I Am 100 Percent A Family Man – Femi Sowoolu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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I Am 100 Percent A Family Man – Femi Sowoolu

Posted: Jun 14, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Femi Sowoolu is one of the most influential figures in Broadcasting in Nigeria’s Broadcast Industry today. Born in London, he returned home to take up an appointment with Ogun radio after an audition. Within 13 years of service, he had created a unique style of presentaation on the morning belt. By the time he moved to Rhythm 93.7 in Lagos, he had established himself as the King of morning shows. Today, his unique witty and interactive format is being used by many radio stations on their morning belts. He has received accolades from various quarters, and single handedly changed the fortunes of many radio stations. His selling point is his voice which is unique and could still  be heard in various adverts and reality shows today. Recently he spoke with Senior Correspondent, Hazeez Balogun.

Femi Sowoolu

Femi Sowoolu

You were one of the most prominent personalities on radio, what are you up to these days?

Well, I am not the most prominent voice on radio these days, though I used to be. These days, I have taken to the back bench. The young must grow. I am one of those who believe in training people and letting young people progress. Once in a while I still do some jobs as a Master of Ceremony(MC) or voice over jobs here and there when I am in demand. These days for radio, I do a lot of consultations. I consult, I create, I conceptualise, I do programmes for corporate organisations. I do reality shows. Also I do a lot of writings these days. As I am from the old school, I believe that a good broadcaster must be able to write. I have also written a couple of books.

One of your selling point is your voice, was it why you decided to go into broadcasting?

I did not know I have a good voice. Even till now, I don’t understand the fuss about my voice. I have always known that I would end up in the media particularly radio. I have always liked music. I bought by first record in the 50’s and I was just seven years old then. It was a Beatles record called ‘Can’t buy me love’, that was in London. Years rolled by, technology improved, and transistor radio came along. It was as small as the mobile phones we carry these days. They were from Japan. Japan used to be where these cheap products came from. I got one as a gift and I fell in love with it. I started getting to like all these radio Dj’s that were speaking from these little devices. Ever since then I knew I wanted to be like these people. I wanted to speak and be heard by millions. I wanted to make people happy.

I started studying. The first education I got was from music magazines and journals. I was very vast in music and what was going on in the industry worldwide. Every week I would be in Leventis or Kingsway using my pocket money to purchase these magazines. I was very up to date. When I finished secondary school, I went for an audition in Ogun Radio and I got picked. That was where it all started. I spent 13 years in Abeokuta. Though I think I stayed there too long there but it was the best learning experience a young broadcaster could have.

So why leave OGBC?

I had just gotten married and I have children, and reality is setting in. I had to feed my family, and I knew OGBC could not sustain us like I wanted. So I moved to Lagos. In Lagos, I did not go back to broadcasting immediately. I got employment in advertising. I was in charge of media production. I spent three and a half years there but I knew that advertising was not my kettle of fish. I was doing well but I was just not happy. They had double standards there and I was not cut out for that. Coming from a broadcasting background where I have had 13 years and falsehood is not a virtue, to a place where that is basically what they sell. I could not live with that.

Femi Sowoolu 2When I left, I went to set up my own production outfit. I was there for a while before my good friend, Jacob Akinyemi Johnson called me to be a part of the pioneering team of Rhythm 93.7, and you know how all that went.

It was at Rhythm that you dominated the morning belt and created a format being used by many stations today.

I have always preferred the morning belt. The morning belt ignites. Once you got the morning belt locked down, you got the station hooked. To be a morning show host, you need to be very intelligent, very knowledgeable, and versed. You have to know about many issues because it is cosmopolitan, it varied, and you have to know something about everything. Personally I read a lot, and I try to keep a lot of information in my head.

Before your morning show at rhythm, most stations leave morning belts for news, why did you think that should be changed?

I created that format not at Rhythm but at Ogun radio. News is important, but if you do not add any entertainment or intelligent facts to it, it is going be pretty dull. The idea is to grab the attention of the listeners. To do that you have to tell them exciting things. I used to tell my students that they should tell their listeners one thing they have never heard before in their life. To the listeners, they know that they have listened to something of value. That keeps them hooked.

Right now I have a lot of my prodigies running around and they are doing well for themselves and creating their own formats. They even do comedy these days and I like it. A morning show is basically a variety show. It cannot be just music, news and phone-ins. In fact I think phone in shows are the laziest form. I know phones are the modern way to go, but I believe you should be the one moderating the shows and telling the listeners what to do and not the other way round. I will not mention stations, but some people are doing that seriously and it’s not the good way to go.

There were some talks about you having issues with Ben Bruce and that is why you left Rhythm

That is an issue that would be told when my book comes out. We had some problems, but what problems they were? You will get to know later. I just could not manage what was going on there. My life is about honesty truth and integrity. I am not the kind of person that will stick to a job just because of what I get from it. I believe that a good name is worth more than gold and silver. I will leave the story for later. The whole episode is way behind me at the moment.

What happened after Rhythm?

After Rhythm I got tired of radio. I thought that would be the end of my career as a broadcaster. I sat back and then reality shows started coming into the country. I was on the Gulder Ultimate search team. In fact I am still on the team nine years after. We have also done the Maltina Dance show. I write, I conceptualise most of these shows.

Down the line I joined Radio continental. I was head hunted by a Dele Alake to help head the radio department of the Continental Studios. I did that for three and a half years. Then they were not called Radio Continental. They had all sorts of funny names. They were called Unity Fm, Gotel, and all sorts of names. We decided to rebrand the station which we did and we brought the station to be number one in just two years. I would beat my chest about that.

Government used to own Radio stations in Nigeria, today, most of them are now owned by people in government, is this trend healthy for the industry?

It is very sad and painful. There is little we can do about this trend. These are the minor things that politics does to professionals. Only very few get to be given licenses. For the majority of us who come with a vision of fair play in mind, it is pretty hard. In Nigerian today, you will get nothing if you are being fair.

So you are saying good bye to being an On Air Presenting(OAP)

Right now I am more content with showing people the way, how to do it and how not to do it. It provides more satisfaction for me than going out there doing it by myself. Presenting is not an easy job. I finally am able to go to sleep early these days and I am enjoying it. I don’t think I can go back to that regime.

Do you see yourself owning a radio station?

We have tried, and we are still trying. People like me who do not believe in the normal way things are done, will find it difficult getting a radio license. But all that really does not matter. If I get one, good, if I don’t, no problem. I have done my bit.

What are still lacking in radio in Nigeria?

There must be gate keepers who are living to expectations. Things spoil because people do not do their jobs. There is criminality in public places. There are bad broadcasters because the managers who are supposed to employ the right people employ the wrong ones just because a friend send you a letter saying that it is his brother. Whoever is in charge should simply do their jobs.

Radio and Tv presenters have a reputation of being promiscuous; did you have your share?

Being in the limelight does all that to you. I have tried to take myself out of it. That is why I did not go into television. I avoid these things. I am extremely, 100 percent family man. I do not go out as such. You do not see me at public events, or functions. I have lost a lot of friends because when I get invited to go their events I don’t go. Some of us have a rowdy youth, why must we have a rowdy adulthood. I have had my fun times. I have done all the nasty things, it is time for me to live a calm life. I would rather stay around my area, and meet up with friends and family and that is it. You will never hear a scandal about me. I understand that kids these days crave the popularity and the notoriety that comes with it all but that is not for me at this stage.

Where you a rascal?

I was. A very popular one at that. I got a lot of my knowledge from Rascality.

You say you spend a lot of time with your family, how did you meet your wife?

She was a broadcaster herself. We met at Ogun Radio back in the day. We have five kids. Four grown up kids and in school.

The name Sowoolu is well known starting from your father. Tell us about the lineage

I believe there is only one Sowoolu family in the entire world. Anyone that bears the name must be related to me in some way. My father was the director of the National archive in his time. He was an historian, a writer and a respected man. He was the director for over 20 years. By the time he died, he did not have a bank account or a house to himself. He believed in serving and not amassing money or looting public funds. He believes a good name is golden. That is how he trained us, and that was how his parents trained him. That is how my uncle and cousins also are. We hold pride in the name. Some people shame themselves when they steal all the money and flaunt it.

You have been dishing out music in the air waves for decades, how would you describe the modern trend of music in Nigeria?

Wow, that is a good question. Just yesterday I wrote an article I published online about the same subject. Things have changed so well in the industry. What we are listening today are influences from the pop music, highlife and all the way down. It is sad that we do not take music seriously as we used to. Before every school has a school band. How many schools have bands today?

After most of the record labels died off, those that survived were only copying foreign songs. There were no studios to record. But now all that has changed. Computers have made everything simple. People can now make music in a small environment. The industry is gradually rebuilding itself and it is coming back more forcefully than it was in the past.

There is an argument that K-Sho the musician is your son, is it true?

Yes he is my son. He is the only one amongst my children taking over from me. He is a radio presenter at the moment at City Fm. People say that he the programme is one of the best, but I won’t be the one to blow his trumpet. Let other people appreciate him and talk about him. The rest are into diverse field.

Would you like to go into politics in no distant future?

I won’t survive in the political landscape we have in Nigeria today. It would be nice to try and help my people. But it is the corrupt people who run politics, and I can’t thrive amongst them. I will continue to nudge people to good behaviour, create avenue for improvement of life, help people seek knowledge and better themselves. That is why we are here. It is not about looting all the money.