There is lipstick on my mic!
1971 I was two years old; the moon landing of Apollo 11 was still being celebrated but something else was brewing in the world of Radio. In that same year, a lady by the name of Lindiwe “Malindi” Ntuli joined what was then called “Radio Bantu” as a part-time announcer. There had been another lady presenter before her by the name of Bawinile Mahlangu, but this mic genius from Eshowe was to become a household name across most cultural lines.
Many in the audience had no idea who Malindi was when she was inducted into the MTN Radio Awards Hall of Fame a few years ago. A closer look at Malindi’s career and one accepts and understands very quickly that she was a rebellious spirit who shook the then male-dominated and chauvinistic local airwaves. Males that were on air during her time were not to be scoffed at and I am not only talking about Radio Zulu. Her colleagues at the station included Radio giants like Kansas City and Dr. VVO Mkhize. She was flanked on other stations by the likes of Radio Setswana’s Sello Phiri and Letswalela Mothiba of Radio Lebowa. Itshitshi lika 15 years” – as Malindi was affectionately known, paved the way for a diverse list of female Radio presenters.
“The advent of Radio Bop saw another talented presenter in Thuli Moagi. In contrast to Malindi, Moagi brought that softer, more emotive and almost nurturing female presenter style. Thuli made one feel very comfortable and familiar – no jarring or unnecessary chit chatter. She was Radio Bop’s friendly big sister one could count on for love and comfort. The programming at that time was stereotypical though and it perpetuated a terrible mindset that sought to put women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Nevertheless, Thuli Moagi made her mark on the softer, more nurturing side of Radio and she made it stick too. As the Radio audience was getting comfortable with Thuli Moagi, Radio METRO unleashed a somewhat different kind of presenter – a woman with a booming and deep voice, who also had strong opinions on air. This was way before 1994, and women were at that time allowed an opinion only in the confines of what the world considered “women issues”.
Shado Twala’s arrival on radio could not have been timed that perfectly. South Africa was at a tipping point and black consciousness was rearing its head all over again. When I arrived at Radio Metro in 1991, I found this Queen surrounded and loved by industry giants such as Tim Modise, Wilson B Nkosi and Lawrence Dube. At that time, it would have been very easy to have assumed that Nomshado was a Jazz fan, exclusively and you could have never been more wrong. This one time, I played a Dr. Dre version of the “Ghetto Boy” song; originally recorded by Donny Hathaway and Shado hit the Hip Hop lyrics almost word for word. It was that incident that proved to me that she was not to be boxed into any category.
Shado Twala may have never handed the baton directly to Zandile Nzalo but it was almost like fate foretold. Let’s take a few steps back and recap – Malindi Ka Ntuli was a traditional strong Zulu presenter, Shado Twala embodied the new liberated woman on Radio. Nzalo entrenched the new independent woman who could be feminine as hell but still play with the boys. I really enjoyed Zandile on air because of her versatility and she could easily transition from an actual disc jockey to a talk show host to a super funky presenter. Her move from Radio Bop to 702 was seamless and she presented the late night slot as if it was a Primetime slot. In my opinion Radio still needs Zandile Nzalo.
Kgomotso Moeketsi falls in the Shado Twala category very well. At some stage in her career, she also managed Gagasi FM. On Air, she is always a strong advocate for South African Jazz and Afro pop. The passion that KG has for home brewed music is always palpable and commendable. One cannot tell the history of South African radio personalities without mentioning KG Moeketsi.
And finally there is the next generation and obviously to move on to that; I have to point to some sort of bridge. No one fits this role better than Azania Mosaka of Talk 702. She has travelled from Metro to Power and then on to 702 and I still think that Radio programmers have no clue where to place her. She is a bit of a walking contrast because she is intelligent, sensual and has a fantastic voice. Wherever Azania lands after 702 will be a clear indication of how the future will turn out for juniors like Faith Mangope, Anele MdodaPabi Moloi and Nonn Botha.
Malindi Ntuli inspired this article more than any other Radio personality I have written about. My wish is that in the not so distant future Radio presenters will be judged by their content delivery and appeal and not by gender. Our medium is still patriarchal and this needs to change. I hope that the current crop of female presenters do, from time to time, call Nomshado or Nzalo for advice. There are plenty more women I could have written about that have elevated the status of Radio in South Africa and perhaps that should be my next piece – Female radio game changers in management such as Rina Bloomberg and Terry Volkwyn. Worthy of a special mention as I conclude is Brenda Sisane, Sheila D, Felicia Mabuza Suttle, Sam Cowen, and Charlotte Levine, Charlotte Mompane and Helen Graham. I have worked with all of these women and have never felt any different to working with their peers of the opposite sex.