LUSAKA is 'gutted' with Komboni Radio and its spreading worse than wild fire, says the new commercial radio's chief executive officer and proprietor, Lesa Kasoma.
Komboni Radio's test transmission began last December up until March 8 this year when it was launched and granted a full broadcasting licence.
Located on Kakuzi Street in Lusaka's Kamwala area, the radio station is slowly commanding a huge listenership within and around the country's capital city.
While the licence is for Lusaka and surrounding areas, the station which airs on 94.9 FM, stretches to Mazabuka, Kafue and all the way to Kabwe as well as Chongwe.
"There's been a bone of contention on the surrounding areas issue. I like what President Sata said one time to say those who have the capacity and the capability to set up radio stations, why are you hindering them? It might not be the exact words but he said something in those lines. It depends on the type of investment really; if you get a makeshift type of equipment and put in your studio, that's your surrounding area and strength," Kasoma, 36 notes.
With eight disc jockeys and news reporters, the interactive radio station has three daily news segments at 06:30, 12:45 and 18:15.
According to Kasoma, the radio station is a representation of the people on the ground.
"In fact I would be able to brag that I'm the only woman in Zambia who owns a radio station of this magnitude, not only with sophisticated equipment but also with a brilliant type of concept," she says.
The daughter of late media icon, Professor Francis Kasoma, Lesa came up with the idea of establishing the radio station after noting that a good number of Zambians were illiterate.
English is indeed a challenge for many local people not conversant with the language and this is why Komboni Radio found it fit to use Nyanja in order to effectively communicate with such.
With a lot of phone-in programmes, people are at liberty to express themselves in their mother tongue and going by the response so far, there is no doubt these people really enjoy using vernacular.
"We use Nyanja, but someone would call and speak in Luvale, Lozi, Tonga, Bemba and it's easy to pick out a few things here and there," says Kasoma, who has studied several media courses. "People are not restricted, they are free and this is what makes Komboni different from other radio stations."
The news is currently read in English and Kasoma says the station is working out strategies to introduce local languages.
But as much as it is in English, the news features mostly developmental stories from the communities hence almost all the bites are in local lingo.
Komboni Radio programming schedule is with the people, and its vision is carried by the people and the mission is their voice.
The name Komboni
"I was driving in Chelstone area near the big market where I had gone to see my sister. I was in a small car that belonged to her. Along the road, all of a sudden there was a lot of dust and I saw a blue bus come in front of me and I just stopped, almost hitting it. I was so annoyed because first of all it was not my car. At the same time, I was very frightened as I almost experienced an accident," she says.
"As I'm still thinking of what to say to the bus driver, he says, "chi sister, it's komboni, no lose", and he leaves me tongue-tied, just like that. The only thing I had in my mind was the word 'Komboni'. So what I took from there was that maybe I have to think like 'komboni' to make sure that I communicate with this bus driver because I don't believe that bus drivers don't have courtesy. They do, but only when they know you are not of their world will they come out like that. I have a lot of friends now - street vendors, koponyas, ng'wag'wazi - we really chat," she says.
Komboni Radio strives to develop the nation and Kasoma believes that development can only be achieved if the people are engaged.
"We have joined hands with the people to make sure that we come up with an entity that will not only entertain them but also focus on various issues that affect their day-to-day lives, and see how they can eventually be part and parcel of that change."
The involvement of musicians as deejays is one unique factor that the radio has embraced in a bid to engage the masses.
Local musicians by nature of their craft have a following, hence when they deejay they bring their respective audiences.
Among the station's deejays are Dalisoul, who already calls himself Mwana wamu Komboni, Petersen, CQ and T-Sean .
MC Wabwino is likely to join the crew as there has been an overwhelming demand for him.
Kasoma is also an artist; her paintings won the best female artist award in the 2000 Julia Malunga category of the Ngoma Awards.
"I know the challenge that artists face. The art industry is not very developed that is why I involve them a lot. If you have to be a musician, you have to be able to put bread and butter on the table, your children should go to school and just have everything you need. If you can't, then there is a big problem," she says.
She recalls that a singer named Adora who came from the Copperbelt specifically to be on Komboni Radio, and was given a chance to test her skills like as a deejay.
Kasoma explains that after the process of co-deejaying with musicians, listeners usually decide who they think should deejay and from there they are ushered in full time.
She believes the concept is creating employment and in turn reducing poverty in the country.
Kasoma however admits that she had a bit of a challenge when the musicians-cum-deejays began their work.
"I saw those trends where they would want to play specific music but for us it's an MP3, people request for songs that they want to hear. So for example, if it's Petersen on air, some people would call and request for his song and he has no option but to play," she explains.
It also seeks to promote local talent by giving upcoming artistes an opportunity to have their songs played on air.
Presently the station has over 7,000 registered songs for budding artistes.
These, according to Kasoma, come from communities where the artistes want to be appreciated.
She says there are people from the diaspora that visit Lusaka and ask why the station is not streamlined.
"I have never really stayed abroad for a long time because I think I love home. There are very few people that have never lived in kombonis or villages before. People in such places live like one family, there's that togetherness. When you don't have simple things like salt, cooking oil like the way they joke on our station, you can go, knock and seek help."
Kosoma also reveals that a lot of people want a programme on gender-based violence following the alarming levels of GBV cases.
Kasoma credits her late father with imparting radio knowledge and concepts to her at an early age.
Professor Kasoma was influential in developing the media industry in the country, including helping the University of Zambia in setting up UNZA Radio, as well as writing several books on the press in Zambia.
She explains that there is a difference between one who starts something for the purpose of business and a person who creates something because of a passion.
Kasoma reveals that she came up with the idea of putting up a radio station in 2008, adding that she tried to enter into a partnership with Comet Radio in 2009, an enterprise that did not work out.
"It started quite strong but then the partnership became a bit shaky because we could not really tie up on the vision and I had to leave.
And from there I lodged in applications for a full broadcasting licence which was granted in 2012," she adds.
She is, however, happy with the response to Komboni Radio so far.
"We are getting overwhelming response that we did not even anticipate. Komboni Radio for us is a way of life, we live it."
The radio station plans to go national and is also ready to stream line to other parts of the world.
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