Coming Full Circle: How Tonderai "TK" Katsande Became the Big Dawg Of Radio

Reggae music and sub culture’s roots in Zimbabwe is traced back to the youth of late 1970s who were gorilla forces in the “Second Chimurenga” civil war whilst Bob Marley’s two-day free performance at Rufaro stadium in 1980 planted a hybrid seed that grew into a full-blown tree now known as Zimdancehall. (By the way in 1980, Bob Marley, a leading international musician paid his own way to travel thousands of miles to celebrate the independence of an African nation, used his funds to hire a P.A system from the U.K, spend a night in a rundown hotel; smoked marijuana with farmers in Mutoko, survived teargas and wrote a song titled Zimbabwe that goes down in history. - Anyways, that's a story for another day)

MNet’s Channel O has been entertaining Zimbabwean households since 1996 when first DSTV signal was decoded via a satellite dish, with a variety of shows that included a Reggae/ Dancehall show titled “Wicked.” which was presented and hosted by a dread locked young man from Zimbabwe who went by the moniker Tee Kay. The story about how he scored the prestigious opportunity was a mystery among Zimbabwean youths like myself who watched every episode with admiration and amazement until he personally explains it to me, in this interview.

Before evolving into “the big dawg of Radio”, he is today, hosting the weekly breakfast show on ZiFM, Tee Kay was a force to be reckoned with in Africa, who went from paying his dues in full by working for free at a community radio station to hosting one of the biggest Reggae/ Dancehall shows in Africa. In this exclusive interview, Greedysouth retrace the footsteps of the legend back to where it all began, how he fell in love with radio, how the Channel O job came about and the real reason why he had to return back to Zimbabwe despite having a lucrative career in South Africa. He also shares his views and thoughts on local entertainment scene and we get to find out what he has been up to as a father, radio host, businessman and entrepreneur

Introduce yourself

My name is Tonderai Nokutenda Katsande, a father of 5 who is happily married to my high school sweetheart Emma Katsande nee Mugadza

How did you fall in love with radio, was it a calling, an audition or training. Tell us the background untold story about how Tonderai Katsande became "the big dawg of radio"

I fell in love with radio through my love of music, passion, training and flair (Gods gifting). I worked for about year and a half at a community radio station called C.A.N.I. FM for free, just pure plain passion. Only a few people would want to work free these days, yet it is the key that always open doors.

You are one of the very few Zimbabwean Radio and TV personalities to ever break into South African Music Industry and pop culture, how did this come about.

It came about in a very interesting way now that I think about it. I used to share a flat with a good friend of mine, it just so happened he had to relocate overseas and one day, a call came looking for him (thank God for landlines). To make the long story short, I convinced the caller (who was a casting agent) that I was the perfect man for the role so I auditioned, they loved it, gave the part and my first huge pay check. They also offered me a job, as a casting director, which I took up for 6 years and like they say the rest, is history...

Tell us about your time working at MNet's Channel O and Metro FM.

Channel O was the highlight of my career. I met and worked with some of the most wonderful people on the continent. They were my family and stood by me even when the walls of my deportation came crumbling down.

Metro FM was also a blast as I was part the station manager's team  (Romeo Khumalo). I think his task was brand re-positioning of the radio station in an era where new channels like Yfm, Highveld et cetera were emerging, by the way, I also worked for Highveld before joining Metro FM

What about the Reggae Sum fest and the music show "Wicked". Tell us what that was all about and some of your memorable moments on there.

Yeah, the Sum fest! oh how I would love to go back there again.
It was such an exhilarating experience, a cultural exploration of the Reggae music and the Island culture, particularly the Jamaican culture and their perception of Africa and our connected heritage.

The highlights of me hosting the Channel O show called Wicked, was the Sum fest (twice), the wonderful people I worked, traveled with, and those I met on my journey.

Looking back and reflecting on your career, what do you consider as the biggest highlight?

There are too many great highlights to mention but being part of the culture that witnessed and documented the rise of Kwaito by simply conducting interviews of artists and the movers and shakers of that genre at the time was amazing. Looking back, I am so confident that our own local genres will surely rise. Zim-dancehall will definitely evolve and I think the whole world will be shook by the quality of our hip-hop talent also coming up!

What happened down there to make you return to work in Zimbabwe, I read stories about some fracas with South Africa's Department of Home Affairs, you were in SA as early as 1993 right, were you really deported, What’s your side of the story?

Yes I was already out there by 1993 however, I did not fix my papers properly and I guess it all eventually caught up. It really comes down to not having the right papers and a bit of ignorance on my part. I cannot blame anyone here but myself. I was deported and there is no other way of telling that story!!!

What was your relationship like with MizChief were you people close? Tell us more about the guy.

A lot of that connects with Channel O, however the Big Miz (R.I.P) came after I had already left but I knew the brother for his hip-hop talent and we sort of came from the same hood - Greendale. He was good friends with my young brother Patso. He was such a cool young cat with great potential and SOME frustrations I guess. But amazing talent

Whilst I was preparing these questions, I clicked on a link that send me to your LinkedIn profile speaking of which, what other ventures are you involved in besides hosting the weekday breakfast show on ZiFM

We have just opened a pub and grill bar at Strathaven Shopping Center called The Rendezvous. I am also looking forward to opening more joints like that in 2016 including an open-air gochi gochi place.

I have a company called D.I.C.E Media an acronym for Digital Information Communications and Entertainment. I will be doing more of that in 2016 including scouting and managing talent.

I also have a team working on an app that I know is going to change the way we look at... Details coming soon

What do you think about the state of local entertainment industry?

Truth is we were given an opportunity through the 75% local content policy and honestly speaking, the local talent delivered! I think now, we need our government to be more active in cultivating and promoting our talent by injecting money into the entertainment industry. We should encourage our promoters to pay better fees to local acts, set businesses that will document and capture our stars in a better light. We need representation on the net and the continent. It takes good money to get a good picture of lets says Souljah love. He needs to be dressed, and some makeup artists for the world of lights camera and action.

Better budgets for music videos, more stations, more players and more participation from the corporate world and most importantly our artists need to be more professional with their talent

What is lacking in our actions as a nation to be at par with say Nigeria and South Africa, what should be done to build the local entertainment industry.

A few years ago the government of Nigeria made a conscious effort to correct the 'conmen' image that Nigerians had globally. They put billions into arts and music in particular and look where Nigeria is.

South Africa has a great youth policy set up, they give their youth charge and we need to sincerely empower our youth in a very implicit way. We will we rise as soon as we learn to really empower our youth.

Nigeria and South Africa have vibrant radio stations, lots of them. South Africa for example, has more than 47 radio stations and I am sure Nigeria has even more varying from campus stations, regional and community stations all the way to innovative online stations. I am not sure on whether its policy or funds that enable such scenarios but I am certain that we can do more to have various players help push our talent. We need more TV stations, more radio stations more online services more venues more promoters more sponsors

In conclusion, what advice would you give to kids that look up to you and aspire to be in your shoes one day?

There are no short cuts in life, cheap is expensive and chance favors the prepared mind. Know God, have ethics, kick it hard and I wish you well

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