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Celebrity Profiles

In living memory: The FM radio presenters who left for eternity

Gone silent: Peter Loshode might still be alive but after becoming blind, the man known by many as ‘Habari Gani’ for his signature phrase on Radio Uganda, feels his world died the moment he lost his eyesight. But radio is sound and the advent of private FM radio saw Ugandans feast on sounds of many presenters and really get endeared to them. Last week, Alex Ndawula joined the long list of voices that have gone silent, but fortunately, their memories live on, writes Jacobs Odongo Seaman.

DJ Berry

The Happy Hour presenter on Capital FM had his signature jingles that praised his name and that of Mike Ouma, giving many listeners the impression that his real name was Mike Ouma.

DJ Berry was born Abdul Aziz Nsabimana in Rwanda. Before the likes of Rasta Rob ate into our palms, DJ Berry was already big, so big.

This guy floored all the ladies who listened to his shows and once he appeared on UTV, you should have seen women go crazy for him.

His huge popularity saw him do a commercial for dry cell that he called ‘Jing the Power’ for UTV.

DJ Berry worked for Cosmos and Kigali Night in the late ‘80s and was also a part time presenter on Radio Rwanda, a rapper and a dancer. The political climate in Rwanda forced him to flee to exile in DR Congo. Settling in Goma, DJ Berry eked his living in what he did best in discos.

A German woman later lifted him off to Europe. He did not just settle in with the girlfriend but continued to raise his deejaying chords and music dream.

By the time he hit it in Uganda, his single Hey You was a thing for many and he would later play it on his shows to talk about love, but mostly warn against reckless lifestyles in the time HIV/Aids was a scourge.

On return to Africa, he settled in Kampala as a DJ at Tropicana 110 and when Capital went on air on the eve of 1994, DJ Berry was among their first recruits.

The message in Hey You became apparent as DJ Berry became gaunt and his lips peeled to red, his hair going soft and slivery. As the struggles with the virus intensified, DJ Berry decided to trace back his roots to his motherland where he died in 1996.

He was laid to rest in his home suburb in Nyamirambo, Kigali.

Charles ‘Charzo’ Kibalama

Sanyu FM started off with youngsters mainly in their teens or early 20s and DJ Charzo was one of their first recruits after Alex Ndawula and Chris Ireland. Charzo, like almost every one of them, would later move on to Capital FM as a music selector, playing especially on weekends.

Charzo’s English was raw and he had difficultly presenting shows in the Queen’s language but he compensated everything with his unrivalled knowledge for songs and their backgrounds. He was the most sought-after selector. He did not live long, however, as he died in 1997. Only those with memories that rival that of dolphins and close friends still remember Charzo but FM radio itself will never forget him.

DJ David Bruno

Bruno joined Capital FM in 1994 when the 91.3FM station was still broadcasting from Baumann House on Parliament Avenue. He presented Magic Hour between 1pm and 4pm. The circumstances of Bruno’s death can still dumbfound many even today because this guy was jolly on air.

Bruno died the opposite of what he lived for and preached on radio with his selections. He loved playing Mike and the Mechanix and Over my Shoulder and Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry be Happy was like a theme song for him. Some critics of Capital FM say it overplayed the same songs over and again daily but DJ Bruno would unapologetically play these songs regularly.

“In every life we have some trouble | But when you worry you make it double | Don’t worry, be happy,” Bobby McFerrin would sing.

But in 1997, Uganda awoke to the shocking news of Bruno’s death. Bruno lived in a flat in Bugolobi with a White girlfriend and when she left, the deejay committed suicide.

DJ Ronnie

Where Bob Bashabe stopped is where Ronnie Sempangi started from. The man who called himself “DJ Ronnie, the Hitman” made Late Date transcend the airwaves and go real and live as he played the love doctor listeners called him by setting up meetings with them to reconcile lovers.

DJ Ronnie had a silky baritone voice that was as reassuring as dew in the morning and he was the man who knew how to shock as much as annoy. He once called a man live on air and asked him to identify his girlfriend and things did not go as planned, the man cut wires and ended the affair right there.

To all the listeners, he was a cheat. And that is what he was, of course. He was angry that by being asked live on air to name his lover, he was being exposed. And that was Ronnie’s tact – to compel a lover to tell the other listening in after calling Ronnie that they were the only ones.

Like a man running away, there were equally many whose relationship was sealed on air. Like a girl from Makerere who cried on air after the boyfriend she suspected of cheating was roused from his sleep by Ronnie’s call and asked to name his girlfriend. He did and proceeded to profess his undying love for her. At the other end, the girl wept with joy.

He would console broken hearts with soothing ballads and dedicate special songs to many others.

An alumnus of Namasagali College (like every other one of them as if), Ronnie featured in several dance and drama productions many years before he embraced radio.

DJ Ronnie died suddenly in September 2009 of multiple organ failure at Kadic Hospital where he had checked in after feeling uneasy.

Alex Ndawula

FM radio had been pretending to be alive with Radio Uganda’s Green Channel for years when Radio Sanyu picked up as the first private station in East Africa in December 1993.

Alex Ndawula, a club DJ who had worked in several seedy clubs in Kampala over the past fives years or so, became the first recruit alongside Chris Ireland.

The man who would become the godfather of radio presenters and known for his flowing locks was before radio an “upcoming rapper” for a few years. Back then, his trademark wasn’t his hair or the voice but suspenders.

With the song, Jack and Jill, the New York-born deejay attempted to make his mark in clubs as both a musician and DJ. But it was at Sanyu where he cut his teeth and although he was fired for abandoning his duty to go deejaying in a club, he was already an item.

Ndawula moved to Capital FM on easter weekend of 1994 and would stay there until his retirement in 2017. For 13 years on Capital, Ndawula presented the breakfast show from 6am to 10am. He was moved to the Evening Drive show in 2007 when Gaetano Kaggwa and Karitas Karisimbi took over the show with support from Oulanyah Columbus.

By then, Ndawula was Dance Force, a show he started presenting from 90s and one that brought out his full character desires. With Dance Force, Ndawula brought the club to living rooms on air every Saturday evening.

At the time of his death, last week, Ndawula had been forced into retirement by ill-health after years of substance abuse had taken its toll on the 59-year-old body he carried.

Wilfred Bangirana

Bangi was born on the exact same day as Alex Ndawula. January 8, 1963. While Alex became like the godfather of FM presenters, Bangi was the godfather of oldies.

If Radio One thought they had mastered the art of oldies, Bangi proved that he was an institution in itself with the same class of music on the defunct WBS TV. His Golden Oldies was as the name suggested: golden.

On Sanyu FM, he presented Wind Down Zone and also co-presented Evening Drive with Crystal Newman but it was for oldies that Bangi created a special niche, including in club where older generations went to feed on his discs.

DJ Bangi, who attended Kitante Primary School in Kampala, Ntare School in Mbarara, Namasagali College in Kamuli and Makerere University Kampala, where he got a Bachelors of Law degree, died from his home in 2007, months after suffering a stroke.

Allan Mugisa

There were crazies and there was Allan, the Cantankerous, Mugisa. His show was incomplete without a declaration that he was the most handsome man in the whole of Hoima. And he had a recorded gimmick that shouted “Shake Shake Shake your bums” upon which he would add “Shake your bums, guys!”

There are many subjects of debate but one certainty: The Cantankerous was the most humorous man to grace the FM airwaves and his noise decibels were joyful.

His Hot 7 at 7 show was the shortest entertainment show on radio but it gave the full value as Allan took listeners through the seven most played songs on radio in descending order.

Most weeks, one would be sure of which songs made number one but nobody dared touch the dial as Allan would urge listeners before every commercial break, “don’t touch your dial, you won’t regret it” – where Bbale Francis would implore with “please don’t go away”.

Allan later presented a show with Roger Mugisha and the catch phrase then was ‘Mugisa and Mugisha’. Like a rascal, he enjoyed probing his partner on air, often asking things that would annoy but for Allan, only caused laughter.

Of course, humour moved in his veins. His father Dr Tumusiime Rushedge, aka Tom Rush, was a revered Sunday Vision columnist and cartoon strip artist.

Allan was one of the few big talents in that era of radio wave not to have crossed the River Nile for studies in Kamuli as he went to Budo and Makerere College before joining Makerere University for a degree in Food Science and Technology, a course he abandoned in third year – despite being on government sponsorship – to live his radio dream.

Unfortunately, Allan battled alcohol and smoking addiction. He tried hard to stop the habit, including getting ‘saved’ but life kept happening.

After losing his son with lover Maggie, Albert Jason Mugisa, on Christmas Eve of 2005, he was left a broken man, leading to his death two years later.

Along with Peter Loshode and Rasta Rob MC, Allan The Cantankerous One Mugisa remains one of the most entertaining presenters in the private FM radio era.

Aisha Sematiko

Popularly known as Hajati Sematiko, she was the first Ugandan woman to read news in Luganda on radio. Mentored by Bbale Francis, what Sematiko started at Capital FM, she perfected at CBS radio. Until her death in 2010, Hajati Sematiko was one of the most celebrated Luganda news readers on radio.

Menton Summer

Peter Nkwanga literally died while running to be on air for his show. The man who went by the stage name of Menton Summer was rushing from Mbale after a performance to catch up with his midnight radio show, Dance Mania, on CBS FM, when was involved in a car accident in 1997 in Iganga.

Along with Emperor Orlando, Menton Summer set out to enjoy himself as a musician as much as he did on air as a radio presenter. As he worked to popularize dancehall music through his radio show, Menton Summer produced hits such as Kanemu remix with Emperor Orlando and became a household name with Sirika Baby.

As an artiste already, his appeal among listeners just increased and the popularity of Dance Mania almost immediately rode on the popularity of Menton Summer, the musician. Perhaps this explains why Shanks Vivie’D could not maintain the same appeal when he took over the show after Menton Summer’s death despite being a better presenter.

Mark Makumbi

Makumbi started his sports career at radio Sapentia before joining CBS as a sports commentator and kadongokamu presenter. The latter programme he would later carry on to Bukedde TV.

Makumbi, who tried his hands in kadongo kamu music with songs such as Flower and Endaga Bitonde, succumbed to cancer in 2016.

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