Sunday, May 15, 2011

Masakhane hits the airwaves

As the Masakhane Radio Show jingle played on Radio Grahamstown, on Friday 11 am, I was very nervous. I did not let people see how nervous I was, it is something I kept hidden. Over the past three months, our community partnership has been on a major learning curve, where all stakeholders in the partnership had learnt key aspects of each other’s contribution to the partnership. The playing of the Masakhane Show jingle signalled a new, key stage of this partnership. It had now reached its output stage. There was no turning back from here.

I guess what made me more nervous, was the acrimonious few days that had led to the first airing of Masakhane. Key nerve-inducing moments included a change of anchor for the show. Our original anchor, Mary, had gone AWOL in the past week and no one knew where she was. We then made a big call to make Thenjiwe, our producer, an anchor for the show as well. This decision was made at her insistence that she could handle this dual role, and realising her experience we decided to go with this call. There was also the pressure of making up for lost time in preparing for the show as a partnership. The public holidays in the past three weeks had made some of the members of the partnership unavailable at various stages. There were also administrative matters of sorting out posters for the show, jingles and stings. But everything worked out well, as we focussed intensely on what will form the content of the first Masakhane Radio Show.

An idea was raised in a meeting three days before the broadcast of the show, to include all of the Umthathi facilitators who will be available on the Friday, in the show. We had decided to make the show an introductory show of the people who will be contributing to the Masakhane Radio Show, so we saw it fit to have all of the available facilitators present for the show. The facilitators were to all add input in explaining the function of Umthathi, what it does, and what the facilitators do. This would be the only show which would deal explicitly with Umthathi, and we thought it would be good for listeners to know the background of the facilitators who will be giving expert advice in the show in future.

The show itself went well, as each of the five facilitators present in the show added valuable input in Umthathi’s contribution to the community, the importance of there being an NGO which focuses on sustainable gardening and healthy living, and the functions of each of the facilitators. This provided a good precursor of future shows, as the anchor was good at linking their responses to future shows, and the co-anchor, Xoliswa contributed well in addressing the future roles of the facilitators in Masakhane. Thenjiwe encouraged a vibrant mood in the studio, with her expressive style of anchoring, and this was good at easing Xoliswa and the facilitators in a live show recording atmosphere. This also complemented the vibrant, music in the jingle of the show, which was suitable for all ages.

An interesting realisation I made at the recording of the show was how engaging topics in an isiXhosa show can be. There could be a long discussion without an interval, but it would still sound interesting. This is something that happened in the show, where the show sting (that short musical interlude which reminds a listener that they are listening to a particular show) was played for the first time 15 minutes into the show. The discussions in the show also shielded a potential disaster, where the Radio Grahamstown phones had stopped working on the Friday morning of the show’s live recording, and there was no network in the studio, so it was impossible for listeners to call into the show. This is something we had planned to incorporate in the show, but the discussions managed to take up the time for that.

The first live broadcast of the Masakhane Radio Show went very well. As a partnership, we now face the challenge of living up to the promise shown in the first show, and of ensuring that listeners are indeed educated on how to garden, and how to have better lives through the practice of gardening.

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