‘I was not pushed out of Skyz Metro’
AS the stature of Bulawayo’s first commercial radio station has risen in leaps and bounds since it started broadcast in September last year, some have speculated that the man who helped establish Skyz Metro, Cont Mhlanga, has been pushed out of the station. More than anyone, Mhlanga felt the station’s birth pangs, playing a key role as Skyz went head to head with other potential broadcasters in a bid to land the right to finally establish a commercial radio station in the City of Kings. Forceful and even combative during the licensing period, Mhlanga has retreated to the periphery in the past year, only resurfacing from his Lupane hideout during major events hosted in Bulawayo. As the station celebrates its first year anniversary, marked by a music concert at White City Stadium on Saturday night, Mhlanga is ready to set the record straight. In an interview with Sunday Life, the playwright, filmmaker and cultural activist said that he had not been forced out of Skyz Metro, but instead his exile from the station was self imposed. “The silence and background role that I’ve adopted for the first year of the station’s existence has been deliberate. Sometimes when you give birth to something it is better to just watch it from a distance,” he said. However, Mhlanga said that people should not mistake his silence or lack of visibility for impotence, as he could still crack the whip at the station if he felt that it had lost direction. While the godfather of the Bulawayo arts scene is no longer the face of the station, he can still call the shots if he desired. “I could break everything if I wanted to but that’s not what I want to do. I’m not involved in the day to day running of the station but I’m very much involved in the policy making behind the scenes. That’s why I’m in a position to tell you that the gig on Saturday (last night) is the start of a larger, annual music festival. Those are things that I’m planning behind the scenes” he said.
As a titan of the BulawayoB arts scene who has dwarfed all other contemporariesconte since independence, Mhlanga said he had b been inundated with calls from people who wanted him to sprinkle a bit of his magic on Skyz Metro’s programming.program
“My phone is alway always ringing. People are always saying that they want my touch. However, what I’m saying is that sometim sometimes you need to be an observer or just a member of th the audience. When you’ve got a bird’s eye view of a project,proj you get to assess something better than when it is in your pocket,” Mhlanga said.
The station has been growing under the leadership of CEO Qhubani Moy Moyo. When Skyz Metro made an uncertain debut at the beginning of September last year, many doubted its longevity. Live broadcasts were yet to begin, and the station’s signal was still hit or miss as it struggled to c cover the whole of Bulawayo as promised.
From those tentative first steps, the station staggered on until it started its live broadcasts in November. Almost nine months in into 2017, Skyz Metro is cruising, amassing a following that many thought was not possible. With nation national stations’ having already established a foothold i in Bulawayo, many thought that Skyz would find the goi going tough.
“No one thought this was possible. A station in Bulawayo playing music from Bulawayo is not possible, many people said. Watching the station grow over the past year has b been the most satisfying feeling ever because it is alway always great to do something when you’ve got people doub doubting your capabilities to pull it off,” he said.
Mhlanga said that whilewh everyone touted Saturday’s party as the first y year anniversary party, the management at Skyz M Metro took it as a launch party, as they had swore that the they would not hold a party when the station went live lastla year as they was nothing yet to celebrate.
“We decided on an anniversarya launch because we didn’t want to have a l launch party for a station that people didn’t know. InsteadIns we wanted people to come and celebrate with us w when the station was now on air and well established. I’ I’m glad that our faith has been rewarded,” he said.
The seeds of Mhlanga Mhlanga’s Skyz Metro dream were sown when Mhlanga started operating an own in-house radio station in the earl early 90s from Amakhosi Cultural Centre. Three decades after that vision started taking shape, Mhlanga knows he owes his gratitude to those whose efforts led to the station’s 2016 birth.
“After all those years of lobbying the dream is now real. I’d like to thank the people of Bulawayo for welcoming Skyz Metro Metro. I’d also give thanks to those that started with the sta station last year although there’re those who we told four or five years ago that we were establishing a station and they stuck with us. They deserve special praise becauseb back then it wasn’t clear the station would exist but they kept faith with us,” he said.