BLIND SIDED BY JOZI’S MINISTER OF SOUND

English: Hillbrow and the Hillbrow Tower
English: Hillbrow and the Hillbrow Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read with interest today, an open letter directed to one radio talk-show co-host on Metro FM’s morning Breakfast Show (South Africa).  The loyal listener told Unathi, exactly what she thought of her as a radio talk-show host in a way of offering some much needed constructive criticism.  She loves the show and it’s the only show she can listen to in the mornings she said in the letter.  But I guess after years of being “tortured” as she put, it was time for Unathi to hear some choice truths.

I thought about it and prayed that should I ever be in the public eye or ear in this case that I should have the grace to listen to “constructive criticism” from where it comes and hopefully learn from my mistakes without any major collateral damage.  Before I lose you please stay- with me because this post is neither about the disgruntled Metro-FM listener nor Tips on how to be a “good” radio talk show host, but I sight it because gosh, I just thought if people can be so passionate and fearless about their criticisms constructive or not, we should be just as passionate and fearless in showing love and appreciation for each other.

I love radio and I love sound (music) and in my opinion radio is so much more, so much more personal than what you read or even see sometimes.  And if you listen to the radio you are bound to form very personal relationships with the people you’re listening to consciously or not and along with those personal relationships – strong opinions.  You can hear when someone is losing their temper, when they’re pretending, when they’ve lost interest, when they’re being sarcastic or fake, feel insecure, enthusiastic, even chemistry between two people is palpable on radio. Of course this is not always the case but most often after you have listened to  the same voice for long enough you can  tell with some level of accuracy what mood they’re in that day. People fall in love with voices or sound, even of their own voices as the disgruntled listener pointed out about Unathi.

The act of listening means you’re involved. Something about sound has a way of reaching you in places you never thought possible. It has a way of taking you by surprise, off guard.

Like I was blindsided by this one artist, musician, experimental sound guy, whose sound I have been hearing all over town. But before I knew his name before I could hear his sound, his name caught me unawares, unexpectedly, repeatedly.  As if the universe knew how easily I can forget people’s names; I heard it almost every day or every other day in conversation, in passing.  I had been hearing his name so much around my place of residence at the time that I took the opportunity to go see and hear him play at the Bioscope, on Main street life in downtown Johannesburg.   I went on my own, and thought how odd to be playing music in a cinema. But you see that was all part of the performance.  His sound silenced all the noise in my head and shot straight through to my heart in the same way that classical music  comforted me when I was very young. I left the cinema feeling quite lost for words, how do you describe this, what?!  I think I went temporarily out of my mind. Disjointed that line I had heard over and over again sung by Louis Armstrong (and Billie Holiday) echoed in my mind… “You go to my head like a glass of burgundy blue, and I find myself spinning around like the bubbles in a glass of Champaigne”   Now I knew what  that meant, what that felt like. Even the annoying Vuvuzela sounded like a double base when he  played it. I felt almost as ecstatic as the day my brother said, listen to this the Cinematic Orchestra’s Arrival of the Birds and transformation, and I cried out in total bliss while I danced my heart out! But his amazing was one I wanted to keep wrapped around me like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.  Never to let go.

I continued on with my life as if nothing ever happened until one day, I needed someone to create a certain sound on a project I was working on. His is the only name I could think of despite mine. But I had too much on my plate and too little time. I was afraid to meet him, in person, so, so very close.  But I asked to meet anyway to talk about the project.  He had a cold. You should try Garlic lemon and Ginger, I told him like a well-practiced school nurse. I never get tongue tied. But I was and I desperately wanted the meeting to end even though everything in me wanted it to last for as long as it was humanly possible. I never saw him again.

Until one day, I found myself sitting two empty chairs away from him in a theater. I didn’t know what to say and kept my eyes on the stage while hearing his lyrical voice laughing every now and again through and into my left ear.  I walked out with a honey pot/jar:  my thanks giving prize from the actors for participating in their experimental play.   I love honey.

Three years after I first heard him play I haven’t listened to his music as intensely again, ironically. But I know it’s good… and has been getting better judging by his ever-growing popularity.  Recently two weeks ago in fact I found myself in his house on yet another project, with two others this time.  It was a not unlike the day I imagine Zimbabwean artist Oliver Mtukudzi sat down to pen these lyrics “I’m feeling low, I’m feeling low, oh Help me lord I’m feeling low”.  I was not sure why I was there in the first place. But I was.  He listened carefully and long to what they wanted.  Later he asked if I was angry with him.  And  apologized. For something I had long forgotten.  A gift in fact. I remembered the music that first day I heard him play and wanted to say “I don’t think you know this but three years ago you ministered to me through your sound.  Your music touched me in a way I never thought possible.  If I never told you I appreciated it. I do. If I never said thank you I do. If I never said I love your work. I do. But I love you more for staying true to your gift. Thank You Joao Orecchia. You are Amazing”. But, I just couldn’t find the words.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo6LCcV-o84

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ON-AIR!

Radio Rocks my boat still. But I have been hard-pressed to find a program I can listen to here at home – a program I can be in tune with,  an artistic creative  radio show that can draw me in so high on air  I start to dream big… this Talk Talk Talk has turned the air-waves  into a  black board with chalk screeching and scraping down your ear over and over all over …..  talking heads, music being the only peaceful break we get from loud screaming, shouting, voices laughing, talk,talk,talk,talking heads about nothing on a stale formats. Maybe it is a South African thing, what’s on air in your country?

What made me fall in-love-so deeply with radio was its captivating quality,  in the form of  radio Dramas and Plays, which left room to be a little creative about what I was hearing, I engaged in a creative-give-and take relationship with my radio.   And the  any beautiful voices that presented dry(news) information or difficult subjects as if it were the most delicious dish on earth, sultry and beautiful, oh, the hair’s on my back stands up at the thought.

A good  radio voice does not seem to be part of the requirements of being on air. if you can talk its cool, which is also cool but…

I have fallen in-love with radio voices, even though the people behind the voice were well not exactly my type. But there is some-thing in the voice that can just speak to you, touch, pierce deep into you (if the messaging, content is right)  in places only you are aware of  or never thought anyone could reach,  people who can sing well understand the power of voice – which can at once captivate, and transfix people, regardless of their race, colour and or creed. Music is Powerful still.

So you would think that those given that platform (radio-platform) today, would know what to do with it  and be aware of the power they have in their hands, on a daily basis, and treat their work with the serious consideration it deserves. But very few people seem to think about radio beyond the sound of their egos. I’m still working on mine. I think the radio platform is still an underused even – abused canvass… people are not using it creatively  enough in the same way they are on print and television, everything today is about the image…. the face

There is something about it that so captures my imagination in a way that Social Media still doesn’t for me today. Sometimes I wonder why with all this technology we have at our disposal, we still  have tired and boring radio  formats, like how many talk-call-in-shows about Politics do we need? Anyway to be fair, I have tuned out of what’s on air  because it hasn’t captured my imagination least of all “entertain me” we’re all sounding like each other, doing the same thing everyday, someone has got to try a pie in the sky method to make radio  the theater of the mind it once was.

I used to enjoy the World Radio Network, (WRN) I would listen to it around midnight while sleep paid visits to more deserving people, it felt like i was travelling around the world listening in to what makes other societies tick, what problems they are facing and how they are dealing with them. It almost always felt like eave’s dropping in private nocturnal conversation people were having around the world, but as an invited guest. For an hour or so I could step out of my bedroom and spend time with this woman living in a monastery in Holland talk about the flours that were booming there and how she ended up living there alone…

The US-based National Public Radio (NPR)  – has good examples of what makes for a  good news and current affairs radio show, just the right balance in terms of pace, delivery, content and intensity. The hosts have nice warm pleasant voices that really want to make you listen, as if to say, come in you are  invited.

In Africa? BBC Africa is what Africans listen to if they want to know what’s going on in other parts of the continent. I still haven’t found one that speaks to me. With all my varying tastes, languages and my short attentions span there’s not a calm voice I have found on-air.  Radio is still the most basic way to communicate on the continent, now people listen to radio on their phones every-where they go, imagine how that could revolutionize the dissemination of information… educate, inform, entertain.

This America Life : Is FUN and FACTUAL, and is indeed the theater of the mind. This I used to spend hours and hours listening to online, because you can and it sounds like its recorded live – and really its a good example of what we can do with radio, while driving, or waiting for something to happen.

Radio is not only about the personality, it’s not only about the  voice, it’s not only about content, it’s not only about the presentation, but if you can get all these ingredients together in a nice mix then I you have a captive Audience. But if you ask me  the Voice is still remains the most important ingredient of all.

So I think I might just have to do something about it…..Image

Stay tuned….