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21 years of Radio Bop

Thebe Mabanga


This is the story of Radio Bop (MW540).The station recently celebrated its 21st birthday, marking a milestone in the station’s chequered history.

It was established under homeland rule in the old Bophuthatswana and for the better part of its existence was the pride of black media. To measure the extent of its influence, one need only look at its alumni.

Radio Bop gave us presenters like the (musically) knowledgeable Metro duo of Brenda Sisana and Ben Dikobe, Kaya fm’s Lawrence Dube and Bob Mabena, as well as the dynamic trio of Tich Mataz (formerly with 5fm), Nothemba Madumo (formerly with Kaya) and Tim Modise (well, he’s deservedly everywhere really). These presenters probably feel like they have left an ageing parent to die. These days, and this is just speculation, they probably speak of Bop in hushed tones and codenames on the Jo’burg social circuit.

Radio Bop is really a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Since the mid- 1990s its owner, the SABC, has been trying to bring in a strategic management partner and turn the station into part of a commercial arm.The delays in this process have left the station in limbo.

The station even missed the opportunity to apply for an fm licence in 1997, when Kaya, Classic and Y snapped up theirs. The result has been a frustrating situation in which Bop cannot hold on to its talent.

On the dial the decline in content quality has been evident. The station’s manager and veteran broadcaster, Modisane Modise, has an amazing ability to sound fresh after some 20 years on air. Sadly he lacks a supporting cast.

The Sunday afternoon presenter, Sammy Mohlakoana, can shock you at at times. The other day, he sought to do a profile on United States artist Kenny Latimore. What came out was flaccid schlock: an incoherent, unchronological, badly edited biography. Mohlakoana then followed up with a celebrity of the week interview featuring … Treasure Tshabalala, a man who, despite having given much to radio, can hardly be regarded as a currently celebrated person.

Safm (104-107fm) will make bold strides for local music when it broadcasts the first, for this year, in a series of concerts recorded at venues like the Bassline in Melville.

The concert features guitarist Louis Mhlanga and Robin Auld. It will be broadcast on Saturday Wired between 11am and 1pm with the second lady of radio, Michelle Constant (the first is Shado Twala).

In collaboration with Radio Sonder Grense (100-104fm), the radio for the well informed will present Dutch music week. Starting on March 27, they will broadcast over 40 hours of Dutch music in their customary music slots – mainly weekday afternoons – including a concert by the Dutch National Youth Ochestra on March 30 at 8pm.

Yfm’s Phindi Gule’s show (on weekdays from 9am to 12am) is a decent mid-morning tune-in. She recently hosted a lively interview with two fashion designers and a Face of Africa finalist.

The impressive bit was her alternating between subjects without losing track or interest. The interview was a vast improvement from the time when Gule attended the Smirnoff International Fashion awards in Hong Kong.

All she could tell us then was that the place was nice, her hotel was nice, the food was nice, as was a sweater she had purchased. And the 130 finalists’ entries? They ranged from nice to … you guessed it … nice.

All one can say is, nice one Phindi.

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