BERTHA Charuma’s ideal atmosphere for hosting Life With Bertha on Radio 2000 is a dimly lit studio to create a cosy feel and some “romantic ambiance.”
Enhancing the feel for her 9am to noon show is a pleasant blend of -mostly easy on the ear- South African music with that from abroad. Charuma completes the setup with an enthusiastic and clear voice that comes with a touch of calmness. Men are the most positive respondents to the “romantic affair” advances from the presenter with a well-trimmed figure, beautiful and smooth ebony skin. Statistics from Radio 2000 are that 59.5% of the listeners on Charuma’s show are males. Back at Metro FM, where she hosted a show in the same time-slot, Charuma had her listeners split at 49/51% – with the fairest sex being the majority listeners.
The attraction of more beards and testosterone to Charuma’s gig rebels against an established norm in radio programming -at least in South Africa- that has almost always positioned mid-morning radio to appeal to females. “My station manager, Carlito Sheik, once asked me where the women were on my show?” says the Zimbabwean born presenter who kicked off her South African radio career at Radio Bop in 1991. “We try to be women driven but … I think the dynamics have changed. A lot of women are at work, there are single fathers raising children… Interestingly when I was still on Metro most people used to say I am a feminist and I sound like I am hardcore with and for the women. If that was the case it was done subconsciously.”
Could the attraction of more males on Charuma’s show come down to the simple statement that opposites attract? The bright-eyed Charuma cannot come up with a clear-cut response when persuaded to say more about the brand of milkshake or the nectar that brings all the boys to her show. “Engaging topics … err! maybe it has to do with Radio 2000s target audience – the sports and music audience … what do you think?” she throws the question back at me and to her producer, Sbonga Zungu. Charuma’s listeners are invited to reveal the reasons for tuning in to her show.
“Sexy voice,” say one male listener.
Newsreader Rossene Peters reveals that a friend (male) of hers told her “Bertha comes with years of experience, has a warm and inviting friendly voice and knows how to interact with listeners” At the end, out of seven callers only one is female and she listens because Charuma is “fabulous.”
The seasoned presenter might have collected some of her male listeners along the way to her present show. She initially hosted a weekend breakfast show called Weekend Fix when she joined Radio 2000 in 2008. Later she was teamed- up with former Kaizer Chiefs striker Kenny Niemach to host a weekday show called Cruise Control from 1pm to 4pm. Around the same time she also hosted an hour long talk-show called the Green Debate on Wednesdays from 7 to 8pm. “I have a lot of male friends. They are easy to interact with. They don’t have issues and will tell you straight if there’s something wrong. The older you get, you attract a certain type of individuals. I am at a space where I am honest. It is what it is,” she says.
Charuma cannot resist revealing that she used to have impressive audience figures at Metro FM, results that prompted a station manager from a competitor to ask what the recipe was for her success. “I suppose the ingredient is that I don’t undermine the person on the other end of the line or on the other side. Some times we, as radio personalities, have a tendency to be arrogant. There are actually listeners that know more than we do.”