By Fidelis Manyange
I RECALL growing up in the 1980s when listening to radio programmes was a family affair.
Our family’s favourite station was Radio 2 (now Radio Zimbabwe).
Those were the days when presenters like Lisbern Nasasara, Deans Patrick Mutume, Grey Gambiza Moyo, Sam Sibanda, Joe Panganai, Nyasha Maposa and Itai Godfrey Muchada had listeners spellbound.
From other stations were the likes of Hilton ‘Dr Bobo’ Mambo, John Matinde, Peter Jones and Tsitsi Mawarire, among others.
Then there were only four radio stations, namely Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Those days, even those who had radiograms would listen to radio programmes most of the times as the PL 9 and PL10 batteries wouldn’t last from playing the vinyl records.
The local stations were based on the Frequency Modulation (FM) and when the battery could not sustain the FM, one could switch to the Short Wave (SW) which consumed less power but still tuned to all local stations.
We, the youths, liked musical programmes and dramas such that we were bored by the news and other programmes like Nhau Dzevarimi, Tenga Nehungwaru, Zvirimunhau and Zvakatikomberedza, among others, in which we were told to maintain deathly silence by the elders during the programmes.
The news opening billboard Jerusarema was like a funeral dirge to us — we hated it so much.
We risked being beaten when it was discovered that we had attempted to tune to other stations other than our ‘family station’ Radio 2.
The only platform which we could listen to a different station which was not Radio 2 was at school during the radio lessons which was broadcast by Audio Visual Services, a department in the Ministry of Education through ZBC.
The programmes were broadcast for Grade One through to Seven.
I still remember how I used to proudly carry the black Supersonic radio from our class to the next grade and a signature tune would be playing as a filler as I went to hand over that radio.
You had to make sure you reached the next grade with the radio before the next lesson began.
One day I was beaten by my teacher after his colleague from the next grade had complained that I had arrived with the radio while the lesson had already started.
What had happened was that during the interlude a song by Leonard Dembo’s, one of my favourite artistes, was playing and I had to delay to hear much of the song.
Our favourite programmes as a family were radio dramas like Mhuri YekwaMukadota and Razor Man, which was an action drama throughout.
In Mhuri yavaMukadota all the actors who included Mukadota, Mai Rwizi, Bonnie, Chikwama, Machipisa, Katarina and Chibhodhoro were immensely talented.
One could create his or her own pictures of the environment and characters as televisions were scarce.
In rural areas, the places where television aerials could be seen were at the headmaster’s house or extension worker’s (Kwamudhumeni).
We used to know when every programme was broadcast and by who through the closing and opening billboards.
Presenters were identified by their signature tunes; for instance, whenever you heard ‘Burnout’ by Hotstix Mabuse, you would definitely know Joe Panganai Mukaronda was on shift.
This is unlike the current crop of deejays who now use several signature tunes of which many of them sing praises of themselves using their musician friends who they, in turn, give more airplay.
Nowadays some songs which are being played on the airwaves have no right being on radio.
“Kana usina mari yekupa DJ mukoma wangu hauridzwe” said one musician.
“Nziyo dzinonakidza dzaizviridza dzega kare panhepfenyuro asi ikozvino dzavakuridzwa nemari,” said one seasoned retired broadcaster.
The other programme which we used to enjoy was Kuverengwa Kwemabhuku in which local novels where read by Simon Pashoma Ncube.
He was so innovative in the way he used to change his voice to suit every character in the book.
It was just like a drama with different characters.
Presently, although Sifelani Chikwape, who took from Simon Pashoma, tries very hard, he cannot match the talented Pashoma who has since retired.
I still recall us getting late to school while listening to the Jarzin Man delivered by Admire Taderera (Murume wemadhora) and later by the late Lazarus Tembo.
The programme was on every morning except on weekends.
Football commentary in both Shona and Ndebele was very dramatic and interesting to listen to courtesy of legendary commentators like Lisbern Nasasara and Kingsley Sibanda.
It was also the same thing on Radio One (now Classic FM) delivered by Evans Mambara who would remind many of the legendary Zambian commentator Dennis Liwewe.
The football commentaries would put you in the live football match.
The current commentators struggle with their English and they are not innovative.
Even the current crop of presenters try very hard to imitate yesteryear greats.
Past presenters had unique ways of broadcasting distinguishable from the others.
Kwaziso/Ukubingelelana those days was a very important programme done by writing on post cards or if one couldn’t afford a post card he/she would seal an empty envelope and write on top of it , greeting friends and relatives.
Having your letter read on air or being greeted was a wonderful thing.
It was like winning a jackpot.
Kwaziso neRunhare was a bit boring to those who had no access to telephones.
During those days, few could afford telephones.
In urban areas, those who had no landlines in their homes would queue at public telephone booths.
As for musical programmes, I do not remember any single day I heard music which was vulgar or which we could not listen to as a family.
All songs were appropriate for family listening, regardless of what time of the day.
The only programme which used to separate us from the elders was Chakafukidza Dzimba Matenga which was, and still is, a programme for the mature.
As youngsters, we were not allowed to listen to the programme so we had to go to sleep as soon as we heard the opening billboard “Wotopfuhwira zvese nembwa dzawo…ndokuti ugodiwa…”
The Programme was presented by Jabulani Mangena with panelists Tete Elizabeth Tinofireyi, Sekuru Musonza and Sekuru Mazorodze.
Current radio presenters and deejays appear to be competing to make names through vulgarity and playing explicit songs.
It has become difficult and almost impossible to listen to the radio as a family.
To make matters worse, they no longer carry researches for their programmes or presentations as most of them depend on newspapers, magazines and online publications as their broadcasting material.
The songs are not censured such that hundreds of songs containing dirty lyrics are churned out everyday.
Most of the songs they play are not documented on the programme sheets, depriving musicians of yearly royalties.
That is how low radio has sunk.
We miss the days when the radio was the pride of the family.
Modern technology consisting of flashes, mobile phone blue tooth connected to the mobile radios is making less and less people listen to radio programmes.