It’s human nature to take things for granted when they’re present and value them when they’re gone. As they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I can never seem to understand that; we all know better yet we all seem to take everything for granted until it’s too late – then we start wishing we had done otherwise. So many times funeral wishes are where all the love and appreciation are expressed. Many people don’t know how much they meant to us until they’re dead- we don’t always tell the people we love how much they mean to us until it’s too late.
Sometimes at funerals all the flowers, messages, and tributes written would make any heart melt, but the person who would have appreciated them most cannot read them. It’s always better to express how we feel when people are still alive; then the tributes we write when they die would be just a reinforcement of what they already knew. The above sentiments truly epitomize the legendary life of Owen Rampha – a living radio and DJ legend who has for the past 20 years dedicated his life to building and nurturing young talent in as far as radio broadcasting is concerned. Now turned Broadcast Management Consultant, Trainer and DJ, Mr.O as he’s affectionately known is a marvel to write home about.
This month, April 2018 makes it exactly 20 years since a naïve Mr.O put down his Public Administration lecture notes for good and headed to RB2 for radio presenting auditions. According to this legendary broadcaster, his application letter to RB2 read, “My name is Owen Rampha and I am the next best thing on the radio after DJ Fresh. I have zero experience but if you don’t take me now you will regret it because the two new stations (Gabz FM and Yarona FM) coming up in 1999 will.” This was after he used the bottom end of his tennis racket as a microphone where every day in his bedroom he mimicked Bob Mabena and Glen Lewis, his favourite presenters at the time from Radio Bop. The rest as they say is history…
How would you describe yourself? Where were you born and where do you hail from?
I’m not much of a self-descriptor. I find it a tad self-aggrandizing. I was born in Mahalapye but hail from Bobonong.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Try to do the right thing as much as humanely possible.
What do you listen to or do when you are looking for inspiration?
I don’t actively seek inspiration. It’s kinda just happens in the most random of places, moments and occasions. I could be reading a book, listening to a song, watching a movie or listening to someone. An idea will come to me and I’ll note it down. Always note $hit down bruv!
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about you?
I don’t dye my beard and my surname is spelt exactly how you say it. Rampha with an H.
What can’t you live without? How many of you are there in your family? Are you first born or last born? Tell me a little bit about your family?
I cannot live without music. Ke raa, put me in a room with zero access to beats and I’m dead. I grew up in a family of five. I’m the first born amongst three siblings. I lost my brother in 2012. I have a younger sister and count myself lucky that my Mom and Dad are still alive. Dad was a banker and mum was an educator. Both retired. My Dad was a disciplinarian of note when I was growing up, feared far and wide amongst my friends. He is the coolest man I know these days, very laid back. My mum is not to be messed with, o botse ba a ba rutileng.
Who and what inspired you to become a radio presenter and DJ?
My love for music and my interest in entertainment led me to this path. I grew up in a house full of music and laughter, so it rubbed off on me in a big way. Getting a radio set as a gift back in the 80s sealed the deal for me as I spent copious amounts of time listening and conversing with the presenters as a youngster. I was fascinated by the likes of Chris Motshabi, Glenn Lewis, Bob Mabena and Nothemba Madumo back in the Radio Bop days, including also DJ Sid, Ski, Fresh, Soul D and the like on RB2 in the 90s ke le ko GSS.
How did your big break come about?
Sidney Baitsile gave me a chance on RB2 back in 1998. He let me shadow his afternoon drive show and recommended me as a stand in for him when he went on leave for two weeks. Upon his return, he motivated for me to take over the Midday Slot 12-3 weekdays on RB2. My career started on prime-time radio and I never looked back.
Who is your role model and why?
My Parents. For me they epitomize love, patience, understanding hard work and dedication. Lessons about forgiveness and understanding were taught to me by my Father.
How do you communicate with people? Are you patient? Are you friendly? How open are you to clients’ requirements?
I’ve learnt patience over time. And I can attribute this to fishing, it definitely helped in calming me down. I am antisocial most of the time, though I have also learnt that I cannot afford to be this way because of the career I chose. If I wasn’t open to client requirements, I wouldn’t have had the success I have enjoyed in my DJ and broadcast career. DJ Fresh taught me the value of making time for those who appreciate your skills and appreciating them back.
Do you eat nutritiously? How often do you exercise or go to the gym?
Far from it! Pap is my weakness and goat meat will be the end of me. I go to the gym every 16 months. This needs to change. I would like to live a healthy life.
Do you have any limitations? Would you pose naked for the cover of a magazine for instance?
No, I wouldn’t. Not because of limitations, but because I don’t see the point.
What has been your biggest or favourite highlight of your life or career so far?
There are too many to pick just one bruv. The Miller Music Tour is one of the standouts. It was an all expense paid party experience in LA, Vegas and San Francisco courtesy of Miller. Eisane! Playing to 18 000 people at the 60s Mafikeng, all the networks and industry relationships I’ve built over the years. Being a panelist at two of the Southern Music Conferences in Joburg and Durban. Being recognized by industry peers and media practitioners within the country and the Southern African region over the years as a professional and meaningful contributor to the DJ and broadcasting landscape. Go gontsi Pa!
What other exciting gigs have you been involved with in the past?
I have had mix residencies on Phoenix FM in Lusaka, Zambia Northwest FM in Rustenburg, RSA and Yarona FM. My mixes have aired on YFM, Gabz FM, RB2 and Duma FM. I’ve played gigs in Malaysia, USA, Durban, Cape Town, and Jozi, Namibia and all over Botswana. Each gig has had a unique and memorable element. Like the time I felt like Michael Jackson in Kuala Lumpur with the front row crying tears of joy during my set. Or the many back to back sets I’ve enjoyed with DJ Fresh and the numerous stages I’ve shared with the likes of Franck Roger, Quentin Harris, Ganyani, Oskido, Euphonik, DJ Kent, Vinny Da Vinci, Christos, DJ Cleo, Revolution, DJ Tira, Prince Kaybee, Monique Bingham, Chrispin, Kuchi, Trax and plenty more to mention. I also put together the Orange Big 5 Tour and Orange Full Moon parties back in the day with Olivier Prentout (OP) and Shimmy Siku.
Which countries have you travelled to so far, courtesy of your work? Which ones were your favourite?
Zambia, Namibia, United States, The UK (Heathrow is in the UK, right?), Malaysia, Tanzania and South Africa. All the gigs here in Africa have been a favourite. We just have a rhythm and vibe about us that is completely unmatched.
How do you handle the pressure that comes with your work?
Grow a thick skin or perish. Upskill yourself on the regular or perish. Always focus on the positive.
What excites you the most about being in the limelight/celebrity?
Nothing. Nothing at all. This was never the goal. The celebrity/limelight, which I never acknowledge by the way, is a by product of the career path I chose. I ignore this aspect of my life.
Life would be simpler if…
If we did our best at every opportunity granted to us and stopped seeking love, validation and acceptance externally and rather found it within first.
What’s your typical weekday schedule?
It includes my day job at Yarona FM, studying towards an MBA, daydreams about gym and fishing.
And your typical weekend?
Fishing and Gigs. This means I travel Botswana and SA a lot. I also spend a little weekend time writing for comedy. I have a real interest in giving stand-up comedy a shot.
What are your favourite out-of-town escapades; tell us where do you usually go to and why?
Pretty much all the water bodies in Botswana. Shakawe is a favourite pilgrimage that I do annually and Dikgatlong Dam in Robelela. The fishing is top notch. Then the predictable travels due to events I’m playing at. I enjoy SA as they embrace my preferred style of house a lot easier than my home crowd. But things are changing fast around here. One of my favourite sets was in Oodi at the beginning of April ko Rhythm Sessions and I’m looking forward to Kanye at the end of this month.
Where do you enjoy shopping?
I’m not a shopper. I’m not fashion or style conscious.
What superhuman power would you most like to have?
The ability to be invisible.
Something that no one knows about me is…
Well only the people who shared classrooms with me would know this. I was really blessed academically. I’m also a very good artist. Like I can draw dude!
My motto is…
Life is to be lived, try to follow your dreams.
My simplest pleasure is…
A great song.
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Rra, botsadi bo bala daedeng.
The craziest fashion trend I have even followed is…
Cornrows and maphondo back in varsity.
What celebrity crushes did you have as a teenager?
The list is endless! Ha-ha!
My biggest regret is…
Wronging those that have been nothing but good to me.
Before I die, I’d like to…
Make some timeless music, make my parents proud, if not even prouder and build a fully-fledged, Afrocentric broadcast and advertising consultancy service.
What surprises you most about adult life?
The complexities! As a kid you have no damn clue bruv!
My proudest moment was…
My father calling ahead to check if I was home before coming over. Yet we lived 5 minutes apart by road. Made me feel like I was my own man.
What made you decide to study whatever you studied? When bro? I dropped out of UB coz I hated it. Now I’m doing an MBA in Media Leadership because this is what I love and seek endless growth in.
What’s been your worst-ever career disaster…
Bruv, I never focus on the negative. That stuff will keep you down and out.
What’s been your biggest life lesson in your career?
It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how you plan on getting back up and trying again. Family is where your truest loyalties should lie, because family will always have your back.
I don’t eat out much. I love home cooked meals. Mme hela, those damn hot wings will be the end of me.
Alfred Dunhill Desire – Red
Levis and Guess.
What are you listening to right now? Do you have a favourite Botswana artist; African artist and international artist? The thing is I access new music every week, so I listen to a lot of stuff at any given point during the day and week. My favourite BW acts are Drama Boi, Lizibo, and Juju Boy. I’m down for Sereetsi and the Natives le this project, I forget the proper name, but Leroy Nyoni was behind it. They did covers of some BW staples to a jazz feel. My favourite African artist is Caiphus Semenya. His body of work is amazing. Internationally, it used to be R Kelly. These days ga ke mo kape sentle waitse. So I have none right now.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Botswana and Africa right now? Poverty and a globally competitive education system. Then of course politics of the belly that seem endemic to both country and continent. These have led to the inexplicable ransoming of the continent’s welfare to foreign powers.
Do you support any charities or NGOs?
Yes I do. I donate items of clothing every year and also help out certain individuals with certain needs when I can. I just don’t like singing and dancing about it.
What does it mean to be a Motswana?
These are the questions I hate. Is this a literal or philosophical question?
What’s your message to Batswana, especially the youth?
You can and should do more. You can and should do all the things within your power to help you change the circumstances of your life. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
Which international superstar would you like to work with and why?
I want to work with Chef Gustos, Benny T, Han C, Charma Gal, Skizo and Prez Beatz.
Which African role model do you look up to?
My Parents. They are African, those are my role models.
Do you have any last words?
Do what you need to do today, so you can do what you want to do tomorrow. It’s my favourite quote, from a movie starring Denzel Washington called The Great Debaters. It’s self-explanatory. Almost everything I have learnt about broadcasting, management and talent development is self-taught. That really should tell you that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and take the steps to make it happen.