Love or hate him, but you simply can’t ignore The “Gorilla Man”!
Robin Chivazve, popularly known as ‘Robbie Rob’ or ‘Double R’ to his legion of fans needs no introduction when it comes to radio.
Together with the likes of Brando, Luzboy, Big Duke and others, he is credited for being part of the golden generation that revolutionized local radio since 1999 when he touched down from Capetown and took to the airwaves at Yarona FM.
In his second week after returning to the youthful radio station following his departure eight years ago, the prodigal son of the airways, talks to INNOCENT TSHUKUDU about his return at Yarona FM as well as life in general!
Q. Welcome back Gorilla Man, you’ve been missing in action. What have you been up to and what brings you back?
A. When I left radio I had just established a business that needed my time, attention and focus.
The business is now well established and running and I got to really miss radio.
It’s something that you put at the back of your mind, but I think the calling was there to say ‘why don’t you try again’.
But the timing had to be right and suddenly this year things felt right.
Q. You’ve had an illustrious career ever since you landed here back in 1999 from Capetown. Kindly take us through your broadcasting journey.
A. Thanks for recognizing my contribution in broadcasting…I don’t take such complements lightly!
I arrived at Yarona FM in 1999 and worked full time as a prime-time on-air presenter till 2007 and did two years as a Sales and Marketing Manager.
I was on air part time but I had now concentrated more on rebuilding the brand.
Yarona FM had just obtained its national broadcasting licence.
I was part of the team that helped to roll out the station and introduce it nationwide which was very exciting.
We changed the logo and the tagline and we really brought the brand to life, tried to commercialise it and tried to make sure that we gave it eternal life that it must live and breathe and function well beyond our years, way after we’re gone!
So, after two years as Sales and Marketing Manager- in 2009, I then decided to take a break, I left Yarona FM and did a small stint as a consultant at Duma FM between 2010 and 2012.
Duma FM was in trouble at the time.
There were new radio stations with every possible teething problems you can think of.
It really needed someone with the experience to come and settle things down and I felt that it would be an easy job for me, given that I had on-air experience, managerial and general broadcasting experience and I do promo and advertising in my business and event management.
So I really felt that Duma FM was in need of a rebrand, which we did.
We changed the logo and the tagline. It used to be ‘The station that rolls with passion’ and we changed it to ‘More Talk, More Music’ and changed the focus a bit and tried to give it a defined identity.
Q. What happened after that?
A. After 2012 I retreated from radio for about two years and in the middle of 2013 I started doing a mix-show for Yarona Fm, Thursday nights for two hours.
It was nothing major, nothing exciting. I just enjoyed Djying just to ease my desire for being on air.
I didn’t last more than a year there because of change of management at the station.
I was a casualty in the shake-up that happened and I lost the mix show. But I was okay, I was satisfied.
And then fast forward another two and a half odd years, I’ve been getting it from all corners meeting different people, some of whom I didn’t even know urging me to come back to radio.
Sometimes at a supermarket at a random place way outside Gaborone, someone would tap me on my shoulder and say: ‘hey Robbie Robbie Rob’ Gorilla man!, we miss you on radio man.
You really have to get back to radio! I ignored the urged for a long time but I realised I was not the only one who felt I needed to come back.
I then said, you know what, let’s do this.
I would have wanted it to happen a bit earlier, but I think the timing has proved to be perfect because my return coincided with the eve of my 40th birthday, I was on air for the first time on a day my team Liverpool played against Manchester United.
We didn’t plan any of that, but all the little signs said tome yah, it was worth the wait and the time is now!
Q. Taking you a little back to your days at Duma FM, you went there as a consultant and eventually got back on air…were you bored?
A. I felt that I needed to be on air because sometimes you have to give people an easy reference, an internal reference.
There needed to be some kind of senior presence and experience and a referral point because I was bringing new ideas that guys found so alien, so foreign and they just couldn’t get their minds around what we were trying to do.
Q. What were you trying to do?
A. In essence we were trying to bring a talk format, which sounds easy on the ear now because they got used to it.
They picked it up, but at the time guys just couldn’t grasp the concept.
So I sat on that chair and said ‘do what I do. Listen to me.
This is what I would like the station to do, whether I’m on air or not.
Here is a working template, a blueprint, use it and run with it’.
And there is no doubt that it rubbed off. It was supposed to rub off.
But there was just too much inexperience on air for us to just say; ‘look, let’s introduce new things with the existing crop of presenters and see what happens’.
For us to have recruited a team, my consultancy involved obviously, ultimately trying to make money for the business.
We could have gotten someone with the kind of experience I had, but it was going to cost too much money for a battling radio station.
So I pretty much went on air voluntarily in the name of saving the station money and ensuring that I could fulfill my mandate.
Otherwise I was going to fail.
Q. Are you bringing anything new this time around at Yarona FM?
A. (Laughs)…You know when I first started this journey, this latest return, I told myself I’m going back to do radio the way we used to do it.
But after a while I came to realize that no,no,no. It’s the same guy, but times have changed.
Everything has changed. Radio has evolved tremendously.
We know about your facebook, twitter etc. We also know about the convergence of media these days and we know about access to music.
When I first started in 1999 I was getting fresh new music delivered via courier from America.
And I would say to guys, ‘this week we’re releasing the new Jay Zee. No one in Botswana has ever had it’, guaranteed! And we knew that it was real.
Fast forward to 2016 you will never compete.
There is no one who can say they’re in charge of tunes.
We’re all become equal.
Our consumers and customers can compete with us in an arena where we were supposed to be the leaders.
So that’s changed tremendously. The music alone is not going to be enough.
So all that made me realise that when it came to radio, it’s going to put a big burden on my shoulders for me not to do radio the way we used to, but to actually do radio the way it has never been done before because that’s what I did back then and I’m going to do it again now.
Q. What made you stand out against the others back in the days?
A. I was a bit more brave and a bit more organised, a bit more hard-working and a bit more entertaining than all the other guys.
I believe I’m a utility broadcaster.
I’m the kind of player who can play anywhere on the field because I understand the game and ultimately I believe I’m a team player.
Q. You are now co-hosting ‘The Feel-Good Foundation’ show with Brando Keabilwe, how is it working with him?
A. Eish…its’ great! ‘Bad Boy Brando’ and I have been working together since the beginning of the year.
I’m working on a deep-house album that should come out early next year and he features on four of the songs that I’ve done for this album.
And while working with him in the studio…(laughs) that’s when we get reminded of the original Yarona Fm.
He was there back then if you remember well, in fact he was on breakfast show and I was on drive.
So working with Brando allows us to reintroduce that golden era to people who probably never heard it before.
I think young listeners now don’t really know who Robbie Rob is, they don’t know who Brando is, they don’t even know Mr O as a broadcaster, the likes of Luzboy and all the people who made real contribution towards the game.
So we’re going to beat the kids at their own game.
Some think we’re old men and we don’t have it in us.
But I think the interesting thing is going to be how we’re combining our experience and knowledge to bring a fresh, new exciting twist to radio.
And what we are doing I think is something that has never been done and its called Reality Radio…Double R of course.
I am Double R and I’m bringing you Double R! It’s a twisted mix of truth, lies, drama, entertainment, confusion!
The Kardashians do it, Dineo Ranaka does it across the border, why the hell should’t we do it in Bots.
Elevate people, tell their stories, give people that inside look but do so in a very packaged and exciting manner!
Q. What’s your perception of today’s radio talent?
A. Too much ego, too little work, too little knowledge.
I don’t have the exact numbers or stats, but my radio ear tells me that radio isn’t as popular as it used to be and in general the current crop of talent now is too focused interested in adding twitter followers and facebook likes.
It’s all about them.
They’ve become too famous and that fame or that desire to be famous has distracted them from their core, primary responsibility as broadcasters which is, you must inform, entertain, educate, enlighten and stimulate….They’ve lost the essence of what it means to be a broadcaster.
Life is a bit more complicated than just facebook, twitter, instagram etc.
They need to take the focus away from that nonsense and look at real substance.
People have real problems, ambitions and dreams. People have real heritage, culture and tradition.
That’s what we’re supposed to be engaging and talking about.
Q. You seem to be enjoying life and rolling in flashy cars around town, are you a rich man now?
A. (Laughs)…The truth is I don’t sleep much.
I average about five hours a day, which is probably not healthy.
But I live quite a healthy and clean life.
I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I exercise a lot and drink water, which helps a lot.
I think I look ok for a 40-year-old…(laughs).
I think I’ve managed to be successful.
It’s wrong to underestimate the financial success that has come over the years.
I think, for sure, I’ve made more money than I’ve ever dreamed possible.
I just could’ve never seen it.
Botswana has been very good to me…I don’t have a tonne of money sitting somewhere, but I live comfortably and able to take care of my wife and two daughters.
Q. What’s your ideal radio line up?
A. (Laughs out loud)…OK, I love being on the breakfast show, so I’ll have to put myself there…first name on the team sheet!
I’m really enjoying working with Brando as the side-kick y’know…he understands his role.
So it’s me and Brando in the morning.
For Drive, I’ll put Mr O, he’s very smart and passionate about music and radio.
Mid-morning I’ll put Tumie Ramsden.
That female presence is very important, she’s just so well rounded.
She’s one hell of a broadcaster.
She’s just magic to listen to.
And then we have to put Luzboy at lunchtime because he’s just so insane…that guy must be mentally disturbed!…(laughs).
He’s still as funny as he was back then.
If you sit with Luzboy for five minutes you’re gonna die laughing! And he’s not just a village clown…he’s got brains too.
He’s highly intelligent and naturally made to entertain!
Then at night, I’d go with Big Duke.With his big booming voice and solid knowledge of music, he really rocks!
Q. You’re known to be a very physical person, especially when rubbed the wrong way. Tell us about it!
A. (Laughs)…look, I think I’m naturally a short tempered guy, but with age you learn to moderate and control.
You learn how to handle situations better…I’m the nicest guy until I learn that people are disrespecting me somehow and that’s when I wanna get it on.
I don’t fear fights. But it’s got me into trouble in the past and I’m n longer interested in getting into that kind of trouble.
Q. And how do you see the English Premier League, do you think Liverpool will help your blood pressure this season?
A. (Laughs)…I think you can see that out of all the contenders this season, Liverpool look like they’re just playing for each other.
They seem to be more united and so organised.
The relationship with the coach reminds us all of how Sir Alex Ferguson was when he was winning all those trophies for Man United.
so something tells me it’s just a matter of time before Liverpool starts dominating and once it begins, it’s going to be difficult for others to catch up!
Q. Ok, thanks for the chat Robin, so what’s up for the weekend?
A. I’ve got some bit of action. My company’s involved with the Mascom Top 8 and that’s very exciting for us because we do the activation and we’ll be doing the stadium branding in Francistown, so my team is going there.
I’ll be in Gabs for my 40th birthday party at Chez Nicolas.
But before that, today (Friday) we’ll host a soul-food session at Basillico.
It’s a mellow, down-tempo, nice early evening get-together for the corporate, grown sexy mature crowd.
The idea is for you to come straight from work in the afternoon on a Friday and just undo the top botton, sit down and grab some food and relax! We run from 4.30 till 10pm every Friday.