He has had to do things he wouldn’t advise others to do to eke a living. Githinji Mwangi aka Mbusi shared his travails with PETER NDORIA
When you host a show called Goteana and a segment in it is called Kukung’uta miwa, it requires not only that you be on your tippy top in sheng’ but also a healthy dose of the unconventional. Yet that one word is what can fairly describe Githinji "Mbusi" Mwangi of Ghetto Radio.
As he walks to the reception area of the Ghetto Radio offices to meet me, I’m caught off-guard by his rather slight physique - am not exactly Hercules myself, mind you- and how he easily carries himself. I finally understand why he calls himself Kapyenga (smallish) in his show.
This 27-year old alumnus of Eastleigh Airport Primary and Maina Wanjigi High School started off selling soup in the Korogocho area where he was born after finishing high school, to eke out a living.
Ever the hustler, he then started going to the Kenya National Theatre where he landed roles in high school set-book plays, especially children roles, thanks to his physique. Then television roles started calling when the programme Crazy Kenyans aired on TV. He acted alongside the like Cheiph and Mshamba.
Things were not so rosy because he says he felt slighted.
"Sometimes I would give ideas then am told they are not good enough but a few days later, I find my idea has been replicated by someone else", he laments.
In December 2005, he quit and went back to Kenya National Theatre were he found things were hard, this time.
"I was forced to peddle ndom at the time, to make ends meet", he confesses. It is a phase of his life he looks back at and then remarks,
"I would advise youngsters out there now, to do as I say, not as I did..."
This hard-knock state of life continued until 2008 when he met Robo- then a presenter at Ghetto Radio, who was looking for comedians at the National Theatre. The meeting between them was hilarious because Mbusi mistook Robo for a police officer because of his burly physique.
Further, as if fate was experiencing a bout of humour on this young man who had fallen foul of the law, Robo made him try out traffic updates using a police officer’s tone and accent.
Just like that, the young lad landed his first radio job, giving traffic updates in a ‘police’ accent, as ‘Inspector’.
Things looked rosy, but only to the extent that looks can be deceiving because six months into the job the Office Manager pulled a shocker on him one morning. Priscah (the Office Manager) informed Mbusi that she felt that he did not have a voice for radio. He was unceremoniously demoted from budding presenter to office messenger in a move he describes painfully in analogy.
"It was like being demoted from President to Chief", he says adding that maybe they just retained him out of pity, as messenger.
From December 2008 to June last year, Mbusi the messenger hang in there, being literally sneaked in by producer Dee into the studio to do a few links with his ‘Inspector’ voice.
Soon, the young messenger who confesses that he saw his first computer at Ghetto Radio learnt everything about how a studio is run. Incidentally Dee is now Head Producer, watching his protÈgÈ run a three-hour show, flying solo.
No Money more problems
Differences had by now emerged at Ghetto Radio and there were changes in management which saw Priscah leave with Mwaf’s team and ushered in the management of Majimaji— he of the Unbwogable fame— as new head honcho with a new vision and a move to the new offices they are housed in now.
It is Majimaji who placed his confidence in this lad, entrusting him with a three-hour show.
Goteana is a reggae show that runs from 1pm to 4pm and is split into three segments; Kujibamba that does Dancehall reggae, Kukumba toto si toto that does Lovers Rock and Kukung’uta Miwa that plays Roots reggae.
As if that is not enough tongue-twisting for one show, Mbusi features hourly sessions known as Bonga Sense where listeners discuss various topics randomly and truthfully.
Nyahunyo nyahu nyahu has callers share about people behaving badly so that they are called back and told to ‘touch your toes’, anonymously because it is not uncommon for employees to call on their employers’ bad conduct. The last session is known as Ungamwe vindialala and focuses on the small peevish things people do, sometimes unwittingly.
So what has his experience with Radio been like?
"Radio is fun," he says repeatedly then emphasises that it requires discipline and focus. It is this focus that sees him report to work two hours before his show to plan his day and do his thing. He also credits radio with affording him the chance to interact with many people.
To keep up with his Sheng’, the unofficial lingua franca at Ghetto Radio, he hangs out at guys’ ‘bases’ whether at home or by visiting people. He has since moved, but not too far off from his childhood home and still keeps in touch. In the past two weeks, he says he has been to Kitengela and Kajiado and he now intends to visit Naivasha. This is the only way he keeps up with his sheng’, especially since it is a tongue that varies, and then changes, from place to place and then time to time.
This versatility makes him fit in like a glove into Ghetto Radio’s vision of running a station — or stenje, as Mbusi would call it — with a mtaani feel, trying to demystify the presenter and make the radio a third unseen person as people hang out, tuning in.
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