How Tonderai "TK" Katsande Became the Big Dawg Of Radio

A conversation with Tonderai "TK" Katsande

Reggae music and sub culture’s roots in Zimbabwe are traced back to the youth of the 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 and 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 the 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 dreadlocked 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.

A conversation with Tonderai "TK" Katsande ZIFM Manager

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 to working for free at a community radio station to hosting one of the biggest Reggae/ Dancehall shows in Africa. In this exclusive interview, Greedysouth retraces 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 the local entertainment scene and we get to find out what he has been up to as a father, radio host, businessman and entrepreneur.

Tonderai Nokutenda Katsande is a family man, "I am a father of 5 who is happily married to my high school sweetheart Emma Katsande nee Mugadza." he says. Like most radio personalities, he had his humble beginnings in community radio "I fell in love with radio through my love of music, passion, training and flair (God's gifting). I worked for about a 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 opens doors."

In the 1990s, Katsande was one of the very few Zimbabwean Radio and TV personalities to ever break into the South African Music Industry and pop culture. "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 and gave me the part and my first huge paycheck. 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."

"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." recalls TK on his time about his time working at MNet's Channel O and Metro FM.  "Metro FM was also a blast as I was part of 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."

On Channel O, TK hosted Dancehall/ Reggae music show "Wicked". He would travel to Jamaica every Summer with the TV Crew for the Reggae Sumfest - the largest music festival in Jamaica and the Caribbean, taking place each year in mid-July in Montego Bay. Sumfest started in 1993.  "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 were the Sumfest (twice), the wonderful people I worked, and travelled with, and those I met on my journey. 

Looking back and reflecting on his rich career, the rise of Kwaito in South Africa made the biggest impact on TK and gives him hope about Zimbabwe's local music scene. "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 shaken by the quality of our hip-hop talent also coming up!"

Katsande was eventually deported from South Africa but blames no one but himself for not handling his paperwork. "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."

MizChief was another very influential Zimbabwean media personality that sort of followed in the same footsteps as TK and rose in the South African media space. However,  MizChief moved to South Africa after TK had already left. "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."

When asked about the state of the local entertainment industry, Katsande shares his optimism and excitement about the legislation and support the industry has. "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, and 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 let's 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."

Zimbabwe's entertainment industry still lags behind other African countries like Nigeria and South Africa. "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 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 and regional and community stations all the way to innovative online stations. I am not sure whether it's 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." he shares his thoughts on what could be done to build the local entertainment industry.

Tonderai Nokutenda Katsande's  to kids that look up to him and aspire to be in his shoes one day is;
"There are no shortcuts in life, cheap is expensive and chance favours the prepared mind. Know God, have ethics, kick it hard and I wish you well."

Mungwadzi Godwin

twitterinstagramI like sharing positive stories about Zimbabweans at home and abroad. I also write articles on Personal Finance, Fashion, Music, and Tech. Let's connect!

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