Nearing the end of what felt like a 40 minutes terse Ted Talk experience, I unbridle my bated breath and ask the radio giant and highly sought-after trailblazer that is DJ Fresh the last of my five open-ended questions, “Which? After a pause followed by a palpable peal of laughter, he asks that I give him options, in an attempt to direct his stream of thought. I say, “Your option could be uhm. radio or DJying, or.” but before I could complete these options, Primedia marketing manager Lulu Mthimkhulu, sitting across the room, throws in a pebble and says, “Yes, business or entertainment?
With no hiss of hesitation the Big Dawg responds with, “Which has to be my calling? I believe my calling is to change lives; to change people’s mindsets, how they view themselves, how they view the world, how they relate to themselves, and how they relate to one another.
This statement was then the spine of our assembly. According to the final Radio Audience Measurements (RAM) of 2019, released by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC), South African radio has a reach of 91%, having 37-million people listening at any time during the week. This makes radio the number 1 entertainment and information medium in the country, and the voices that keep it relevant are the most influential and impactful of all; DJ Fresh is among the elite consistent and prevalent of these voices.
Now, honoured with the privilege of sitting across this towering voice and being the one to ask the questions, we arrive at the Primedia offices to find the Big Dawg waiting for us in one of their small conference rooms. He seems somewhat drained from a drawn-out day, but greets us like old friends, and points to my seat.
Leaning on his poise, I find my footing, and introduce myself, my colleague, along with the work I do. I proceed to tell him my history with his voice, how his YFM Breakfast show, Thato and Thato, prepared me for school every morning from as far as the year 2002 with inserts like “laugh therapy”. With his infectious chuckle, he reflects, “Ah yes, laugh for Nothing! Ah yes… that’s dope.
His shoulders drop and my confidence rises. I take him through the structure of the interview, that all questions will be open-ended, and he will direct them into what it is that he would want for us to know about him. I begin our interview with, “who? Baffled, he replies, “Who? Who how?” I respond with, “I don’t know. direct it sir, who?” Gees, that’s a good question and a difficult question, I wouldn’t even know where to start. give me an example dude, lead it,” he retorts.
I explain to him that the “who” could be himself, or his fans, or employers, and then with exceptional ease the DJ Fresh seminar begins. To tell you the honest truth I don’t enjoy talking about myself, so often I’d rather talk about other people, and the roles either they play in my life or other people’s lives. I think the “who” is interesting, and for now it will have to be my loyal fan base, because they’ve been there from day one.
After reminiscing on his encounter with some of his fans along the years he submits: “For me I think we’re nothing without our fans. There’s also the DJs, comedians, and artists that I put on; because for me, it’s not about me, I’m just a vessel, I’m just a platform; I feel I’m put on this earth to help others become better versions of themselves. I have tried to model my career around that.
Being the host of one of the biggest afternoon drive shows, #FreshOn947, and the first recipient of the Radio Award’s Best Day Time Music Presenter category in 2010, and also nourishing a flourishing career that spans over 30 years in the fast-growing and cut-throat radio industry, Big Dawg analogues through the questions by sharing his found formulas from his vast experience.
On self visualisation:
I often ask myself, “what is it that I do differently?” I find it lies between authenticity, relatability and consistency . I sit and do a SWOT analysis twice a year, so normally I’d do it as we go to spring, and again in the new financial year. Always keep in mind the question, “how am I being the best me?”, and turn that into a broadcasting career.
On building loyalty:
People never forget how you make them feel; this is a core principle I’ve always tried to model my radio around. the moment people realise that the voice on the radio is not some god out there, but it’s them, then you have loyalty.