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I came as a boy, I leave as a man – Freddie Sakura bows out of KFM

OUT! Freddie Sakura may have managed to elude cameras and tabloids for years, but it goes without saying that he was one of KFM’s signature voices. After 15 years, Freddie is finally bowing out, leaving a legacy as the longest serving presenter at the Namuwongo-based station. But before he totally drops the mic and hangs his headphones, Isaac Ssejjombwe caught up with him.

Freddie Sakura

Fifteen years… Wow! Why now?

It is something that had to come. After any race, there has to be a finish line and I feel like the finish line for me is now. It is not like I feel there is no more radio, I actually feel a lot more radio in me but somehow in this game of broadcast, you cannot be with the same family for 15 years and you feel the same. There are certain things that happen in the industry that make you feel that maybe a flip over is not a bad idea at all. The world is an open place.

What was going through your head when you were making the decision to bow out?

When you feel like you have done what you had to do and you feel it is enough, a step in a different direction is necessary. I cannot say it came easy but if you look at a place where you have spent all your youthful years, the feeling is different. I came as a boy rolling in the world and now I am leaving as a man with a family, kids and responsibilities on my shoulders. To be honest, it was a personal decision.

Take us back to where it all started.

I remember everything vividly. I came in here on February 6, 2006. I was wearing a black suit and I met a gentleman called Peter Kaba, who was the station manager then and coincidentally my manager at Dembe FM earlier on. He said they had been looking everywhere for me after I had disappeared. He asked what had brought me to the station and I told him I was looking for a job at KFM. At the time, there was a lady called Denise Akii-Bua, who was doing a show but was not feeling fine so I was asked to sit in for her. So, the first day I came, I did a show before I did the interview. When time for the interview came, I went in knowing that whatever the outcome, at least I had worked at the station for three hours.

Flashback. Freddie interviewing Jamaican singer Demarco.

How did the interview go?

The interview was more practical. I did the voice test and they subjected me to an imaginary show. I was told they would get back to me after two days, which they did and two days later, I was presenting the Love Line, now the K-Zone. I later moved to a reggae show called Hot Spot before I started sitting in for Kazoora. I remember they told him to help me with the boards as he was going to the UK for a study leave and I would be sitting in for him, but he never showed me anything. He had a flamboyance about him but we became friends later. When he came back from the UK, he was told that I had given the station ratings that he had never given the station and that is how I took over the show – The Edge, then.

There was talk that you were a Kazoora wannabe.

People kept saying so for almost two years but I had no idea what they were talking about because I grew up in western Uganda. I studied in Ntare School, started radio in my S.6 vacation at Radio West and I had never listened to Kazoora. I came from Radio West to Dembe FM and while there, the programme I did was in broken patois because it was a reggae programme. It was a different environment that I could not get the exposure to get to know him or listen to his show. I honestly don’t know how that came about but some people after discovering that I was a westerner, believed that maybe all westerners sounded like that.

MD of NMG – Uganda, Freddie Sakura | Photo Promise Twinamukye

After 15 years at KFM, what do you leave behind?

I leave behind a legacy of devotion. People think that when you have a talent it comes easy but all my bosses, starting with Peter Kaba, Richard Linga and Joseph Beyanga will tell you that I was that person who religiously put time into the show. I come do my prep work on a piece of paper, which is how radio should be. That enthusiasm of doing more than your talent. I also think I have inspired a lot of people and trained them on how to do good radio. Radio broadcasting is much more than entertainment. You identify the wrongs in society and use the microphone to try to change that. I think I have left that legacy behind. I kept preaching messages of, ‘you don’t have to do drugs to be a great person’.

D’Hook master. Freddie during one of the listeners’ parties. PHOTOS/ GODFREY LUGAAJU/COURTESY

What will you miss on the radio?

The fans who have become family. Their problems become your problems over time and for me I will leave this message to young people. I have been inspired that when you get to that microphone, it is no longer about you. Most have emotions they want to share with you. You identify with their situations. They are your friends. My fans and listeners became K-fam. I’m going to miss them. Some became my good friends.

Is this the part where you tell us where you go from here?

I would first want to get there then talk about it. You know like how you have a flight and then when you talk about it, it doesn’t happen? I don’t want to jinx it. Momentarily, let’s first skip that. I’m diverting to something else. It’s money on my mind. When I first came here, my passion for radio surpassed everything. You know when I discussed with the managers my salary when I just joined, you would laugh if I told you that I have never earned it even after all these years. But I didn’t mind because it was never about the money for me.

Is this it for your radio journey?

No. If opportunities come and they are better, why not. Somebody might hear me on the radio.

Memories. With Radio, DJ Roja and former co-host Phyllis.

You speak fondly of your listeners. Tell us about that one caller you will never forget.

Sylvie Ngabire. She called from Entebbe. You see a lot of people don’t know the demands of radio. With broadcast, you must get into character. If you fought at home with your wife for example, you must leave that outside studio. Laugh even if it’s not necessary to create that environment. She said: “To be honest, today you must be going through some situation” and indeed I was. I was so low that it reflected on the radio. Then back in the day, I was doing a night show called Goodnight Melodies on Radio West about love issues and a lady called and said “Orange man, the way you sound on radio you must be a Casanova. I pity all these young girls in town”. But I was a virgin then.

Among the shows you’ve done on KFM, which was your best?

D’Hook because according to results from a 2010 survey, I had scored highest among the English speaking radio presenters in the whole country.

Freddie with KFM colleagues | Photo Promise Twinamukye

You have done D’Hook for the longest time. Weren’t you ever curious to try out other shows?

Yes I had the ability to even do a political show but there were no opportunities. The problem was that radio managers thought that a certain person was cut out for where they were placed. The fear that if you retract them from this, this will die.

As a radio presenter, you must have interacted with a number of celebs. Who stands out for you?

Jose Chameleone. Being one of the greatest artistes in Africa, I asked him questions and he was happy to answer but when we got out of studio in the corridor, he asked how I could ask him a certain question and that I had murdered him. To be honest, I expected a man of his stature in the industry to be able to know that a radio interview is an open thing. You have a right to dodge the interview and handle the questions the best way you want. That I will never forget. Since that time I changed my approach. I would first sit with them in a pre-on air interview.

What was the question about?

It was about his wife Daniela.

If you could change anything about the last 15 years, what would it be?

The mentality that radio stations are all about giving people news, music and entertainment is totally wrong. There is a much bigger role that radio can play than that.

Starstruck. Freddie and Sheebah.

What do you think about your replacement Lynda Ddane?

I was told she works on radio, although I have never listened to her but I can tell her radio is different From TV. I will tell her that if you want to bring that life, warmth you just have to keep it at the back of your mind that the radio is blind. It is strictly audio and they are interested in what the voice brings.

Lynda Ddane with Freddie

What have you contributed to the radio game?

Over the 15 years, I think I have made the contribution I was meant to make for the brand KFM. I came here in 2006 and I keep meeting kids who tell me they used to listen to me when they were still in primary and now completed university but that said, good things come to an end.

Taking you back, who inspired you to do radio?

There was a guy called Daniel Vienn of Capital FM. But radio was in me before. In Primary Six everything was manual. You would only listen to national radios like Radio Rwanda, Radio Uganda.

Mentor. Freddie with colleagues at KFM.

What challenges have you faced on radio?

There are quite many challenges. Broadcasting is not the area you go to for money. It is a full time job and you won’t have time to rest. Fame is weighed with your status. You are judged by the fame. You have to be rich, drive fancy cars etc. So matching your fame with your status has become a problem.

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