|Crystal Starr with a Microphone
February 7, 2013. Time, 5:25pm.
I was in the ‘corpers’ lodge thinking of what I was going to have for dinner. I was low on cash and had been pretending I was on a fruit diet. That day however, I knew I couldn’t eat one more piece of fruit without going stark raving mad.
As I pondered on whether to get Indomie or go to another corps member’s room to stylishly ‘beg’ for food, my phone rang.
‘What are you doing?’
Frama Ambrose. My boss in church. Or in plain terms, the head of our protocol unit.
‘Get ready. I am coming to pick you in ten minutes. You are going to be on radio.’
I was shocked! Where was this man coming from? Who told him I could talk on radio? What was I going to talk about in the first place?
The only coherent excuse I could come up with was, ‘I don’t have what to wear’.
After a minute of laughter, he responded by saying, ‘It is radio. Nobody is going to see you.’
And that was how it began.
That day, I was a guest on Campus 360, a show designed for students in tertiary institutions and the coolest show (at that time) on FM Gotel, 91.1. It was anchored by Stanley Innocent (another boss of mine). I can’t remember what we talked about that day but Stanley must have liked what he heard. He invited me for the next episode.
I was so enamored of the show that I got my homie – Shade Opeyemi – to join in. We became regular features on the show. Like most things I love, I began to treat it like it was my project. I was doing research for the shows, talking to people about it and developing myself as I went.
Stanley told me to understudy Toolz of The Beat FM and I fell in love with her style. She was sharp, witty, intelligent, fun and awesome. I wanted to be like her! It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t but…I will get to that soon.
A little over a month after my debut on Campus 360, the supervisor of the FM unit – Madam Chika Ngalome – asked that Shade and I come in for a meeting. She said she liked how we sounded and wanted to know if we would be willing to host a lifestyle program called StandOut. Shade and I said yes quickly. We were excited! Who would have thought we would have our own show on radio?! We were just two corps members who studied the sciences and we (probably) never imagined a life behind the microphone!
And so we started.
The show didn’t take off with the listeners because it was a bit abstract. We were talking fashion and lifestyle on radio and quite frankly, those two genres are better translated visually. Some topics hit more than others but it wasn’t so much. We got Azeezat Usman and Ololade Abdulkareem (my love) to join us on the show. We introduced new segments and tried to make it as relatable as possible. Honestly, I think it was a hard sell because I didn’t believe in the things I was talking about. Makeup? Didn’t wear them. Hair? Barely did mine. Clothes? I wore whatever was on the top of my box. I was just the wrong person for the show. But I loved it! I loved it so much that even though listeners weren’t connecting to the show, I kept at it.
Then Rinji Kwarkas, one of the co-anchors on Campus 360 said to me, ‘Girlfriend. If you want to be taken seriously in this station, you need to be on one the flagship shows.’ These shows were Morning Splash (that handled topical issues) and Gotel Lunchbox, the station’s prime time entertainment show.
I need to explain why Rinji made that statement.
Everyone working on the shows I was on were all freelance presenters; we weren’t getting paid. We were basically doing it because we loved what we did. We wanted a platform and one was given to us.
I was nearing the end of my service year with no prospects of what I was going to be doing afterwards. By this point, I knew I was going to stay on in Yola and run my blog but I needed something for money. So I knew I couldn’t do freelance anymore. I had to get paid!
As the universe would have it, Madam Chika needed more Duty Continuity Announcers and asked if I would be interested. And Peter Cheman Koti, the person who produced and presented the flagship shows, had previously asked if I wanted to be on his show; to which I said no. I thought it was too much for me but as my monthly source of income started to dry out, I knew I needed to listen to Rinji.
So I spoke to Peter and got on Lunchbox.
He gave me a day to host the show and Carte Blanche to design it as I wanted. He shouldn’t have done that. (LOL) I completely switched his style and created my own thing. I only played songs off the billboard hot 100 charts, created some segments like How Smart Are You and Northern Flavor – the only instance I played Nigerian songs on my show – and music star profiling. My show was fun! I connected to a new audience that loved global pop culture, hip hop, R’n’B and celebrity gist. So Mondays and Wednesdays were for Nigerian sound, Tuesday (my day) was for international sound and Thursdays was a mixed of both worlds, anchored by Abdullahi Ahmed.
Speaking of Abdul (as he was called by everyone), we hosted a couple of shows together and had good chemistry on air. It was a no brainer that when I finally decided to do the breakfast show – Morning Splash – I asked to be paired with him. The Morning Splash was where I was serious, logical and analytical. I could talk about Nigerian politics and nation building in the most serious yet engaging of tones. Eventually, I got my own day on the breakfast show to talk about topical issues affecting women and children.
So I was doing four very different shows on radio; a show on topical issues including politics, business, sports, situation analysis, nationhood and nation building and on the spot interviews; an entertainment show that was all sorts of ‘curaizy’ fun; a show specifically designed for students in tertiary institutions and; a fashion and lifestyle show. I even filled in for my boss on a relationship talk show for…wait for it…MARRIED people!
You don’t need to say it.
I. Was. Everywhere!
By this point I had been put on a stipend (emphasis on that word) so I continued to work.
Then I got approached by the head of production of the prime time breakfast show on TV! I was super excited! What?! They wanted me to join the anchors of the show! I didn’t even think twice. Though my heart was fluttering in my chest, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
So I said yes! But that is a story for another day.
Being everywhere and getting very little money led to one place; burn out.
I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t getting promoted. Everyone wanted me on their show but I guess the management wasn’t impressed enough for them to change my position. I didn’t want to play the politics that could have ensured I got promoted because I firmly believed – still believe – that merit should be the only reason for advancement. And if the management didn’t see it for whatever reason, I wasn’t going to force it.
So, I decided to leave the station in 2016.
I sent out many applications to radio houses and never got one call back. For TV, yes. But the radio stations just didn’t want me.
I have talked about the depression that came from not having a job during that period so I will skip it here. But I can say, it was in that time frame that I thought, why not have a podcast? I honestly can’t remember how I got wind of podcasts or how they worked but I knew that I needed to keep talking. I am a talker. I like to talk. Sometimes I talk too much. But if people are making money from talking, ogbeni, I wanted in jare.
This brings me back to Toolz.
She is this suave, witty, fun yet calm voice on radio. She is what many would say is a ‘radio voice’. When Stanley told me to understudy her, he probably wanted me to sound like her. And who wouldn’t want to sound like that? But thing is, my personality is vastly different from hers. As great as she is, I didn’t want to be another Toolz. I wanted to be Ramat! I wanted to be loved for my own quirkiness, my sound, my accent, my vibe, my me! I can be a bit loud and I probably do not have a radio voice but I wanted to be my own radio voice! This is because there is no one type of radio voice as my friend Hyness says. Toolz sounds as different from Maria and Gbemi (both of The Beat FM) as is humanly possible. Yet they work in the same station and each have their fanbase. First time I listened to Kayla Megwa on radio, I loved her voice and vibe. Same thing with Matilda Duncan. In fact, I was enamored of her voice and was so into her sultry awesomeness. Angela Yee is calm and Angie Martinez can be loud when the need be. All these radio girls inspired me to do radio and they all sound as different from each other as Snickers is different from Bounty, Mars, After 8, Twix and Toblerone.
(Yes! I just listed the chocolates I like. Don’t say I never told you how to make me happy.)
So I knew I was going to sound like meon my podcast.
I started out trying to do everything with the podcast. I did storytelling, entertainment news, interviews, top five this or top six that until I realized, a-be-gee! It was not working! I knew I had to stop to reflect on what I really wanted to do.
After months of introspection, I found it!
There are two things I have always loved since I was a child; movies and music. I could spend all day watching or listening to both and be content! And I always had an opinion about what I watched or listened to. In fact, whilst still on radio, I used to rate songs and movies in small segments on my show. And the universe said, ‘Girl! This is it!’
And so the Shades of Uspodcast was birthed.
While the name fit into my overall brand, I knew that I needed to go a bit further to explain what the podcast was about. The entire podcast was going to be hinged on music and movie reviews so I thought, The Review! It sounded just about right in my ears! And I was good to start.
And so I present to you, Shadesof Us: The Review!
This podcast is where I get to talk about the films, television shows, documentaries, music videos and songs put out by black people. I analyze them, rate them and ask what you think. Even better than that, The Review is open for suggestions.
If you like a song or movie or whatever content I have mentioned above and think it is all that, ask me to review it and I will. If I like it, we may end being friends because of the glowing review I will give it. If however, I don’t, I will so tear it down that we must sha fight!
(I kid. I kid)
Anyway, starting April 1, 2018, new podcast will episodes come up every Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:05pm (WAT) on my various social media platforms. You can also catch up on old episodes every other day of the week at the same the time.
Now, I am teasing the possibility of having a book review come up on Saturday every week but I know that the probability of getting new content out every week, especially in line with everything I am going to be doing, may be a bit of a stretch. So the idea is still there but it is on ice for now. I hope when the time comes, the strength of the bleck penta will be sktripped eweh so I can burst forth with that. It would require reading at least one book by an African or black author a week and ogbeni, I no sure say I go fit dey faithful. Plus their books cost well well.
Anyhoo, do check out my podcast and listen to the general feel of the episodes. Again, starting April 1, 2018, they are going to become bigger, better and more structured for your listening pleasure. Oh! And yes, I am on iTunes! Check out my page and subscribe to my channel.
If you want a song, music video, television show or series, movies, documentaries or reality show reviewed, send me a Whatsapp (+234-905-912-7552)voice note telling me your name, location, the content you want reviewed and why you love or hate it. I will ensure that you get a response within two weeks so you know when your choice would air. I have one caveat though; please choose only work done by Africans or people of African descent. Those are the only ones I will respond to.
So…what are you waiting for? Follow us across social media and let us get talking. As usual, I cannot wait to meet the shade of you that makes you a shade of us.
Click. Like. Follow.