A rev­e­la­tion to the SA ra­dio in­dus­try

In this new series, fea­tur­ing Dr. Tlou Se­tumu’s works on our his­tory, the ex­cerpt this week is from the biog­ra­phy of a tal­ented ra­dio su­per­star, Tham­a­gana Maxwell Mo­japelo. The book is en­ti­tled, Never Say Never: Max the Mixer Mix 4 Me

African Times - - Front Page -

MAX the Mixer came to ra­dio with vigour, power, bril­liance, ded­i­ca­tion, tal­ent, and most im­por­tantly, the love for what he was do­ing.

He was a man on a mis­sion. He wanted his peo­ple to be proud of their ra­dio sta­tion. He was a rev­e­la­tion to South Africa’s ra­dio in­dus­try. Within a short space of time his pop­u­lar­ity blurred racial and eth­nic lines, which were de­mar­cated by the apartheid author­i­ties who con­trolled broad­cast­ing in this coun­try.

Be­sides his home­base among his mil­lions of fans were Sothos, Tswanas, Tsongas, Ven­das, Zu­lus, Xhosas, Nde­be­les, Swazis and so on. This was also il­lus­trated by the awards which he scooped ahead of his peers across the board and through­out the length and breadth of South Africa.

Max was in­deed a bomb! He was a mar­vel to lis­ten to. He pos­sessed that power and magic very dif­fi­cult to de­scribe or un­der­stand. He had charisma and mag­netic charm which kept lis­ten­ers glued to their ra­dio sets. He had his own po­etic style of talk­ing. He had this rare tal­ent of po­etic speech in which he could flow for a very long time with en­ergy with­out paus­ing, es­pe­cially when han­dling “hot” pro­grammes.

He would work his lis­ten­ers into a frenzy and cap­ti­vate them into a mu­sic night vigil. Max’s pre­sen­ta­tion was like a mighty wind.

His favourite words and phrases which were his trade mark when do­ing his things be­hind the mi­cro­phone in­cluded, “ng­wanaka”, “e nkiša le naga”, “rati-rati”, “ta­banatswee-ya-kg­webo”,“tše…!”and so on. He used these words and phrases to charm and ex­cite his lis­ten­ers.

When he was later asked about where he got these trade mark words and phrases from, he ad­mit­ted that he did not know as they just came to him nat­u­rally.

They set him apart from his peers in the ra­dio in­dus­try.

The most pow­er­ful pro­gramme which be­came syn­ony­mous with the name Max, was a hit pa­rade show called “Di Sa Le Malekelekeng”.

This is where Max’s power, tal­ent, charisma, magic and charm were max­i­mally pa­raded.

His favourite po­etic lines in in­tro­duc­ing this show were:

Ruthu! Ya kgaoga thapo ng­wanaka E le ge lelekeleke le lokolla Molokoloko wa malekelekeng Go Mohlakamo­tala Marega le Selemo

Bošego le mosegare Lehlab­ula le Seruth­wane,

Go tšwa mono Polok­wane

Ga bo Maraba’ Sek­wala Polok­wane gabo ng­wana’diroko Polok­wane ga bo kgarebe ya matanyetša

Polok­wane gabo Maria Sesi Yô ..yôô!

This was Max at his best. He force­fully and pow­er­fully echoed these lines with well-pre­pared sound ef­fects and he re­searched the mu­sic he would be dish­ing out. When play­ing a song, he would quickly and clearly in­tro­duce that song, like he used to do in the Malekelekeng show, in which he would, for in­stance count the songs down like this:

Maemo a ma­some­pedi, Stimela, Ge­dle ge­dle trene ya bot­sotsi, ng­wanaka

Ka tl­hamo ya Ray Chikapa Phiri Ba re, Whis­pers In The Deep Go tšwa al­ba­mong ya go bitšwa,

Look Lis­ten and De­cide.

With such brief and con­cise ush­er­ing of the song, the lis­tener was left with a rich knowl­edge that the name of the song is Whis­pers In The Deep; played by the band, Stimela; com­posed by Ray Phiri; and taken off the al­bum, Look, Lis­ten and De­cide.

This brief and to-the-point in­tro­duc­tion, does not only en­rich the knowl­edge of the lis­tener, it also helps the same lis­tener to be able to go out and buy mu­sic.

If you loved that record, when you got into a record shop you would know that you are look­ing for the al­bum called “Look, Lis­ten and De­cide” by Stimela.

Max would some­times add by pro­fil­ing the band mem­bers. Re­ally this was en­rich­ing. The brief de­scrip­tion of a song also helped lis­ten­ers to pay at­ten­tion to the lyrics as they had been given its back­ground at the be­gin­ning.

In this ex­am­ple of Stimela, if you were given that kind of back­ground when the song started, you would also lis­ten at­ten­tively to all the in­stru­ments be­cause you know who is play­ing what.

This im­por­tant ele­ment of pre­sen­ta­tion is al­most lost in many ra­dio sta­tions to­day. A pre­sen­ter may play five songs in a row, with­out even men­tion­ing their ti­tles. For the lis­tener to guess who could be play­ing the song on air is not only bor­ing, but also un­help­ful.

By the time the dee­jay men­tions the past five songs (should he/she de­cides to do so at all) the ac­tual mu­sic has al­ready died out from the lis­tener’s mind. This may sound like an unim­por­tant is­sue, but it is very se­ri­ous. Imag­ine if a lis­tener is at­tracted by a cer­tain song play­ing on ra­dio and the pre­sen­ter is silent about the name of that song, the artist or the al­bum it was picked from.

How is that lis­tener ever go­ing to get that mu­sic if he/she wanted to buy it? The lazy pre­sen­ter in fact, de­prived the artist of an op­por­tu­nity to sell mu­sic by fail­ing to pro­vide de­tails to a po­ten­tial buyer.

There­fore, by de­scrib­ing all de­tails of the songs in a po­etic and artis­tic way, Max made songs very beau­ti­ful, and even dull songs came to life with his mag­i­cal art.

With this style, Max pro­moted a lot of artists. No won­der he was revered and highly re­spected by many artists.

He es­tab­lished a rare re­la­tion­ship with artists as they held him with high es­teem be­cause he helped them by pro­mot­ing their mu­sic with his tal­ent and his ef­fort of pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail. He was very pop­u­lar among artists.

When meet­ing most artists, Max did not have to in­tro­duce him­self, they knew him al­ready. He also in­ter­acted with these artists dur­ing the many fes­ti­vals he com­peered and the in­ter­views he con­ducted on ra­dio. He did not pay lip ser­vice to what he was do­ing like most of the cur­rent crop of pre­sen­ters and dj’s.

Most of the cur­rent dj’s will def­i­nitely have to strug­gle when in­tro­duc­ing them­selves to artists to se­cure in­ter­views be­cause the artists don’t know and see what they are do­ing. In short, Max com­bined his tal­ent with hard work, and the re­sult was magic.

Nowa­days, most dj’s have tal­ent, but they don’t work hard – and tal­ent alone is not enough. And still, some of them do not have tal­ent and they also do not work hard – the re­sult is ab­so­lute bore­dom on ra­dio!

Al­though The Mixer han­dled other pro­grammes, he was at his high­est best in Malekelekeng. On this one he poured all his soul into the mi­cro­phone and re­ally set the air­waves alight. In this show he pa­raded hit songs which com­peted by go­ing up and down the charts.

The hits were played from say, num­ber twenty, count­ing them down to the cli­max – num­ber one. As the show pro­ceeded, Max would be­come hot­ter and hot­ter un­til cli­max­ing at the song which was crowned as num­ber one that week.

It must be borne in mind that this was a weekly show which was broad­cast on Satur­day evenings. At the end of ev­ery year he would com­pile all the hits of the year into what he called “Top Hits of the Year”.

The marathon would run for four hot hours starting at eight o’clock in the even­ing as we bade farewell to the old year. Just be­fore mid­night he would an­nounce the top hit of the year. In most cases that would be the song he’d play as the na­tion wel­comed the new year. At that boil­ing point all would break lose as he un­leashes an as­sort­ment of sound ef­fects. What a cel­e­bra­tion!

The other shows which Max han­dled with aplomb in­cluded Morabaraba wa Mmino, which was his brain­child. In Morabaraba, Max asked lis­ten­ers ques­tions about mu­sic and win­ners took away prizes such as mu­sic al­bums, vouch­ers and money. What was re­mark­able and ex­cit­ing was the way Max started this mu­sic quiz show.

He used a very catchy and ex­cit­ing mbaqanga-like sig­na­ture tune to in­tro­duce this pro­gramme. I’ve never heard it played any­where else ex­cept in this par­tic­u­lar pro­gramme.

Af­ter leav­ing this in­tro­duc­tory song to rock for some min­utes, Max would come on top of it and do his usual po­etic thing.

With that record play­ing in the back­ground, Max would drive you crazy as he re­cited and sang like this:

Morabaraba wa Mmino

Wow wow wa mmino

Wow wow wa mmino

Ke re lena bo­nana wee

Le lena bobuti wee

Le lena bosesi wee

Le lena bo­mama wee

Le lena bopapa wee

O a go tia ng­wanaka

O hlakana le Max…yeh…

The Mixer Boy

Go ntše go kgaoga thapo ng­wanaka Re re ruthu! ruthu! ruthu!

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