Ska. No one can witness any of the old bands again. It’s like they take me back to the day, to the event as it must have been in the sixties.”
Traditional Ska attire includes a suit, preferably black and white, since Ska bands emerged as a sign of unity among black and white musicians.
Someday Greg has hopes of seeing Skatalites and Desmond Dekker in concert, for lack of popularity can’t stand in the way of good, upbeat dance music.
Two years ago the playlist for Ska vanished. KFSR was without a DJ that wanted to blast Ska over the air, until one student came forward. Greg now shares his passion and free time for the greater good of Ska fans in Fresno. “Fresno State gave me the chance to get this music out, since there is a lack of Ska concerts.”
Greg admits, “being a DJ is fun and sometimes boring, but once my set is finished I am craving to go back in again and play songs.”
Greg can add being a DJ to his list of unusual jobs. It would come right after making corn dogs in concession stands at Madera, Merced, and Fresno Fairs.
Working at KFSR had given Greg the confidence and drive to pursue other commitments. He is acting Historian of the Armenian Students Organization and participates in Armenian dances and fund-raiser. “I have met so many good Armenians I never knew were out there, and I am a better person for having known them. I appreciate my Armenian culture and community much more now that I am old enough to enjoy traditional activities.” Greg is grateful that he lives in an area, lives on a campus where he can take part in numerous opportunities, and at the same time share his heritage and beliefs with others.
When Greg does marry, there is no question he will have a traditional Armenian wedding, and no question that he will dance to Sca at his reception.
By taking control of the air waves, Greg sends a message to all Armenians. That message is one that encourages others to get involved, explore passions, discover new dreams, and live old ones.
Greg still grasps onto the dream he has of starting a band. “I just need to better myself at the guitar and find people who have the same belief in Ska that I do.”