Kings, queens who have ruled the airwaves for decades honoured
Hundreds of fans flock to Carnivore Grounds in Nairobi to meet faces behind the golden voices
Back in the day when the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) or the Voice of Kenya before it, was the only radio station in the country, Kenyans held in awe the broadcasters.
Those who grew up listening to KBC/VOK English or Swahili service, lived for the day they would meet the faces behind the golden voices that kept them informed and entertained.
And last Saturday, Sundowners, a group of fans loyal to the Sundowner music show on KBC’s English service, gathered in their hundreds at the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi to celebrate the legends who have ruled the airwaves for decades.
KBC out did itself in celebrating the living legends in an event graced by Sports, Culture and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng, Kenya Film and Classification Board chief executive Ezekiel Mutua, among others.
Those feted included Leonard Mambo Mbotela, Elizabeth Omollo, Fred Obachi Machoka, Khadijah Ali, Ali Salim Mmanga, John Obongo Jr and Larry Wambua.
Beneath the presenters’ humble personality lies brilliant and talented minds with years of experience in the media industry and skills that have helped shape, not just the broadcast sector in the country, but also opinions and lifestyles of generations.
“This is part of KBC celebrating its contribution to the development of the media industry and cannot be done without recognising those who made this possible,” said Amina.
KBC managing director Naim Bilal said the occasion was informed by the need to celebrate the legends for their contribution while still alive as opposed to the norm where people are celebrated posthumously.
“We recognise and appreciate the role played by these broadcasting legends. They are industry pioneers. They served as role models aspiring presenters across Kenya and when the air waves were liberalised, the new stations didn’t need to train. Talent was available at KBC. This trend has continued to date,” he added.
“KBC nurtured these legends whose voices graced our sitting rooms and brought us unimaginable joy. It’s good to give these gallant and honourable men and women their flowers and celebrate them while they are alive,” said Mutua.
“ I grew up in the village listening to these legends and never imagined I would ever meet and mingle with them so freely. I used to admire Elizabeth (Amolo) and Anunda (Sakwa)during my childhood. I loved their selection of music,” said Nancie ‘Mama Africa’, a media personality.
Many will remember Elizabeth Obege for her tutelage on KBC Kiswahili service.
“She inspired school girls, I included, to work hard in our studies and become important figures in society and also made parents look at the girl-child from a different perspective, that she too can do what was mostly perceived as a man’s career,” said Nancie, who has been hosting rhumba shows in different media platforms.
Years on, the scene in media industry has changed. However, the legends have left a mark for the younger generation who stepped up to try and fill in their big shoes.
“Even as we retire, I am a happy man that we did our part and we did it well. I am also happy that the next generation is coming up well,” said Mbotela.
“I joined KBC in 1976 and started broadcasting in 1982. I went to Union for Radio and Television Networks for Africa (URTNA) before coming back. One of the key things that have held my career intact for all those decades, is the passion and discipline. Having worked at the broadcasting house, I have witnessed different spans through which the media has transitioned. We now have social media which makes our interaction with fans closer. The Sundowner programme is an idea which started during the colonial times. It is a mix of something new and something old. Something gold and evergreen, ” he said.
“It is still etched in my mind when I joined the newsroom for it was a grandeur affair. Brushing shoulders with such personalities would not only leave you in awe, but I also admired the simplicity they had. We are talking about the likes of John Obong’o Junior. He is a legend such that when he retired he was offered a new contract to continue hosting the show after hosting it from the 80s,” said KBC journalist Bernard Okumu.