Shapan Debnath
Shapan Debnath, 21, student and college radio station DJ, pays some tunes during his "How Goes" show recently.

Someday, Shapan Debnath may treat a sick child or provide stroke patient care, but right now, he rocks.

Debnath is one of about 50 students who volunteer at KUCI (88.9 FM). From 3-5 p.m. each Friday, this self-described music junkie shares his deep, abiding passion for new, independent tunes on his “How Goes?” radio show.

“I’ve always been in love with music,” Debnath says. “And KUCI is so cool, and we have so much music. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

His academic focus is preparing for medical school and an eventual career as a pediatrician or neurologist, but his social life is centered at the cramped KUCI broadcast trailers behind the Science Library. There he spends “countless hours,” listening to piles of new CDs, building playlists for his weekly show and hanging out with people who love music as much as he does.

Few things are cooler than being a college radio DJ, but it isn’t easy to get on the air at KUCI. Students must volunteer at least 15 hours each quarter and take a training course before competing to have their show ideas accepted by the program director.

Even then, getting a good time slot is difficult. KUCI airs 24/7, and Debnath remembers starting out on the radio graveyard shift. “I had a 4-6 a.m. show once, then one 2-4 a.m.,” he says. “That was rough, but they really want to see how serious you are.”

Now, with a prime mid-afternoon slot, Debnath enthusiastically plays his favorite new indie releases, and occasionally a local new band plays live in the studio.

“I don’t want to get pigeonholed into one style of music, so you’ll hear a lot of fresh stuff on my show,” he says. “Selections are about my moods and feelings – what I’m into at the time – and there’s a feel to them that you can identify with me.”

Currently, he’s excited by new music coming out of New York, Canada and England, but asking him to pick five bands well worth listening to is like asking King Solomon to choose a favorite wife. “It’s so hard!” he says, but gives it a try:

  • The Walkmen – “They’ve got a certain swagger and are very confident about who they are. But they’re so tight and play really well together; it’s very fluid music.”
  • Grizzly Bear – “Beautiful arrangements. They make music that keeps fans of more abstract bands occupied while providing something instantly accessible to those looking for something catchy.”
  • Do Make Say Think – “They mix a lot of influences into their music, a lot of jazzy ones. It’s a laid back, kind of a lounge thing.”
  • The Strokes – “They’ll be our generation’s Ramones, but they’ve still got a long way to go.”
  • Radiohead – “I’ve always been into them. They’ve made consistently great music, but a lot of people know that.”