Sunday, December 28, 2014

MN African Safari 1981 Capital Radio Transkei et al

This is a very early Media Network magazine documentary about broadcasting in Southern Africa, when apartheid South Africa had stations operating from the various "homelands". We had no internet, only cassettes - and the link to the late Frits Greveling who had presented and produced the previous DX show to this one, DX Juke Box. He returned to Johannesburg to work for several South African radio stations. Although the style is totally out of date, the information about broadcasting in Southern Africa in the early 1980's remains fascinating.
I note that there's a site dedicated to the memory of Capital 604 Transkei. You can find most of the jingles they used here.

You may also find the video interview with David Smith to be interesting. He also had adventures with Capital Radio which he explains below.

Capital Radio Transkei - the Afritude story from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

The interview with David prompted these interesting comments from Nicholas Ashby

The station's early planning sessions back in the late 70's give an idea of how the integration of black and white staff was envisaged, as well as music etc, and how it would be projected over the air. To measure how this was first manifest one can start at 604's early programme schedule's.
Facebook link 1 and link 2
With the growth in CR's FM power in Transkei in the early 90's, and what was then being reflected by the station - about a decade on (best illustrated in a picture of the almost all white on-air staff compliment eleven years after the station's launch) the logic of Smith's idea seems clear. But his conclusion wasn't entirely before it's time; more like a fantasy close-ish to what the station should have become by 1991 had it lived up to the intentions of some of its founders. And Smith's transformation had to be handled by someone who could do it. In this regard some subtext in his Canadian pre-publicity-fax-machine story is informative.
Inability to effectively implement vision was a problem most of CR604's leaders encountered ever since the time of Bruce, Moody, KD Matanzima and Bukht, whose stated intentions were that the station should achieve quick profits and in time a mix of presenters more representative of the local demographic in its main on-air programming components. It never achieved either.
What they did was shatter the frame of the SABC's reflection to us.
As for the effect of 604's contribution to the anti-apartheid push, by several accounts the station's news gave further scope to understanding the forces at work in the county. The SA military spy establishment was clearly alarmed by it. They intercepted signals carrying ANC interest in the station - all sorts of legends have been spun out of that; one can be heard in this video. As a crude, broad measure of what the station achieved one can make the case that the white minority chose an anti liberal, pro-apartheid parliamentary opposition by the end of Capital's (and 702's) first decade. This is not to dis the 604 news teams' work under hostile circumstances, (a matter which should be looked into more seriously.)
The implementation of Smith's idea was complicated by how little favour local music had been given at CR 604, which couldn't have made his job of indigenizing the playlist easy.
In 1979 it had started promisingly when an SABC-banned tune by Jaluka - Afrika - became CR604's first SA number one. Some local dance music from the station's discotheque roots was also being played early on. And yes, some other good stuff.
But Capital was always going to be pulling from an uncompromisingly overseas aesthetic fund of sound. In terms of opening SA to both old and new in popular western music, as CR604 was launched the west was offering a compelling choice led by new albums like London Calling, and M Jackson's solo debut, Off the Wall. (At least one of those records was also banned by the SABC) Of the previous decade there was the music trove that had inspired Jackson and the Clash ... and as evenings darkened and the station's Top 40 formula fell away, with the signal leaping up the continent and across oceans, first Tshabala then Pierce opened it up and brought you places ...
Smith should have been listening and taken notes. He would have learned some art in good time cunning, like how to make Enoch Sontonga's anthem of the struggle an alternative radio station's most play-listed non top 40 song.
“..under apartheid one had to hide one’s meaning and hope that it will still be discovered.”
- Eric Miyeni
This kind of thing was an old tradition on local radio according to some current research

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault
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