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A chat with the Lagos queen of rush hour, Awazi

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The traffic in the megacity of Lagos, commercial hub of Nigeria and entertainment capital of Africa, is so notorious across the continent. Awazi of Soundcity 98.5 FM, is one of those making rush hour traffic a beautiful experience through her Home Run show on weekdays. She talks to AmeyawDebrah.com about the journey to becoming a sweetheart on Lagos radio. Q: How and when exactly did you get into Radio? A: I started doing radio in 2013. I was in my third year at the University of Lagos, studying mass communication, and my lecturer got me on a radio show on UNILAG FM. Before then, I knew I loved talking and listening to the radio. Although I was passionate about the media, and I was studying to be a broadcaster, I just honestly never thought of working in Radio. That was the year I started to recognize that my voice could be used for a lot more than just rambling to my friends, family, and course mates. Q: For a young person aiming to be a broadcaster, who on TV or Radio then influenced you? A: Well, I knew I wanted to be a broadcaster even before I knew the names of broadcasters I admired. When I was a little girl, I loved to read and learn new words — my father loved to read newspapers and he loved watching the news as well — so when he was done reading his newspapers for the day, I’d try to read them aloud. We would play pretend and I would try to read the newspapers like the lady on the news. That quickly became our tradition. I started looking forward to my “news reading performance” every evening my father was around. Unlike many kids, I loved watching the news not because I understood the implications of most things they were saying, but because I just really wanted to hear the news casters speak; people like Bimbo Oloyede, Abike Dabiri, Cyril Stober, Christiane Amanpour, Kemi Ikotun and a few others, whose names I don’t remember because I paid more attention to what they did than who they were, made it seem so easy. I was so into broadcasting as a child, that it was a dream when my primary school — St Paul’s School in Ikeja — selected me and a classmate, Godson to say the news on children’s day in the year 2003 or so on MITV. I got to dress up just like a newscaster, I remember stressing my mum to dress me in iro and bụba. It was my first time having my head wrapped in gele, it was so exciting for me. I got to read the news just like I used to do with my dad, only I was reading to the entire Lagos. I got to see Kemi Ikotun in real life and she was so pleasant to me when I told her I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I can never forget that day, and I think my parents can’t forget it either because I told everyone that cared to listen as many times as possible what had happened. My father was so proud of me. That day, I think, was a defining day for me and my future career path. I knew I had to be a broadcaster, and I followed through with it. Q: So after Unilag FM, it was Soundcity? How did that happen and how has your time there been? A: No, it was not Soundcity, at least not immediately after. After Unilag Fm, I went on to work behind the scenes on film and TV productions including interning at Mnet West Africa, working on MTV Shuga season 3, then I was on quite a number of movie projects. However, I was out of a job for a while, by then I was already so used to constantly working from project to project — some say I was addicted to working — so it was unusual, nerve-wracking and even depressing for me. At the time, no production projects seemed to be coming my way, or at least they weren’t readily available and I just couldn’t handle it, so I brushed up my CV and started looking for a job. I went on to work as the Business Development Manager for Swipe, a tech start up company. While I was at Swipe, my love for radio tugged at the hem of my heart so hard I ended up sending an audition tape to Cool Fm when I heard that Freeze was looking for a new co-host on the Guinness table of men — a supposed replacement for Dj Xclusive who had just left the show. This audition ended up turning into a competition which I eventually won, so there I was working a full time 9-5, then going on radio from 8pm. I was super passionate about radio, most of my friends knew that I needed to be on the radio so they kept telling me to try out every time they heard of an audition, even though I ignored them most of the time because I already had a great job at Swipe. Getting on Soundcity radio was more a case of my passion finding me. My friends again had heard of the audition and asked me to go but it was on a weekday, I refused to steal out of my work time for it so I missed the first day of the audition. Coincidentally, I had to go drop off some business documents at Soundcity that night, after I did that and was about to head over to my second job, I met a few people right in front of the Soundcity building, we engaged in light conversation and they invited me to come audition during my lunch break the next day. I went through stages of auditions and the rest is history. Being at Soundcity radio helped me learn the art of radio, helped me improve my skills, and helped me build a very genuine relationship with my listeners. Soundcity radio is a platform I’ll always be grateful for. Q: What projects are you working on currently? Any nonprofit work? A: I’m working on a few projects that I cannot disclose right now for various reasons, however, they do involve me perfecting and expanding my craft. For nonprofit, I am in the process of starting a project with other passionate people about educating Nigerian kids on the concept of consent and sexual abuse/harassment, hopefully it comes to life. I love children so much and I hate how bad sexual harassment has almost become normalized in our society. It happens sometimes and the abuser doesn’t even know that they are doing anything wrong they even sometimes see the fault as the victim’s. I understand that there are grey areas on this subject that need to be addressed especially for young people. I believe that we need to change society’s orientation about stuff like this and make it better. If not for right now, then for the future. The young ones do not need to experience the ugly things some of us have experienced. I also intend to help young adults especially young girls develop great confidence in their own skin and bodies. Q: Name some of your influences outside of broadcasting and TV? A: Does Beyonce count? Because her work ethic, growth game and levels she’s attained are mad! Hahaha okay seriously I’m influenced by all things feminism and women empowerment, I’m very invested in the idea that women should not be limited or excluded from anything in society because of our gender. I recognize that we are inbred in patriarchy and I have so much unlearning of teachings that have been passed on to me from generations before which do not favor women as equals but confine us only to certain roles, There’s also so much learning of ways to recognize and to have a stronger voice against sexism and patriarchy in hope that soon enough all of this changes for the better. Q: What life experience(s) has shaped or greatly impacted your person and work? A: Losing my older brother in 2007 was a major game changer for me because that was like losing my closest friend who I depended on to make smart decisions for me and who I admired so much at the time. I had to now fill the shoes he left as a big sister to my younger ones and that made me become a much more responsible and driven person and I think this affected my work ethic. Q: How do you work? What kind of creative patterns, routines or techniques do you have? A: For me work starts a long time before I get on the radio, I do a lot of reading and listening to happenings around the world, I have to listen to new music and select some of the songs to go on the air for the day, I have to research and understand the kind of things my target audience would like to listen to and the kind of conversations they would be interested in having. My target audience consists mostly of millennials and everything with us is super-fast paced, I mean one minute we are talking about world politics the next minute we’re arguing about the color of a silly dress there’s such a wide spectrum of conversations to have so I have to constantly be up to date with these stuff. However I try to stay on the happier end of this spectrum because I understand that life really gets hard for most of us and we all need some time off in the day to just like escape and unwind so I let that reflect in the music played on my show and I always try to relay my message in the most witty, fun and radio friendly way I can. Q: What are you aiming to communicate with your work? A: I aim to communicate joy and just good vibes you know, too many people have a hard life I try to be the reason at least one person feels better during their day. I think that my job is to be the girl that people see as their friend in a box –radio- so when I’m working I try to be that girl everybody can relate with while staying true to my character. Q: Lastly, goals from now till five years? A: Let’s just say in the next five years, by the grace of God, I’ll be part of the people taking Nigeria to the world. Interview by BY SUSAN ADAMOLEKUN]]>

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