Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Information Super Highway

Many of Museveni’s children don’t remember what the information superhighway was like before he came to power. And when I say Museveni’s children, I don’t just mean his own children – Muhoozi, Natasha, Patience and Diana. The Museveni children I refer to are anybody born after January 1986.

During the Amin era, we used to communicate in the most draconian way. To call abroad, it was not like it is today where you just dial. Then, you had a book a call with the post office.

When it came to entertainment – radio and television, we only had Uganda Television and Radio Uganda. Watching UTV was like being in Russia, China or anywhere in the Eastern Bloc for most of the airtime was flooded with documentaries from those countries. The one programme that was geared to children was Daktari on Saturday’s.

Radio was no better for you could go through all the frequencies and not pick up a single station because we only had Radio Uganda and we had no FM stations either. There were also no radio celebrities like we have Yvonne Koreta or Siima Sabati at X-FM, Alex Ndawula at Capital FM, Crystal Newman at Sanyu FM and RS Elvis at Radio One amongst others. Coming to think of it, there was one radio personality – Ssalongo John and he did not specialize in music or present a breakfast show. Ssalongo John cut a rather morbid niche for himself because he specialized in death! I don’t know who the PD was at Radio Uganda, but Ssalongo was given three slots – early morning, lunchtime and in the evening making death announcements. Can you imagine listening to a two hour death announcements show as you drive to work in today’s Uganda?

Things were tight that you only had two choices. To listen to Ssalongo John or switch him off and on television, to watch some documentary on Chairman Mao’s great march or switch him off too.

Today however, it is a whole new ball game. DStv’s premium bouquet has over 50 channels that there are some I have never watched. Then throw in the terrestrial stations - Bukedde, NTV, WBS and all, that one is spoilt for choice. It also applies to radio. If I don’t like Miriam and John on Radio One, I simply switch to Siima on X-FM or to Fat Boy and Shanice on Sanyu FM. Uganda really has come a long way in terms of radio and television and that journey has not been easy. Here is why.

Do any of you remember Rick Dee and Dave Koz? Both Dee and Koz used to have shows on Capital FM and Sanyu FM. Every week, they would pre-record their shows which were syndicated, and send them down to Uganda amongst other countries.

It was also the time I was getting involved in radio journalism and was hosting Desert Island Discs on Capital FM. But there was something amiss about the reception area at Capital FM especially when Dee was ‘on air’. I just had to ask Receptionist one day what was going on and her answer was not what I expected. It went along the lines of: “They have come to see Dee!”

“They have come to see Dee!?” I that some kind of joke I asked. It was no joke. Many people actually thought that both Dee and Koz would fly out to Uganda for their shows. I still could not believe it, until it happened to me – and no, I did not turn up one afternoon to see Dee or Koz.

Desert Island Discs airs on Sunday between 7:00pm and 8:00pm and I used to record the show either on Thursday or Friday afternoon and during the show, the guest would play six of his or her favourite songs. And because it was a recorded show, I would just ask the guest to pick their songs which were already lined up in the system and they would start to play.

And one Saturday whilst I was in Just Kicking, Young Man comes up to me and the conversation we had went along these lines.

Young Man: “Excuse me Tim, may I greet you?”

TB: “Sure.”

Young Man: “I just want to tell you that I like your radio show. I like your interview style, I really do!”

TB: “Thank you.”

Young Man: “Another reason I like your show is that you have all the music. Whenever you call Alex Ndawula on Dance Force and ask for a song, he does not have it. There are many songs he does not have. But on your show, whenever you ask the guest to pick their songs, you always have them. You even have the most obscure songs.”

Okay, so Young Man did not know that the show is pre-recorded. There were two ways of solving ‘the problem’. I could tell him that the show is pre-recorded and burst the bubble of appreciation that he has for me or I could let him go away thinking that I hosted a live show and that I had more music in my collection than Ndawula had.

Is there any need to guess which option I went for? I should leave it at that, but if Young Man thought I hosted a live show, there is a need to explain things because, there are some people out there who do think that since Sunday Vision comes out once a week, the Sunday Vision desk works only on Saturday and that is it.

Anyway, I let Young Man believe I do a live show and to show his appreciation, he swung me four beers if I recall. I think a law student would say I took beers under false pretence.

If that Saturday in Just Kicking was bad enough, this time it was a Sunday. Come Sunday’s we used to play football in the KCC grounds between the UMA complex and Game in Lugogo. A number of teams took part and it was all about something to do on Sunday.

It was 6:15pm and there was a tap on my shoulder from a rather perturbed Another Young Man. The kaboozi that we had went along these lines.

Another Young Man: “Gwe TB, you should not be drinking that much.”

TB: “Who are you? Are you my mother?” That is what I wanted to tell him but instead said: “I am sorry I did not catch what you said.”

Another Young Man: “I was telling you that you should not be drinking that much because you are due on air in 45 minutes.”

For the life of me I did not click what he was going on about. He too sensed it so he jogged my memory. “Your show, Desert Island Discs” he said as he nudged me. Like Young Man, Another Young Man thought the show was live. “Not to worry, I will make it” so I told him.

But Another Young Man was persistent. He was on my case and when it was evident I was not about to leave for Capital, he offered to drive me there. Okay I had two choices here. The first to burst his bubble and tell him the show is recorded so that I can quaff more beers, or I could satisfy him and accept his offer of a lift. I know you are all thinking I stayed behind to quaff more beer, but I didn’t.

Another Young Man drove me to Capital FM, dropped me off and once I was sure he was out of sight, I simply went round the corner and into Just Kicking to quaff more beer.

As I am running out of space, to everybody who thought that Dee and Koz hosted their shows from Kampala and that you spent all those hours in reception waiting to see them, I have to tell you that they simply sent discs. And to Young Man and Another Young Man, Desert Island Discs was never a live show. It was always recorded and I am really sorry that I took drinks and a lift from you under false pretence but really, both of you were there for the taking. You were just daft and so gullible!

You're Fired!

And just like that, it all comes to an end - your job that is. Some are fortunate enough to work to retirement age when, the office throws...