As Vybez Radio marks its momentous 4th anniversary this month, one thing is certain; the radio station has profoundly resonated as a trailblazing powerhouse with an unwavering dedication to raising the awareness of young people through reggae music and stirring banter.
The station is the first of its kind in East and Central Africa being that it is an audio-visual, that combines real-time radio with high-definition viewing capability. With an ear finely tuned to the heartbeat of the nation, Vybez Radio channels the infectious energy of Roots reggae, Dancehall, Dub, and Lovers Rock to capture a burgeoning listenership, predominantly comprising the young and the restless.
Vybez Radio's accomplishments have caught the attention of the most prominent figures in the realms of Reggae and Dancehall Music. Renowned Dancehall icons like Chris Martin, D Major, and Future Fambo have graced the Vybez studio in person.
Jamaican Reggae sensation Etana, who headlined a Reggae Concert in Nairobi back in 2020, also visited the studio. Recently, in May, American reggae star Pato Banton, known for his hit song 'GO PATO,' paid a visit and left equally impressed.
Additionally, numerous others have participated in interviews through online connections. This extensive list features prominent names such as Sean Paul, Skillibeng, Busy Signal, Valiant, Skeng, Morgan Heritage, Usain Bolt, Protoje and many more.
Tom Japanni, who is the General Manager Radio products at the Standard Group, says Vybez Radio is a platform for the youth to have their voices heard and discuss their problems.
“For a long time, Kenya as a nation, especially through our leaders, we have always talked down to the youth, we have always told them what to do, and always taken the podium and spoken to them like we are preaching. Vybez Radio was that platform for the youth, for them to come and execute the mandate and talk about their own issues,” said the GM Radio.
In the past four years, Vybez Radio has walked the talk. The station started off strong with events all over the country to connect with young people. However, the COVID-19 pandemic stopped their in-person events.
In collaboration with the other radio stations, they quickly adapted and held a virtual concert called "47 million Reasons" to stay connected with their audience. This online event became the beacon, allowing the radio station to sustain the Vybez Radio spirit of connecting with audiences across the nation and even the continent through challenging times.
The Vybez Radio experience is more than just music as it also caters to important topics such as current affairs, Pan-Africanism, social justice, career and education opportunities, unemployment, and health and wellness. Brian Evusa, the Programme Controller Vybez Radio adds that the station is just getting started and looking to reach more youth. “We only have 5 frequencies and we are looking forward to expanding to the Western region of the country and many other places. Our Primary target is the urban centers and peri-urban areas in order to reach youths from all walks of life”.
Central to this movement is the concept of Vybez Nation: a diverse collective of young people from various backgrounds who share their stories through the medium that is Vybez Radio.
The morning show, the "MVPS", hosted by Kevin Matara and Kevo Baddman, is an unqualified success. They credit their chemistry and energy for the show's popularity. “We hang out a lot together, we have a lot of conversations off air regarding issues out there making it easy for us to converse on air,” says Matara.
The Mid-morning, "Vybe-A-yard," is hosted by Celline Njoki, also known as Browngalnessa, and Deejay Patiz. The show is just 2 years old making the mid-morning segment the newest kid on the block:
She credits good content and music saying it’s not easy to find a radio show team that has a grasp and good flow of everything and great rapport with their producer.
Deejay Patiz meanwhile believes that the show's success is due to using a familiar language, "Lugha ya mtaa," which has connected them well with the audience. He gives credit to the host, Celine, and the producer for their great on-air connection and thanks the listeners for sticking with the show since day one.
"Vybez Adrenaline," hosted by ZJ Heno, is the station's popular drive-time show and arguably its most musically distinct due to Heno's contacts in the global reggae music scene. He prides the success of the show on the listeners' support and the hard work of the production and social media teams:
“The secret to the success of this show is the listeners and Vybez Nation as a whole as they love the show and the product,” says Heno.
Heno is proud to contribute to the growth of Reggae music in Kenya having been able to interview international reggae artists such as Buju Banton, Shenseea, Tarrus Riley, Roman Virgo and many others.
“We are the only dedicated audio-visual dancehall and reggae radio station in Central and East Africa” he boasts. At Vybez Radio, the end of the week gets exciting with two lively weekend shows.
On Saturdays, you have Khartella Maicy and Uncle Jay who host the "Set Piece” sports show. Their speciality? Live commentary of English Premier League football matches and a crash course in sports education for their listeners.
Uncle Jay, emphasizes that sports is adored by millions, particularly young people. He highlights the key to success: staying updated, understanding various sports, and being open to learning the rules of different games.
“Sports in itself is content loved by millions, especially the youth, the secret is to be up to date, know and understand different sports, and be ready to learn more rules of different games,” he said.
The chemistry with Kartellah Maicy has also helped recruit and maintain listenership since she is the only female commentator in the country.” He notes.
Sundays, the "Sunday Vybez" show, takes center stage, hosted by Deejay Steve Junior. He attributes the success of his show to his genuine passion for entertaining, informing, and fostering meaningful interactions that spark enriching conversations with people.
"The week is full of happenings, and the Sunday Vybez show serves as an ideal platform to recap and highlight events from the previous week. Alongside offering encouragement, curated playlists, and positive energy for the upcoming week."
Behind the scenes, Kennedy Kimeli and Dennis Masinde work to keep the station running smoothly. Ignatius Openje handles social media and believes in quality content and consistency. Masinde is drawn to the unique audio-visual aspect of the station.
"It's truly a pleasure to be among the first producers for audio-visual radio stations. Being a pioneer in this exciting platform is fantastic.”
Masinde adds that the connection between social media and full-capacity audio-visual radio is something to be thrilled about. The real-time interactivity that audio-visual radio provides is captivating.
“Things are changing rapidly, and as journalists, we need to adapt to technology and enhance our skill sets. The audience sets the agenda, and we must keep up," he says.
Japanni couldn’t be happier. He stresses that he appreciates the young team of people that runs Vybez Radio.
“Our team is composed of young, dynamic broadcasters spanning from producers to presenters, and even sales representatives,” he says.
“Our vision for Vybez Radio is to venture out on the road. We plan to visit every county, affording the youth a platform to engage not only in political discourse but also to discuss their unique needs and aspirations specific to each location and region.”
He adds that Vybez Radio is poised for an exceptionally promising future as it is geared toward the youth demographic, which constitutes a significant majority not only within Kenya but also across the continent.
“Our radio station is well-positioned for success,” says Japanni.
With a track record as striking as Vybez Radio's journey in the last four years, this is as sure as any bet can get.