Days of quality radio, good music, gone forever vusi mthalane

2016-10-13 06:00

OUR senior journalist, Candyce Krishna wrote a very interesting column about music two weeks ago (Music – then and now, 29 September), which was a hit with our readers, and it goes without saying that we all love music.

It also had me thinking about all the good music I used to listen to on the radio from the mid-eighties up to when radio was taken over by utter noise.

One of my favourite songs is Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. The song came out in 1979, but the original version was done two years earlier by Bruce Wolley and the Camera Club. Its title is self-explanatory. The popularity of TV and music videos was starting to kill radio even as far back as 39 years ago. The irony is that the very same song went down in history as the first music video played on MTV, a TV channel (at that time) strictly dedicated to playing music videos.

I remember hearing the song for the first time and liking it immediately. It was on Capital Radio 604 in 1993. Capital Radio, as it was commonly called, was a medium wave (AM) radio station based in Port St Johns in the then Transkei, which was supposed to be a separate country from South Africa.

The main aim of Capital Radio was to broadcast uncensored news and music. Its multiracial line-up of presenters came mostly from the United Kingdom and South Africa and everything about the station went against the laws of the apartheid South Africa.

When the station started broadcasting in 1979, it could reach listeners in South Africa and give them news they were not supposed to hear and music they were not supposed to listen to.

People of all races would call in and say exactly what was on their mind regarding the political situation of that time without fear. Because it was a medium wave station, ships at sea could pick it up from anywhere in the world and there would be occasional calls from ports in faraway lands.

That used to fascinate me as a teen that a person in the middle of the Pacific was also listening to the same song I was listening to in my house.

I also thought Capital Radio deejays were larger than life itself and were the coolest ever. Many came and went over the years, but listeners will never forget the voices of Steve Bishop, Kevin Savage, Dave Guselli, Justice Ramohlola, Alan Khan, Tony Blewitt, Kenny Maistry, Treasure Tshabalala, Allan Pierce, and many others.

This was also at a time when you had no idea what your favourite deejay looked like. Some of my most favourite songs of all time today are songs I first heard on Capital Radio.

I can truthfully say my taste in music today was shaped by what I grew up listening to then. The station played almost all genres of popular music and that’s how I am even now. I have a favourite song in almost every genre and people are surprised by the play-list in my car.

There are some songs they played that I have never heard again. One of them, which I have searched everywhere for, is a 1990 track by a South African group made up of three coloured girls, called the Syndicate Sisters. I can’t recall the title, but I think it was I’m Missing your Love.

I was devastated when the station closed in 1996 and I believe my life was never the same again. Some of those deejays simply vanished while others moved on to other things.

Alan Khan went to East Coast Radio, Kenny Maistry to Metro FM and Justice Ramohlola can still be heard on Radio 2000 on the breakfast show.

I’m pretty sure Springbok Radio’s loyal listeners know the pain I’m talking about as they also witnessed their radio station close in 1985.

Today only a few radio deejays have that captivating star personality that draws you in. I now mostly listen to talk radio stations and local community radio to keep up with what’s going on around me.

The days of quality radio and good music are gone forever and we are left with TV and its repeat programming. Video killed the radio star indeed, as it died an agonising death.

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