Monday, 20 February 2006
All systems go for rock 'n roll
Get ready for raucous rockin' radio! Meet 1485am Radio Today's new Rock Fest team: David Blood, Chris Prior, Leon Economides, Rafe Lavine and Phil Wright.
From the Rock Professor to the Hotdog Vendor, the "line-up of all line-ups" has started rocking the foundations at Radio Today, writes Christina Kennedy.
Rock music has a new home on South African radio, now that 1485am Radio Today has added a "Dream Team" of presenters to its line-up.
The Johannesburg community radio station now boasts the services of Chris Prior, Rafe Lavine, Phil Wright, David Blood and Leon Economides. All are respected specialists in the arena of rock, blues and jazz, and all are donating their services for free.
Last week saw the launch of the formidable new line-up at the station's headquarters at the Garden Shop in Parktown North. Record companies, local bands, CD stores and promoters all expressed their excitement at the fact that rock music was finally being given the recognition and respect it deserved on local radio.
There are pockets of rock on the various stations – Barney Simon and the dedicated crew on Tuks FM (unfortunately restricted to the Pretoria area), Benjy Mudie on Radio 2000 and Richard Haslop on SAfm spring to mind – but in the main, rock has become the unwanted stepchild of South African radio as "younger" music forms such as pop, kwaito and hip-hop increasingly dominate the airwaves.
The commitment to extensive rock programming on Radio Today – and the fact that it provides a platform for several "legends of South African radio" – is seen as a significant step toward reviving this neglected genre in this country.
The new presenters' areas of expertise range from progressive rock to jazz to blues, but often cross over into each other's territory, such being the nature of the genre.
The Rock Fest on Radio Today will run after 8pm on Friday, Sunday and Monday nights, with repeats on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The presenters have free reign to play what they please, with no prescribed playlists – unlike most commercial radio stations.
"Rock has been sorely missed on South African radio," said Economides, the driving force behind Radio Today's expanded rock programming. "And you can't get much better than this line-up."
With the station committed to playing 40% local content, he added that it would continue to be an avenue for promoting SA music.
Radio Today, now in its 10th year of operation, is a charitable station that runs as a Section 21 company, benefiting three local charities.
Following its recent shake-up (which ruffled a few old-guard feathers), it is gradually transforming from a loss-making enterprise into one that is upping its listenership, attracting more advertisers and sponsors, and becoming more financially viable. In other words, it is moving with the times.
Although Radio Today's Icasa licence stipulates that its mandate is to broadcast to English-speakers aged 50-plus in the greater Joburg area, incorporating rock music into its line-up may result in the bonus of attracting a somewhat younger listenership in addition to the Woodstock generation.
This independent station has also established a small training academy for sound controllers and presenters, with the intention of feeding the larger stations with staff. In addition, it is one of the few stations progressive enough to employ a disabled presenter, Doug Anderson, who hosts the show Ready, Willing and Able.
Said CEO Ivan May: "Many of the people here work for nothing but the pleasure of being involved and working in a professional environment."
Station manager Sanele Sobantwana, himself a beneficiary of the station's training programme, explained that the station's programming comprised 80% music and 20% talk. The popular Radio Doctor feature has been added, and there is an arts and culture programme on the cards too.
The station, which broadcasts to greater Johannesburg, is also available on DStv audio channel 70, and is exploring the possibilities of streaming audio.
But the biggest buzz is definitely around the fact that SA's most respected rock music presenters are back behind the microphone, where they belong. Chris Prior summed it up when he said: "Rock 'n roll is back on South African airwaves – and we're gonna stay here and do it for as long as we can."
The Rock Fest on 1485 Radio Today
* 8pm-10pm – Rafe Lavine (Hot Dog Radio).
Repeated from 11pm-1am on Mondays.
* 10pm-12 midnight – Leon Economides (The Rockit Scientist).
Repeated from 11pm-1am on Tuesdays.
* 8pm-10pm – Chris Prior (The Rock Professor).
Repeated from 10pm-12 midnight on Wednesdays.
* 10pm-12 midnight – Phil Wright (The Metalhead).
Repeated from 10.30pm-12.30am on Thursdays).
* 9pm-11pm – David Blood (In Your Vein).
Details of repeats to be announced soon.
Visit www.rock.co.za/radio for more details.