Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Aura of Arua (January 2006 Article)

VARIETY is the Spice of Life, the Fragrance of Health and the Fire of Taste. It is a reflection of the Beauty of Life. Do you know what’s cooking in Arua’s broadcast kitchen? There is talk of many more radio stations (and TVs) coming soon. Currently though, the Municipality prides itself in four jamming local FM stations on air 18 hours a day (from 6am to 12 midnight because of the WENRECO power schedule) though sometimes transmission continues for 24 hours.
100.9 FM Voice of Life (VOL) a family-oriented, entirely Gospel music and Christian programme-station pioneered local FM broadcasting in the second half of the 90s replacing addiction to BBC on Short Wave and a Sudanese station run by the SPLA rebels.
88.7 Arua One FM followed at the end of 2002 and added real flavour by playing beloved secular music (Hiphop, Utake, Reggae and Lingala) plus introducing the morning crew for fun and games (Operation Thunderbolt by Aaliyah and Uncle Nyaks); the Mid-morning Show by my favourite presenter Hellen Mayele and her sidekick Rose; the Afternoon Lounge that had 15 minutes before 4pm for Indian jams only, to acknowledge the presence of the Indian Diaspora in Arua; the Evening Good Time Show with the Most Hilarious and Entertaining deejay Tobi Tobias aka ‘Dingili ku Dingili, aka High Voltage’ (The whole of Arua misses his jokes and stories)/ General Yiki and Brigadier Braddock. Also Fat Chris featured sometimes. The night had talk shows on different topics throughout the week though the Saturday show was a heated debate (just like Capital Gang on Kampala’s 91.3 FM) in the morning. Tara united lovers so romantically towards midnight that so many male callers actually fell in love with her. Personally, I think she is the Most Comprehensive and intelligent late night show host in the whole of Africa. [Saturday Sports was hosted by an articulate and knowledgeable presenter who claimed to support Tottenham and usually sat in the studio with another knowledgeable sports reporter called Swalley, a son of the soil]. International news comes from Voice of America.
Arua One’s ‘ultimate choice’ programming was so top notch that it probably inspired the other radios which opened two years later. Although 90.9 FM Radio Pacis is part of the Catholic Church’s Arua Diocese Media Centre, it sounds fresh and more dynamically liberal than the Church of Uganda’s Protestant Voice of Life. [They actually won the BBC Award for Best New Radio in the whole of Africa 13 months later from when I wrote this article]. Their foreign news comes from RFI (Radio France International). With the slogan “Peace of Christ for all”, the Ediofe – based Radio Pacis wonderfully accommodates music by worldly musicians who don’t even mention Jesus in their songs. Another paradox is that the Catholic station does not play too many songs worshipping Mary, the Mother of Christ.
The other joint leader in variety, timely relevant news and fantastic flow in programming is 94.1 Nile FM. BBC World Service, the Best on radio, provides global reports at the top of selected hours. Nile FM’s local news team is also the Most Professional from my own observation because of the analysis and sound clips from interviews which brings me to another comparison. BBC may subconsciously or widely lead in news service because that is their first language but Deutsche Welle from Germany (broadcast on the all-Christian Voice of Life FM) challenges on analysis. It is more illustrative though a bit complex.
Also accommodated on the FM band in Arua are a few other stations from outside the ‘heart of darkness’ (What Arua used to be called due to violence). Radio Paidha from Nebbi used to be a favourite before Arua One miraculously obliterated their audience in the district. BBS (Bunyoro Broadcasting Service) from Masindi is enjoyed in a few counties due to wave interferences while Koboko FM (Spirit FM or Bushnet Christian Broadcasting) blends Gospel from England’s The Voice (Formerly Christian Voice) with local music programmes. Koboko [on the Sudan border] was curved out of Arua to form a new district but Arua remained a Model 3 member of the large geographical area and high revenue collecting districts in Uganda.
Satellite TV plays a big part in household entertainment as well as the cinema business but Nile FM’s sister network BTN TV (Bornfree Technologies Network) on UHF 23 is Arua’s own local TV channel. More are yet to come including UNtv and others, GOD-willing. The future looks bright for indigenous broadcasting in West Nile’s capital. Do you smell the future now? Okay the Spice is on the line.
[DISCOVERY TRIVIA: In 1978 during homeboy Idi Amin’s regime, the first Ugandan Satellite Earth Station came on air in Ombachi, Arua. It is still present though requires reviving for everybody to enjoy the full aura of Arua…]