There was an immovable suggestion that I was in for an unforgettable experience that lasted till I got off at Ridge. There wasn’t any chance that I’d be able to tuck my feet under the seat.
A good number of Benz 207s have something jammed beneath the second seat: a spare tyre, or other times, a locally-assembled speaker. (More like “hurriedly-assembled”. A few are in such terrible condition, they look like they were made from rejected boards nailed together at the end of a bad day.) Every once in a while the treble is squealing so high, it’s a miracle my spectacles don’t shatter before my very eyes. On this morning, Adakabre, then of Hot 93.9 FM, was ranting on all the topical issues of the day, somewhere around my cramped feet, neither he nor the driver caring a hoot for my personal comfort. The self-crowned “King of Morning Shows”, soon to anchor Adom 106.3 FM’s show, couldn’t have found a worse time to make an impression on me, what with my legs contorted in shapes and angles mathematicians and lexicographers may be at pains to find a decent name for.
I could feel my heartbeat in my leg. Then nothing. Total numbness. To take my mind off the distress my limbs were in, I allowed my mind to roam free. Soon, the static of the radio, as the driver changed stations, carried my attention straight to the doorstep of Kwame Sefa-Kayi on Peace 104.3 FM’s “Kokrookoo”. The newspaper headlines were being translated into Twi. This is always a treat. It’s never really just the news. If there was ever the news version of MTV’s “Pimp my Ride” it doesn’t get any better than this.
The translators go to great pains to spice up the normal hum-drum of daily events. They use their imagination to fill in gaps, telling how an ill-fated thief untied a goat, dreaming of an evening of light soup, all the while whispering admonitions into the terrified beast’s ears to be quiet. Then they go on to explain how a small boy whose father had sent him to buy akpeteshie raised the alarm, and give a literal blow-by-blow account of how the young men in the village attempted to turn Mr. Thief into pulp, before the police came to the rescue.
Translation isn’t limited to local happenings. A day after the infamous fight between Chris Brown and Rihanna they recounted with gory detail how Chris and “Ryna” exchanged punches, leaving her eye swollen like a watermelon or something. No issue is too sacred for exaggeration.
It would be difficult to blame radio presenters entirely for the abused freedom on the airwaves. The public tends not to fare much better when the phone lines are opened. Asempa 94.7 FM, for instance, allow callers on their daily morning sports show to air their views. The few times that I’ve heard it, though, they’ve been civil. Now, the more frequent callers have formed a Sports Callers Association of sorts, and even wanted tickets to the World Cup. Incredible.
Serial callers usually have more than an opinion to share, smearing politicians and supporters on the other side of the divide with as much passion as a general rousing his troops before battle.
Looking back, however, we’ve come a long way from the GBC-FM monopoly years. In the days before private radio stations the national broadcaster would go off air for a few hours between mid-morning and early afternoon to “keep the machines from overheating.” Ridiculous. I still remember their jingle, “GBC FM, GBC FMMMMMMMM!” And they used to play Don William’s “Listen to the radio” a lot. Did we have a choice?
Once on my commute, our young driver rebelled against the trend. His dial was stuck firmly to Y 107.9 FM for much of the journey, bobbing his head to hip hop. He really fit into the station’s target of “the young and young at heart”. A passenger who had had enough asked if there was nothing better on radio to digest. The driver just glared at the offending party-pooper and increased the volume a little. This, of course, triggered a long conversation on how the youth of today have gone to the hogs and beyond.
Maybe you could share with us what you love or hate about radio in Accra, or why you listen to one station and no other, or an occasion where the topic on radio had become so heated that everyone in the trotro felt that they had to chip in, or maybe a funny translation you heard.
Over-enthusiastic callers, reports dripping with sensationalism, the news embellished to the point that it sounds poetic – or like Concert Party – all dished out in one generous helping of morning radio in Accra.