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By Christine Drijaru

Back in the day when there was no Internet, radio stations were the major source of entertainment. Sure, Congolese musicians were all the rage then, often coming for concerts in the country, but that wasn’t daily. Besides, the only television station then, UTV, would start transmission at 6:00pm.

The forms of entertainment on UTV included circus, burlesque shows, musical performances by West African and Congolese artistes or sometimes Ugandans like the Big Five Band and The Ebonies. But this would not last long. Before midnight every day, the transmission would end, much to everyone’s chagrin, especially since in this limited time, sleep-inducing programmes like news and This Farming World would also be aired.

Woe betide you if failed to find the best position for the antenna to receive a clear signal beforehand, for you ended up eating into TV time. So besides people waiting painstakingly every day for the TV to come on, radio was the only other available option.

While the Government-owned Radio Uganda might have provided information, there was barely anything to speak of it when it came to entertainment unless the never-ending death announcements were your idea of entertainment. Enter Radio Sanyu (now Sanyu FM), the first privately-owned radio station.

It went on air in December 1993, and revolutionalised entertainment in the country. Sanyu started playing hip hop, RnB, all the trendy music you would think of, including that by the Perfect Generation, a group of Ugandan teenagers, who piloted urban music in the early 1990s.

In a story carried in New Vision on June 4, 2020, the newspaper said, “There was no way of looking back to the boring Radio Uganda channels (it too had an FM channel) that had very brief music shows, and a lot of ‘developmental’ talk.”

The article added that teenagers dubbed music on blank cassette tapes right from Radio Sanyu, always keeping the finger on the stop button in case the presenter interrupts.

“If you did not do that, your growth just wasn’t awesome enough.”

It’s the recorded music that young people would listen to in their leisure time, entertain their friends with, as well as write down lyrics of the songs in exercise books to sing along to.

At last, the youth had found a way to do away with radio presenters who sounded like priests conducting mass. Out with the old!

After Sanyu, came Capital FM, also in December 1993. CBS FM and Radio One followed in 1996 and 1997 respectively. The radio presenters like Alex Ndawula, Rasta Rob, RS Elvis, Daniel Vien, Allan the Cantankerous and Bangi, as well as deejays Berry and Bruno spoke the language of the youth. The youth celebrated them, honing their English-speaking skills by listening to them. These highly-educated and well-travelled celebs formed perspectives of love and romance in young minds. Remember the Sanyu FM Love Boat?

Even though privately-owned TV stations like WBS and Sanyu TV (1994), which had youth-friendly programmes, started transmission, the radio stations still commanded cultic followings. Gossip sections were later formed in mainstream media platforms like The New Vision’s Have You Heard.

The radio presenters hogged media space. Everywhere they went, they were worshipped. It was common to find pictures of the radio presenters cut out from newspapers and pinned up in teenagers’ rooms, books or ddebe (metallic suitcases). They were the subject of crushes for many a girl. Love doctor Ssssssssshhhhhadow Roger Mugisha with his come-to-bed eyes and deep sexy voice did things in girls’ minds.

I wonder if teenagers today also feel the same about XFM presenters, for they love the station, and particularly DJ Ali Breezy, going by last month’s wins at the Buzz Teenz Awards. Perhaps teenage girls have fallen love sick, courtesy of him. Lol.

I digress.

Boarding students then were known to smuggle Sembule radio sets into school so as to continue listening to their favourite presenters and catch the latest in entertainment. (Christopher Sembuya, the founder of Sembule Electronics Limited, which used to assemble the radios, died on Tuesday, January 11)

It is from the songs that ‘deds’ were formed. For those not in the know, young people then used to write letters to each other and at the bottom, they would dedicate love songs (deds) to them. For instance, a Sunsas girl could choose to dedicate Kakokolo by Perfect Generation to her SMACK beau. Do kids of these days still write love letters? Girls even sometimes used to rub some perfume called Gift of Zanzibar on the letters.

Well, we, at The Kampala Sun, look back at the trailblazers in radio in Uganda in commemoration of Public Radio Broadcasting Day, which was on Thursday. The day celebrates radio broadcasting and how it has made our lives happier and more interesting.  Where are these people who made our lives memorable now?

Alex Ndawula

Alex Ndawula making a point during the DJ War at Rock Bar on Friday, April 22, 2005

Ndawula often sounded like he was drunk on radio, but he was very knowledgeable. A pioneer radio presenter on Radio Sanyu, he crossed over to Capital FM in 1994, hosting the breakfast show and Saturday night’s The Dance Force and later Sundowner.

Ndawula, a club DJ, with his good command of the English language, had no qualms unleashing a barrage of insults if he so wished. He retired in 2017.

Rasta Rob

Rasta Rob dancing with Sister Slave at the Youth Expo in 1997

Rasta Rob on the Master Knob. That was his intro on Radio Sanyu. Sometimes it would be “Rasta Rob sambusa oli wakabi, Rasta Rob sambusa oli wakabi, gudi gudi…”

However, in a 2019 interview with The Kampala Sun, Robert Ogwal aka Rasta Rob explained that he actually meant cent pour cent, French for 100% not sambusa like Ugandans had mispronounced it.

“It was a way of giving credit to myself,” he said then.

A pained Rasta Rob recounted the good old days when he was in things. He endeared listeners to the then Radio Sanyu with the way he would juggle different languages like Luo, French, English and Luganda amid blazing music.

Rasta Rob was so popular that Congolese musician Awilo Longomba even gave him a shout-out in one of his songs. At the peak of his career, he decided to go for further studies in the UK and when he came back, people had moved on.

With a permanent frown, Rasta Rob is a shadow of his former self. He now does oldies gigs for Radio One.

 

Roger Mugisha ‘Shadow’

Roger Mugisha with
his Shadows Angels

Roger Mugisha Sssshhhhadow of the infamous Shadow’s Angels was Radio Sanyu’s love doctor, having joined the station in 1996. He later joined Capital FM, only to return to what is now Sanyu FM in 2020 as programmes director.

Away from giving love advice, Roger formed a seedy girl group – Shadow’s Angels –  which was known for the members’ skimpy outfits and seductive dance moves. In the early 2000s, he became a Born-Again Christian.

Following his conversion, Roger toured the country, revealing that he was a devil worshipper before the Lord saved him. He disclosed that whenever he mentioned his Shadow moniker, he was in fact casting spells on listeners. And that’s how teenagers started taking down his pictures that they had pinned in their rooms.

Years later and with a slew of children and baby mamas, he asked not to be judged for his actions.  Roger graduated from Charis Bible College in December 2021. In June last year, he wedded Maureen Mbabazi.

As The Kampala Sun team, we had hoped he would marry one of our own, Shiba Nassali, with whom he had children. They even had a traditional marriage ceremony at her parents’ home, but God decided otherwise.

 

DJ Bangi

DJ Bangi (RIP)

Wilfred Bangirana aka Bangi was famed for his show, The Wind Down Zone, on Radio Sanyu now Sanyu FM. He made young people love oldies music.

In 2007, Bangi died at his home in Naalya, a city suburb.

Upon his death, The Wind Down Zone played automated music in his memory.

He is survived by a daughter, Melissa.

 

DJ Berry

DJ Berry (left)

Abdul Aziz Nsabimana aka DJ Berry worked at Capital FM, where he popularised the zouk genre before crossing over to Radio Sanyu in 1995. His voice was his trademark, comparable to the late American singer-songwriter Barry White’s rumbling baritone. DJ Berry’s voice permeated girls’ bodies to the deepest parts. My oh my!

In 1996, Berry succumbed to HIV. He is buried in Rwanda.

In his last years, Berry went around schools spreading awareness about HIV.

Some might remember a song called Hey You, which he recorded, urging people to beware of AIDS.

Hey you, you’ve got to survive, hey you…

Berry appeared on The Ebonies TV drama Bibaawo – These Things Happen –  and encouraged the youth to wait to have sex in marriage, what popularly came to be known as  NBM (Not Before Marriage).

Allan Mugisha aka Allan the Cantankerous of Capital FM at Star FM Studios in Kampala on June 14, 2006. Allan, who often referred to himself as The Most Handsome Munyoro in the Whole of Hoima, passed away in 2007
Dr Mich Egwang
Radio One’s RS Elvis in 2005
Christine Mawadri, formerly of Capital Radio

 

 

 

James Onen aka Fatboy formerly of Sanyu FM and now radio presenter on RX Radio

 

Former Sanyu FM presenter Crystal Newman at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Valentine’s Day in 2005
Former Radio One presenter Irene Ochwo
Sanyu FM’s former presenter Seanice Kacungira
Nash Kiwanuka
DJ Ronnie of Capital FM (RIP)
Brenda Z’Obbo, formerly of Radio One, now works in Nairobi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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