On the last Tuesday of January, a call came through to the Radio Maisha studio, shaking presenters Alex Mwakideu and Jalang’o.
The woman on the other end wanted the duo to confront a CID officer, who owed her Sh28,000. There was a pregnant, few seconds pause before comedian Jalang’o blurted out, “A CID officer? Oh, sisi tunadai hata shetani (Even the devil is not beyond us).”
He went ahead and called the officer live on air, prevailing upon him to settle the debt. By 5pm the same day, the officer had paid his dues.
And every day, there is such a case in the ‘Lipa Deni’, one of the creative segment’s in the Break Fast show, Maisha Asubuhi. Here, a listener who is owed money calls and gives out the number of a debtor gone missing in action, and the studio becomes a live ‘Maisha Police Station.’
“Breakfast is a competitive hour, but predictable in most stations,” says Mwakideu, “ours is designed to be full of suspense and unpredictable. Each day, as is our audience, we do not know what to expect.”
Well, such creativity in Radio in Kenya is a necessity rather the exception, given that there are more than 140 stations giving rise to cut-throat competition.
Radio Maisha has been striving to do just that. After a slow start, it is today rated number three in the country where 91 per cent prefer radio, compared to 47 per cent for television, 27 per cent newspapers and 21 per cent going online according to the Ipsos 2014 rating of media.
In 2013, Radio Maisha was rated number 25, a year that in June, the management decided to relaunch with a new sound, tagline, jingles and all.Today, according to The Kenya Audience Research Foundation, the association of practitioners in advertising and prepared by Ipsos, Radio Maisha in 2014, became number three radio of choice.
Fragmented in four quarters, Radio Maisha consistently improved in 2014. On audience size, in a countrywide survey Radio Maisha commanded 4,316,750 in quarter four, from 2,636, 396 in quarter one. This was a gain of 1,680,354, even as the number one radio lost a whopping number, 593,475 in 2014.
On weekly reach, Radio Maisha improved from 13 per cent in quarter one to 21 per cent in quarter four even as the number one radio lost with two percentage points even though it has a larger audience reach.
The Head of Radio Maisha, Tom Japanni, says this follows investments in frequencies, where it has 16 from six in 2013. They now reach most areas of Kenya, with Western saturated. Marsabit and Turkana is in the offing soon.
When it comes to the share of time spent on radio, where listeners do not switch the dial, Radio Maisha at number five has improved from two per cent in the first and second quarters to four per cent in the last quarter. So what has marked this improvement?
“We had to change a lot of things during the re-launch in June 2013,” says Japanni, “We had to find and nurture talent, and do shows informed by the market needs.”
Thus came the revamped programing, the flagship being the breakfast running from 6am-10am. “You miss this, and you miss out the whole day,” says Japanni, who joined the station in February 2013 with a ten years’ experience gleaned at the BBC.
Maisha Asubuhi has other popular segments like ‘Hali Halisi’, a clinic. Here men who cannot find love call Dr Jalash for a hook-up. They also invite a different guest daily, an expert who discusses topical issues.
After 10am, Ann Njogu cools the midday hit aboard the Staarabika show. She plays Radio Maisha’s signature music, urban and contemporary African. “We never do European or Western music,” says Japanni.
Then at 1pm, comes the number two of Radio Maisha’s flagship, Konnect, a trendsetter as it incorporates a DJ and two presenters. A show for the youth, Esther Mwende, Clemo and DJ Gitts take no prisoners. They dish entertainment radio fast and furious.
It is highly interactive and they also promote young talent, playing new music and giving the audience a chance to rate it, besides featuring celebrity guests.
At 4pm follows the important drive, or the rush-hour programme. The Maisha Jioni makes traffic jams bearable with the hilarious multi-award winning comedian Zulekha Walalo Ajaab behind the wheel with Tinah Korosso.
There are other shows, like Rumba Attencion, for Rumba lovers after 7pm hosted by Emmanuel Mwashumbe. Maji Makuu goes on in late night. Safari opens the day on an inspirational footing at 4am with Fred Mtiriri.