Celebrating 22 years of radio history

2017-09-26 06:01
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In celebration of 22 years of broadcasting, Voice of the Cape is launching the VOC Memory Project.

The Cape Muslim community was founded on the roots of slavery and political exile when the Dutch East India Company sent slaves and the Orang Cayen, Indonesian noblemen, to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century.

Life was not easy for the Cape’s early Muslims. But despite the hardships, the community endured over 300 years of slavery and colonialism, as well as 46 years of apartheid. Over the past 365 years, there have been notable moments. The first was in 1795 when Tuan Guru, a scholar from Tidore, established the first mosque in Dorp Street.

Fast forward to 1994, the tri-centenary of Shaikh Yusuf of Makasar (another Indonesian exile) and the birth of democracy in South Africa. In 1993, the Independent Broadcasting Act promulgated a freeing of the airwaves, allowing for community broadcasting.

In 1994 a core group of individuals, consisting of film-maker, Anwar Ismail, Moegsin Khan, Imam Sharky Achmat, and political activist Imam Gasan Solomon representing the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), met with the specific goal to get a Muslim community radio on-air.

In February 1995, during the holy month of Ramadan, a radio station called Voice of the Cape (VOC) was granted a “special events” licence. This meant it could broadcast for the first five days of the month and for the last three days – eight days in all.

As soon as the station went on air at its Waterfront studios on 101.3 FM, everybody knew that something very special had happened. This was because for the first time in its history a previously disadvantaged community could hear its own voice.

It was a momentous and moving occasion, representing a historical juncture as critical as the first Friday prayers in the quarry, and the opening of the first mosque in South ­Africa.

For the first time ever, the call to prayer resounded in people’s living rooms; for the first time ever, the Qur’an was broadcast into hundreds of thousands of homes. For a few days, there was a celebration of being – a sense of liberation – but as suddenly as the station had gone on air, it had to switch off.

In an effort to garner public support for a permanent licence, the station asked its listeners to come to the V&A Waterfront on the last night of its broadcast to sign a petition. Over 100 000 people rallied to the call, something never seen in broadcasting before. Immediately, this petition was submitted in support for a permanent broadcasting licence and in September 1995, VOC took to the airwaves.

Since those early days, VOC has walked a long road and broadcasts from a three story building in Salt River with a permanent staff, interns and volunteers. Broadcasting 24/7 on 91.3 FM in the Cape metropole, and 95.8, 90.9 and 89.8 FM in the Boland and southern Peninsula, VOC features current affairs, news, religious and topical programmes.

VOC’s website offers the latest insights into the community and the world at www.vocfm.co.za, as well as downloads, live streaming and an android app.

Its journalists, who feed the website, have won recognition through five Vodacom Awards and nominations in the MTN and Liberty Life Radio Awards.

VOC is active in the larger community, its Outside Broadcast (OB) mobile studio unit – custom built in a Mercedes Sprinter – which broadcasts from mosques, businesses and functions on a weekly basis. VOC conducts over 100 OBs a year, which is the most of any radio station in Africa.

VOC has an annual festival which raises funds for various causes, and its bursary fund in ten years has disbursed over R1m. In

Ramadan, VOC has its Ahlan wa Sahlan programme together with Gift of the Givers. Corporates such as Pick n Pay have also come on board, and their Make a Difference Campaign has affected thousands.

Reliant upon advertising revenue, VOC enjoys editorial independence and provides a platform for a wide range of views and personalities. This is what many international visitors have attributed to what they call VOC’s “unique personality”.

This year, to celebrate 22 years of broadcasting, the station has decided to launch its unique VOC Memory Project, an initiative to preserve institutional memory by interviewing every person who has been a staff member, a contributor, a long-standing advertiser, a manager, trustee or a community player involved with the station.

Project manager, Shafiq Morton, says the aim is to create bio-data of all these people, together with their personal details and recorded comments. “By creating this data-base, we hope to compile a history of the station through the eyes of those who’ve participated in VOC’s development.

“We feel that this will give future researchers a massive data base to mine about the station, which has been a true community endeavour. When the history of the station is written or recorded, it will be through the eyes of those who were there.”

Morton says VOC is making an appeal to the public to come forward with photos, videos, recordings or any historical material to be logged for the VOC Memory Project, which will be professionally archived. He adds that recordings of VOC’s initial broadcasts would also aired in the coming months to commemorate the occasion.

Congratulation to the Voice of the Cape on their 22nd birthday and wishing them many more great years ahead!

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