Randall is not mean after all

By Faeza
04 October 2016

Surely, everyone who believes that they can sing has given some thought to the idea of going to audition to be the next Idol. However, they get cold feet when they think of standing in front of the four judges, especially Randall Abrahams. Idols is one of South Africa’s most watched music reality shows. Since it started, it has produced a number of musicians, including Khaya Mthethwa, Musa Sukwene and Karabo Mogane.


Since the beginning of Idols, Randall has owned the label of being the mean judge among the judging panel. But to his defense, he says his actions are aimed at only getting raw undiscovered talent. “I don’t have any reservations whatsoever about being considered the mean judge. I expect to hear the finest undiscovered voices, and I expect those who audition to perform at the peak of their powers.

It’s the least that the audience expects and deserves,” he says. The Cape Town-born radio and TV personality has been a judge on Idols since 2002 when the show debuted. “There are so many talented people that I’ve encountered; so many special performances. The broad audience and fans of the show have been wonderful towards me, and my fellow judges and crew are really like family,” says the Idols’ judge, who when asked if he was married and has children answers, “neither!”


Randall, who holds an honours in Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cape Town, has a very strong background in radio. He joined Good Hope FM in Cape Town in 1992 as a programming assistant and went on to become the station manager from 1994 to 1997. He then moved to Johannesburg where he helped to establish the youth radio station YFM, taking up the position of station manager until 2002.

Between 2002 and 2006, he was the general manager of commercial radio stations at the SABC, where he was responsible  for the successes of 5FM, Metro FM and Good Hope FM. Earlier this year, Randall stepped down as the managing director of Universal Music South Africa. “At the moment I'm involved in a variety of projects that include television production and other business ventures,” he says.


It comes as no surprise that Randall is a great lover of music and has a strong musical background when you hear him criticise the contestants on the show. “I have always had an affinity for popular music. I was drawn to Elvis at an early age and it’s been a never ending voyage since then. While there are certain genres, I particularly love 60s and 70s soul, Nigerian highlife and Northern soul. I listen to and enjoy mostly anything. I keep on discovering new artists and songs, and it’s an essential part of my being,” he says.


Randall says education when it comes to music is important, but it does not necessarily have to be formal training. “I am a great believer in the value of music education, however; I agree that one doesn’t want to roll out a bunch of carbon copies. Educating yourself musically, be it formally or informally through the internet or reading books, is of great significance and can only improve your talent,” he says.