School runs are the perfect time to switch into neutral and lose yourself in the radio banter of Capital, Easy or Kiss fm (Nairobi). The stock lists of songs are played in such quick rotation that you can be word perfect in fifteen songs in no time. Akon, Beyonce, Pussycat Dolls, Fantasia and Jojo are regular favourites spiced up with some Kenya rapping classics (‘hallo, hallo?’ being one of them). Driving along with the volume turned up singing in full belted, tone deaf (air conditioned) privacy is a real pleasure. Listeners’ phone-ins are compulsive and new cash prizes are offered for easy to win games, with generous regularity. Forget the ipod, I’m an addict. When chatting to a Nairobi taxi driver last night, I discovered that his whole day was mapped out in terms of best times to listen to various radio stations, making me sound like an amateur. When I enquired which his favourite station was I got an answer along the lines of; '7 to 10 am classic fm, 10 to 12 capital, 12 to 2 wakamba, 2-4pm etc etc'.
Following the safari where my car aerial snapped off when hacking through some particularly stubborn bush, my choice of station has now been limited to Easy fm exclusively. They broadcast from the Ngong hills near Karen, so the small stump that is left of my aerial can pick up the signal without too much interference.
The ‘Busted’ phone in each morning leaves me loitering in the school car park, agog. Its purpose is to catch out cheating spouses and partners, by way of tricking them. The radio dj poses as a member of hotel or restaurant reservations staff and claims the poor, unsuspecting ‘cheater’ has won a luxury weekend away or meal out. She then simply requests the name of the ‘other half’ in order to confirm the reservation ‘who would you most like to take with you?’ and Bingo! A simple ruse, but when the offending party has been ‘busted’ then she or he is then connected on air to the cuckolded other half and a verbal show down ensues. It’s better than big brother, though sometimes it gets a little too voyeuristic even for me (a reality tv fan), especially when there are the sounds of tears being shed as hearts are broken.
Another excellent game is ‘the secret sound’, where cash builds up every day as listeners attempt to interpret a particular scrapey or scratchy or banging sound, that is a car door being slammed or a photocopier in operation or someone leafing through a magazine rack. Mr W and I tried to phone in when prize money reached 80,000 kenya shillings (£650), convinced we had the right answer. But after a few goes we reflected that the prospect of a cash rich ex-pat snatching the grand prize might not go down well and we weren’t sure we could pull off all the whoops and screams of delight on winning. I also have a niggling feeling that we had the wrong answer all along.
There are occasional lapses into Swahili, but it’s good practise to try and follow the gist. Mostly it’s Sw-english, known as Sheng (a bit like Franglaise). Today the ‘talking point’ was ‘does witchcraft really work when it comes to love?’ Riveting!