The familiar signature tune that ushers in Sundowner show announces the end of a long and tedious day and encourages listeners to relax and enjoy one hour of memorable music.
Memorable because renowned artistes of oldies such as Kenny Rogers, Don Williams, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Roger Whitaker, Nana Mouskouri and Demis Roussos as well as music groups including ABBA, Boney M and the Beatles are played.
The programme is aired from Monday to Sunday from 6pm to 7pm. It continues to attract new fans each day while sustaining many of the old ones despite competition from modern music and the ever-changing demographics.
It has been the station’s regular feature ever since the programme was first played, soon after introduction of radio in the country, in the early 1950s.
“I found Sundowner when I joined the Voice of Kenya in early 1980s,” John Abong’o Junior, one of the celebrated presenters of the programme says. “It is the songs played on the show that have kept people hooked to the programme.”
When the broadcasting sector was liberalised in the 1990s and many radio stations hit the airwaves, some thought the popular show aired by the public broadcaster – the only station in Kenya till then – would die.
But Sundowner still has many fans despite the more than 50 licensed FM radio stations competing to outshine each other by playing music that appeals to the younger generation.
“The music was intended for settlers who, after a hard day’s work, wanted something else that would make them relax and remember home. Even after independence, it continued to be played as the independent Kenyans also appreciated it,” says Obongo, or JOJ as he is popularly known.
The programme enjoyed even greater fame due to circumstances; VOK being the only radio station, it was almost compulsory that every Kenyan who had access to radio would tune into the station.
“Music is a universal forum which has brought young and old generations together. The kind of music played on Sundowner brings people together despite their age as attested by the number of listeners who call in. Others on social media have expressed their love for the kind of music we play,” Catherine Ndonye, a Sundowner presenter told The Standard in an interview at the studios.
Larry Wambua, another long time presenter of the show, says, songs such as ABBA’s Slipping Through my Fingers have a messages that anyone can identify with – such as the emotions people go through when a child leaves for school for the first time.
A fan says she loves the choice of music at the show. She says: “What amazes me about ABBA was their ability to write songs about expressing the human condition. Songs with meaningful lyrics. . . not what is sang now; talking about sex all the time.”
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