I have no idea how my obsession began. I just remember sitting on the floor, my ears glued to the radio and a phone in my hand ready to call Sound Asia FM for a request and dedication. Next thing I know I am buddies with every presenter at the station, winning prizes and visiting their offices at least once a month. I was 12 years old!
At Princeton-Laureate Academy, a work program over the December holidays for Form 3 and 4 students was being organized – internships/work experience at Nairobi Hospital, KWS, East FM etc. I heard about this and spoke to the head of the department, Miss Josephine. Asked her if they would consider enrolling me; a Form 1 student, into East FM’s work experience in December of 2001. She got back to me a week later with a positive response.
We were meant to be 6 students. But only 2 showed up – Kanvar Nayer and I. So, we’re interns, they gave us the shittiest work, stuff that they didn’t want to do, and they made it obvious to us as well. Haha! Duncan, Jabs, Jai and Jasmine were whom we spent the most time with. Rearranged the CD’s (I’ll never forget the Monday Kanvar didn’t show up and I had to put the entire weekends stash of CD’s away!). Wrap up gifts for clients. Spot checks for ads. And then of course, we learnt how to use the station’s equipment. Even went for a road show and learnt the nitty gritty part of that. Did voice overs. Got to meet the likes of Sanjeev Sharma, Fayaz Qureshi, Parveen Adam etc. I was in awe. At the end of our internship, we received a recommendation letter/certificate and left with a ton of knowledge.
In May of 2002, Sound Asia FM had auditions on the 21st floor of View Park Towers on a Saturday morning. I didn’t even tell my mum! I went over with my recommendation letter/certificate from East FM with my school buddy Azrah. Did a voice test and filled in a form. On Monday, Shaheed Ali Khan (SAK) calls on the landline at home. Mum answered. I got back from school and she asked me if I went for an audition on Saturday. I was freaking out! And she says, well you got hired.
My mum being a single parent was quite liberal. I was super lucky that I had the freedom to express myself and achieve my dreams at the age of 13. But of course, education came first. The condition was to wait for the summer holidays and then proceed.
My first show ever was on 6th July 2002. It was slotted from 10am-12pm on Saturday’s and was called THE RAZZMATAZZ KIDS CLUB SHOW (TRKCS). I needed a radio name and I came up with TWINKLE! I’ll never forget my first call, off air, after I signed in.
Twinkle: Sound Asia, hello?
Aleem Manji: Twinkle? Really? You decided to go with Twinkle!?
TRKCS was a kick ass show. It was based around music, riddles and education. I then started co-hosting the show with kids who would listen in. And it was one of the highest rated shows between 2002 and 2004.
My O Levels were approaching so I left radio for a year to focus on studies.
After school before college, I heard management had changed at Sound Asia. So I had to audition again. I was told by the new management that I can’t be a radio presenter, but I can do a feature called “The Going Out Guide”. Parties, movies etc. It went out on air 5 times a day. I was no longer Twinkle and used my real name. I hung around from September to October of 2005 then buggered off as I wasn’t getting a chance there as a radio presenter.
Went off to study Radio and Television Broadcast and Production at Wilnag Media Institute.
In August of 2006, I went to East FM, Kiss 100 and Capital FM asking if they’d take me on as a presenter. Left demos and my CV. But never heard from them. It wasn’t easy.
March 2007, I started working at Cable Television Network (CTN). I was head of the Marketing Department. There were talks about starting a countdown show on one of the local CTN channels, but it never fell through as it eventually shut down in October 2007. Got a call from East FM asking if I’d like to come on board their sales team, but I just wanted to be on air.
2007-2009 I worked elsewhere instead– You can read about it here.
In November 2009, Kenya Nights was born.
In December of 2009 I got a call from Sound Asia, saying they want me to recreate The Razzmatazz Kids Club Show. I was all game for it!
The birth of “Saturday Breakfast… With Sadia” was in January of 2010. Hosted it with pride. Tried to recreate the kids show but it just wasn’t working. I was 21 now and over the whole thing. Turned the show into what I wanted it to be. And it was a beautiful show. It was different, vibrant, edgy, music from around the world and so much fun. I then became “The Super Sub” (in the radio world it’s known as a “swinger”). Sitting in for presenters who couldn’t make it to their own show.
That July, I interviewed my first ever international artist, Juggy D. It went horribly well. Haha! And that’s when I started helping SAK with events at White Pigeon Entertainment.
In October of 2010, I was given the Drive Time Show. Co-hosted it with SAK (being a Swinger paid off!). It took a while for us to get used to it and then it flowed miraculously. SAK and I had so much fun on “Co-Drive”. He’s always been like an older brother and it was just such great chemistry on air. We interviewed the likes of Adnan Sami, Jassi Sidhu etc on the show.
I was growing for sure, but felt limited in terms of creativity and execution. Luckily my skills and experience were put to use when we had recruited new presenters in January of 2012. I trained Irfan Kassam as a presenter.
I received an offer from Radio Africa early February and things played out in such a way that I took the offer. My last show on Sound Asia was on 25th February, that I co-hosted with Irfan, my successor.
Signed my contract with East FM on 6th March 2012. I was now part of Radio Africa Group’s creative department and was hired as a copywriter and producer.
In April I got a feature on XFM, well known as “XFM’s Events and Lifestyle”. Something like the “Going Out Guide” I did on Sound Asia in 2005. Then landed a show on XFM on Sunday’s from 3-6PM called “The Remedy”.
Started doing voice overs on East FM and eventually landed my first show on East FM in July 2012 with Kunjan on Tuesday evenings – “Angels & Demons”. From show 1, our chemistry on air was fire and it was phenomenal. The topics were real and in your face and the music was awesome too. I still remember how we’d argue about who’s “driving the desk”. Hahaha. Within 6 months, I had hosted, various shows on East FM by playing “the swinger”.
Being at Radio Africa was definitely one of the peaks of my radio career – I was flying and driving around Kenya covering the Kenya National Rally Championship for East FM and XFM and owned it like a boss! It was one of my favourite experiences – considering rallying runs in my blood. Interviewing international stars like Sonam Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Ayushman Khurana just to name a few.
Meeting artists in town for concerts like Arijit Singh, Mohit Chauhan, Shreya Goshal, KK, Benny Dayal.
Those sort of opportunities you get with East FM/Radio Africa are awesome perks. Running into local artists when coming in for interviews on Kiss 100. Road shows in Mombasa and Nairobi. Super Chef. Amazing Safari. Koroga Premier League etc. There’s a lot of fun – for presenters. But production and programing is the hardest job of all. That’s the core and the foundation of any station. Which goes hand-in-hand with sales and marketing.
Unfortunately on September 21st 2013, the Westgate attack occurred. I was there on duty for work with East FM and that day changed everything for me. I had just turned 25 when it happened and all I could ask myself was: What have I done and achieved in/with my life?
In February of 2014, East FM was revamping. Night shows were being cut off and they were focusing more on pushing the weekends. I had to choose between being able to say Masturbate on XFM and not being able to say Shit on East FM. For the long run, East FM made more sense. The death of The Remedy was on 2nd Feb 2014.
Urban Charge, 12-3PM on Sunday’s was my new weekly show on East FM and it was all about promoting Brown/Asian artists from around the world and stepped out of the norm of Bollywood. Playing dubstep, hip hop, Rn’B etc. Interviewing artists who are massive in the UK, Dubai, Canada, USA etc. That show was freaking awesome. It was everything I stand for.
In August 2014, a dream of mine came true. An event I wanted to put together since 2010 manifested. East FM hosted THE BIG WEEKEND and we had a huge line up of international artists and local artists. It was awesome! Hard work, crazy hours, put up with so much crap (as you do with any event), but dealt with it and made it work. Events and being on air have always been my calling. It’s always what I’ve been good at and that’s all I really wanted.
I made a tough call in January of 2015 and resigned from my position as a writer and producer and unfortunately wasn’t able to keep my radio show even upon request. My contract said to serve a month’s notice, but I gave them a three month notice instead.
It’s the 31st of March 2015, it’s 5PM. It’s my last day. I’m done. Packed up and ready to go home. And was asked to do one last production that was needed urgently for a client. I stayed. Finished the production. And sent it to the client. Until my last minute at Radio Africa, I gave it my all.
Later in 2015 I recorded a pilot episode for a local production that was going to air on an international TV channel. It’s still pending.
It’s now 6th July 2016, 14 years since I first hosted my own radio show. I still do voice overs for Radio Africa and other private companies in Kenya and abroad. We throw crazy and awesome events as Kenya Nights and host amazing international artists. I’m still heavily involved in the entertainment industry just in a different capacity.
This path isn’t easy. It was never easy, even when I was 13, even now. You’re dealing with people who think they know better than you because they’ve been in the game longer. The same people who support you, turn around one day and shoot you down. No matter what age, it happens because others ego and pride get in the way of people achieving further greatness for themselves. And in this industry, pride and ego are a main factor. I cannot deny I may have been floating in that cloud, but because of how I was brought up, I saw the bigger picture. It helped me come back to Earth and stay grounded; humble.