Woah, my blog yesterday was long but I missed a huge chunk of it. I eventually arrived in the church in Ndola (where I will be setting up the radio equipment) and I received a warm welcome. It was weird pulling XLR cables, microphones, etc. which were hidden amongst various items of clothing in my case to an audience. I felt like a magician!
Oh and Muli Shani (which means hello)! Here (well, this part of Zambia) people speak English and Bemba and randomly swap between the two. Its confusing but its something I am incredibly jealous of, the ability to speak more than one language fluently.
Its already my final day in Ndola, and I have been dreading it. Why? Well I have not been here long and I am about to take off again and head to Livingstone.
This morning I visited Sun FM, a commercial radio station here in the Copperbelt. It was a chance for me to go into radio geek mode, well that’s what I am here for – right?
Apparently all of the equipment had been shipped over from London. And funnily enough it was kit I was quite familiar with!
The station is great, I have been listening to their broadcasts since I arrived yesterday and here’s a few things I noticed
- They play tracks that were hits in the UK years ago, things like J-lo
- Their broadcast law is *very* relaxed (well, in comparison to Ofcom). The breakfast show is sponsored by Zamtel and they play a commercial stating this – then the presenter (who I have become friends with other the past two days) then speaks at length with this co-host about their good rates and how you could win 1,000 Kwacha, awesome. (Oh and don’t forget the expletive tracks!)
- All the presenters here are local and are always live. I told them about how networking was a big thing in the UK “that’s crazy” they responded.
- The presenters here get to decide and choose all the music they want to play. When I explained music scheduling was a big thing across the board they were miffed about this.
- Their studio was pretty awesome (oh and the sound proofing was strange yet interesting!)
“It’s all gone Radio GaGa”.
I discovered something new after leaving Sun FM, you will never believe it – well, here the cash machines have dedicated security guards who sit beside them and assist you if you need help. Odd. I am actually genuinely surprised that I had not noticed this until today! (And I have used one!)
Lunch today, we went to a restaurant which is run ny someone from the Bread of Life Church (the church I am working with). On the menu? T-bone steak or fish. Wow I thought and opted for the fish (which I deemed the healthier option). I should set the scene – I am sitting in an outdoor restaurant beside the road which has a tin roof to prevent the sun beating down on you and in the corner is a massive BBQ roaring away. The place smelt great – finally my first taste of traditional Zambian food. As my food arrived we headed towards the bucket in the opposite corner “this is hand food” I was told, so we washed our hand in a bucket.
Remember I had ordered fish? Well fish is what I got, Bream I think it was. There it was staring at me – it’s face, eye and teeth – oh and me staring back. We also had a local delicacy which is made from corn called Nshima. You tear a bit off and roll it into a ball using one hand – I am unsure how they managed to do it whilst its burning your hands! Oh, and I was the source of many laughs as I was useless at doing it – I enjoyed it though. It makes eating fish a lot easier using your hands instead of a knife and fork (Oh and the T-bone looked *amazing*)
Since I have arrived in Ndola there have been power cuts constantly – but don’t worry these are “scheduled”. Last night I had a candle which barely lit up the room because of the scheduled outing from 9pm until 5am. Crazy. As I am writing this the lights in my room are flickering, I am praying the fan does not stop – I need it. I was actually tempted to shave my beard and hair when I arrived because I am struggling in this heat.
So yeah, where was I? Yeah after lunch we had arrived back and the power had gone. We were due to begin recording content, I had spent the past day or so showing everyone how to setup the radio equipment, some basic training in radio and using some of the software I had installed for them. Luckily the church was prepared and had a genarator to hand – you have one hour, I was told, and we all set to work. After some technical glitches we were ready – oh, 20 minutes gone. Right, these recordings will need to be quick!
First up I am interviewing two young people from Ndola called Phil and (I can’t remember the other one). I asked them about young people in Zambia and what the issues are affecting them, everything from alcohol abuse to sexual relationships.
I should add the interviews will be added to another post when I get an opportunity to edit them. I was surprised how talented these guys are. I am not being patronising but young people here are very media savvy and everyone is interested in the creative industries. I have got a 2006 case study from Bolt FM coming up later on…
Guess what I learned today? Well we have all heard of Hollywood, yes? Then we all laughed when we heard Bollywood, yes? Well there is an African version too… Nollywood. Nollywood hails from Nigeria and it is apparently very popular here and I wonder if a channel exists for this on Sky, surely there must be one.
Anyway, we recorded other stuff including an episode of Rising From the Ashes (which you can hear in a future post). It’s a 5minute religious programme that airs every Tuesday & Thursday on Sun FM across the Copperbelt.
Time for one more recording. Remember we are against the clock here… I interviewed some of the church members about their plans for the radio station and linking up with Glasgow when I am back home. I am really excited about what can be achieved with this project. It will develop a better cultural understanding between our two cities, countries and continents.
Since my arrival here people have been really surprised about some of the issues that I see regularly in the UK. First of all I explained the rise of food banks followed by fuel poverty then onto the ‘bedroom tax’. The guys here did not have a clue, I dread to know what they think we live like – millionaires?
Next on today’s agenda was something I was looking forward to – chatting with the Rev here, George. Since I arrived yesterday I had hardly seen him and it felt like being summoned for an audience with the Pope. We both agreed that the project had a lot of potential and discussed some of the details. Now, I had brought a Saltire over from Scotland and was excited to actually present to our friends in Ndola. Guess what? George and his colleagues had got me a Zambian flag in return. I felt like a diplomat. I am really looking forward to putting it up when I get home. And that was it – goodbye. I think my biggest and only regret in this trip is just how rushed it has been. I am exhausted and the heat is not helping. There is so much I want to see and do and spending more time in Ndola is one of those things.
A question someone asked me on Facebook was “will this be an online or FM station?” well both. To begin with the station will be streaming online only to begin training young people to use the equipment. The church are actually having a new church built which includes space for their studio – isn’t that great?
I think this radio station – which currently has no name – will broadcast on FM eventually. I think they may adopt a similar approach to Bolt FM and how we broadcast on a “part-time” basis which allows plenty of time for training existing and new young people, as well as planning. So what does the future hold? I do not know but it sure is exciting!
Earlier today a man appeared at the church – looking for me, Steward. Myself and Steward had exchanged a few emails before my arrival here. Steward is a freelance journalist and writes for the Times of Zambia as well as a religious publication. So he’s here to interview me but guess what? I am here to interview him.
Steward visited Glasgow and Bolt FM back in 2006 when he was in secondary school and he was amazed by our studios. Since that visit Steward had been inspired by the radio station and has studied and obtained a diploma in journalism. I interviewed him which you can hear below. Steward, I really hope we cross paths again!
One thing I have learned about Zambia is – it is a very civil, friendly country – the people are great. They remind me of the people back home. Incidentally Ndola is the “friendly city”, didn’t they say something similar about Keith in Moray? Well, let’s not go there..