As a part of The Love Movement, which revolutionised the way South African weekend radio is programmed, Wilson B Nkosi became the Voice of Sunday.
As he celebrates 30 years on air, he reflects on his journey and specifically, how it runs parallel to the iconic Metro FM which became a bastion for urban music in Mzansi before and after apartheid. The station celebrates its birthday through an event called the Summerlife Festival this weekend.
How did your relationship with music begin?
I was born in Mpumalanga, but days later, we moved back to Swaziland where I spent my formative years. In boarding school, I was grounded all the time because I would stay up and listen to music inthrough my headphones long after the prefects had told us to switch off everything off. I couldn’t sing to save my life, but it’s not by default that I’m doing what I’m doing.
How did you get into radio?
I wrote to the SABC to ask for a job as a broadcaster. At the time, there was Springbok Radio. They responded by saying there’s nothing happening there at ?the moment so I should try Radio Swazi – which is Ligwalagwala FM now. I know beggars can’t be choosers, but I told them: “No, I want to be on Springbok Radio”. In 1986, I received a letter saying the SABC would be launching Radio Metro and that I should audition. I didn’t have a demo. I had never even seen the inside of a radio studio before! I was 19 years old and I made arrangements to come to Johannesburg. I auditioned and I have to assume they liked what they heard because I am still here.
What were those first Metro years like?
I was a part of the Dream Team. You had Treasure Tshabalala, Lawrence Dube, Timothy Modise, Shado Twala, Sheila D, Lucky Ntuli. And some no-name brand from Swaziland (laughs). It’s a blessing and a privilege to have been a part of that. It was the team to beat.
Did the Dream Team believe Radio Bop was the competition?
Radio what? What was Bop again? (laughs) No. I’ll have you know that in the past 30 years, we’ve led the pack. I’m not talking Radio Bop. I’m talking about the radio space. We set the tone. We do what we do and everyone else follows. That has been the case for 30 years. For instance, Metro is the only station whose biggest listenership is on Sunday. Everyone started modelling themselves after what we do on Metro on Sundays. We started Poetry in Motion on the show and suddenly, shows on other stations have poetry. But I think imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Speaking of poetry, you delivered a poem at the funeral of your dear friend and Metro FM legend, Eddie Zondi…
That poem had been written a long time ago. I had no way of knowing things would turn out that way on June 16, 2014. I do a fair amount of reflection and write some things that mayight never see the light of day for my own consumption. I remembered I’d written something about my life with Mr Z a long time ago. It didn’t say all the things I wanted to say, but that’s what it was.
You and Eddie Zondi had a remarkable friendship.
I trusted Mr Z unreservedly. Ours was a spiritual connection. There were times we would talk on the phone, 10 times a day. In 18 years, you can count – on not more than two hands – the number of times we didn’t communicate. Sometimes he’d just call to say: “Look at the weather. It’s changing. Bye”. He was my brother.
Have you heard AKA’s All Eyes on Me?
Yes, I love that song.
So towards the end of the song, Da L.E.S says shibabadoo shibaboo…
That’s Grant William Shakoane! One of my favourite Metro FM DJs. Not just as a DJ, but as a human being. I’ve got time for him. I was lucky to have been among radio royalty. I always say, Radio Metro had Bob Mabena, Timothy Modise and us (laughs).
When did your show, Sounds and Stuff Like That, start?
Exactly in the year 2000. We’ve been on every Sunday from 9am to midday noon. The name comes from a Quincy Jones line. Bad boy! (slaps wrist). I just thought it sounded good because the show is about sounds and a whole lot of things put into the mix.
You have appeared on a number of TV shows, one of which is Jam Alley. Did you ever get to taste the Jam Alley chocolate?
No! I don’t think they like me very much at Jam Alley.
Aside from the radio show, you often go to various venues to play soul and R&B music for the masses.
Those people part with their money and their time. Those are very valuable commodities, but they are sacrificing those two to hear what we do. We can’t take that for granted.
If Metro FM were a person, what gift would you give this 30-year-old?
I’d give Metro my time. In the absence of everything else, my gift would be in words. When you give to a have – and Metro is a have – it’s hard to know what to give. So my gift would be words and those words would be: “Thank You.”