Not long ago, Malawi had one radio station that informed, educated and entertained both the young and the old. But since 1999, the country has seen an increase in number of radio stations with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) issuing 75 radio licences.
These radio stations came not only with a varied choice for people, but voices behind the microphone that left an indelible mark.
One such voice is of a man who pioneered four radio stations, which have over the years remained a formidable force in the Malawi broadcasting terrain.
He is Shingirai Mpesi, who traded under the moniker The Big Dawg.
His versatility inside the cubicle made him a household legend that he is remembered way after he quit the mic.
“My deejaying career dates way back to Zimbabwe where I grew up and went to school. I used to do start-up gigs with Phil Touch [real name Philip Kalindawalo], in 1989 to be precise. I can confirm that he is the one who got me hooked into this industry path. Phillip is my real brother, yes my blood brother, don’t worry about the details,” he rolled it in an interview from his base in Lesotho.
After a few stints in Zimbabwe, Shingie trekked to South Africa where his career took off.
The beginning of his getting serious in the industry came from that trip.
“That is also where I got the name The Big Dawg. It came when I had a stint in South Africa at YFM where I met the likes of DJ Fresh, Greg Moloka and a host of other big South African DJs. It’s a long story for another day. But I am now known as The Biggz,” he said.
YFM is a youth radio station broadcasting from Johannesburg in South Africa.
After his South African gig, Singie came to Malawi where he was involved in establishing four different radio stations.
“My deejaying in Malawi started in 1999 with MBC Radio 2 FM when it was just inaugurated. I worked there for 16 months. Then I joined Power 101 FM at inception as one of the pioneers. From there, I moved to Joy FM at its inception again before trekking to South Africa. On my return, I then joined Star FM on its inception as a trainer of radio presenters,” he explained.
Apart from enjoying the accolade of being the pioneer of a number of private radio stations, he has other highlights of his career in Malawi.
“I have a few highlights that stand out including being a pioneer of four different radio stations. The other one is winning the inaugural Carlsberg DJ competition as well as training some of the current crop of radio presenters,” he recalled.
His strong command of English and pleasant voice resonated with both the young and old and it was not surprising that The Big Dawg was the face of many prime time shows.
But he cannot pinpoint his favourites, simply stating that he enjoyed them all.
“Oh! There are quite a lot of programmes that left me connected with the fans. But I worked with a number of radio stations back then and I cannot single out one. As a versatile presenter I did and featured in many programmes. I did each and every programme to the best of my knowledge and ability so as to stand out.
“Every place I deejayed, I made it memorable. So, you see it is difficult to single out a particular show. This happens when you love what you do and you do it to the best of your ability,” he said.
With so many presenters and DJs passing through his hands, Shingie refused to single out one that he is proud of.
He explained: “Well, there are quite a number of DJs I mentored and allow me not to mention names. You can just imagine how many there would be if I were to start from FM 101, Radio 2 FM, Joy Radio and Star FM. Phew, let’s leave it at that”.
On his way up the ladder of his industrious career, Shingie, just like any other person, rubbed people the wrong way.
Like when he claimed that there were only two DJs in Malawi; himself and Ken Klips.
The comments caused a stir in the entertainment industry as they did not go down well with some DJs.
Amid fests of laughter he asked: “You still remember that?” before clearing the air:
“Well, just to set the record straight, firstly, there’s a difference between a DJ and a radio presenter. But then nowadays everybody who comes and plays CDs on radio and back announces tends to call themselves a DJ.
“Hell no! As for that statement, I was quoted out of context as then, there were lots of DJs, the likes of Phil Touch my mentor, George K, Dr Gwynz, Kenny Klips and Randy Martins. I mean these guys I just mentioned were not just radio jockeys or presenters, but also renowned DJs in the clubs.
“When they came on radio, you would not want to switch the dial. But when you found them deejaying in a club, you would not get to sit down because you would be on the dancefloor throughout the night. So, all I was trying to tell people back then was not everyone who came and played music and back announced the song on radio was a DJ. I hope this clears the air and the bad vibes I got back then.”
He also had a stint with some clubs as a DJ although his career is more of a radio DJ.
His career cumulatively spans to 20 years with almost half of those years spent in Malawi.
“I have been deejaying for almost 24 years now. I started out when I was only 17 years of age. I am 41 years old now turning 42 next March,” he explained.
His sojourns across the continent have seen him settling in Lesotho, where he works in a marketing job.
“When I got here some time back, I worked with a government commercial radio station known as the Ultimate FM for two years, but have since moved out of radio. I am the sales and branch manager for Konica Minolta Lesotho. I still DJ but on rare occasions,” he affirmed.