Assembling a radio station from scratch

Shilongo Ashipala has helped shape Namibian music for nearly two decades as Kanibal, but what many may not know is that he’s helped shape the overall culture of local music as a radio Production Manager.

It turns out, like horse Markel in water, he’s most at home behind the soundboard. He has been producing music since 16. He never studied media. The passion for sound and radio appears to have budded in him innately.

“I landed in radio by pure luck. I started at Fresh FM as one of the founding presenters in 2007 when my Mom saw an ad in a newspaper for auditions, cut it out, and brought it to me. In 2008 and 2009 I won Best Radio Show for ‘Corner 2 Corner with Kani & Nona’,” he tells TF.

That same year when the Production Manager, then, resigned, Ashipala was immediately compelled to apply for the job, this time with some experience under his belt.

Like a hawk, he had observed how the sales and marketing executives went about things. How the receptionist handled calls, how the presenters interacted with callers.

In 2010 he left Fresh FM and went to do production at 99fm, before returning to Fresh FM in 2014 as Production Manager and later Station Manager until 2017.

Today he runs the show at COTA FM, the radio arm for the College of the Arts (COTA), after the head of the Media Arts department of COTA asked him if he ‘knew someone who could start and run an online radio station.’

“As dramatic as I am, I wrote him an actual book called ‘How to start and manage an online radio station by Shilongo Ashipala’ which described in intricate detail the technical aspects, admin, presenter training, code of conduct, marketing and sales,” Ashipala says.

He adds, “In January I was given the mandate to set it up within a month, but because I had already prepared for it, everything was ready within 2 weeks. In June, when all the details had been ironed out, we went on air for the first time.”

With the rise of stations like Eagle FM, Informate radio, and others, radio space in Namibia has seen a resurgence in recent years, and Ahsipala has been determined to see COTA FM have its share of the pie.

“The ultimate vision is to have the highest listener base of all Campus and Community radio stations, so we can affect real and tangible change in our community. The sound of tomorrow. In today’s digital world, the listener does not NEED radio for music, so content is king.”

A normal day for him at the office is laid out with various functions. “I arrive at 10 am and train interns on functions of a radio station. At 11 our schedule kicks off with ‘Rise and shine’ (11am – 1pm), ‘The dream’ (1pm-3pm) and ‘Real talk’ (3pm – 5pm). We source and prepare relevant content for the day, and also brainstorm on content for the next day as we go along,” he tells TF.

As the world continues to grapple with the reality of COVID-19, Ashipala says the station has not been spared. They lost almost two weeks of programming due to the college being shut down during the state of emergency lockdown.

The station manager has however seen the silver lining in the pandemic. “The advantage though is that when people are at home, they crave entertainment, and that helps boost our audience numbers.”

He continues to balance his corporate world with his creative side. Early last year, he released his album “Omapiaano” to stellar reviews. “Shilongo Ashipala is a creative. ‘KaniBal’ is only one outlet of my creativity, but I constantly find and learn other ways to express myself creatively and effectively. ‘KaniBal’ shall not be around for much longer, but I shall be Shilongo Ashipala for the rest of my life.”

Ashipala announced his retirement from being a full-time musician a few months ago and held one final show to cap off his career.

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