When the Radio Africa Group-owned Gikuyu radio station, Gukena FM, hit the Nairobi airwaves in early 2017, many Kikuyu listeners may have written-off the station going by the almost unchallenged dominance of Kameme FM and Inooro FM.
By Dee Gee
However, the then new kid in the Gikuyu radio market had a strategy (Rwimbo Top) that undoubtedly has changed the Kikuyu radio broadcasting landscape.
Unlike many existing Gikuyu radio stations that hit the airwaves with a batch of well-established radio presenters, Gukena FM hit the airwaves majorly with a boom of new radio presenters whom today have come to win the hearts of many Gikuyu listeners.
Among them is the deep-voiced 7pm-midnight show (Nyihia Hwai) presenter Wambugu Wa Mwangi who is currently studying Journalism and Mass Media at Moi University because as he ‘hyperbolically’ puts it, ‘I was born a Gikuyu radio presenter’.
“Being a radio presenter was my dream and I strongly believe it began right from my mother’s womb. In High School, for instance, I led the media school club and read the news every Wednesday during parade sessions,” says Wambugu who hails from Kirinyaga County.
The presenter who describes himself as ‘straight-forward, hardworking, focused and single’, doesn’t shy away from saying that he loves being himself and only does what pleases him.
But as Wambugu puts it, to develop such an attitude, it was not a walk in the park.
“I met so many dogs that barked on me while others told me I can’t do without god-fathers. But I ignored them resorting to many hungry nights as my pockets simply had nothing,” Wambugu laughs hysterically before putting on the headphones to go on air.
He adds: “But I was doing all this in search of experience and exposure. In fact, struggle, mistreatment and ‘usoto’ became like my siblings.”
But is Wambugu’s rich deep voice the only thing that gave him an inch on the competitive Gikuyu radio market?
Well, he simply says it is just a single ingredient for a ‘sumptuous meal’ while noting that creativity, delivery and commitment are the ‘unavoidable spices’.
Wambugu, a professional scriptwriter and sound/video producer who before joining radio was a mere hawker, notes that his personal motivation is from believing in himself and just being able to identify ‘the shiny gold inside me’.
The presenter’s advice to those aspiring to join vernacular radio broadcasting: “Vernacular radio broadcasting is easy and hard in equal measures. But what is important is the degree of passion you have in the language.”
“To succeed in radio, you must start by identifying who you are, what you need to do, how you will achieve it and finally what you will do after that achievement. Basically, have an A-Z plan,” he adds before going on air to do the sign-out link.