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RADIO station’s “About Us ” statements tend to fall shot when it comes to reflecting what the particular broadcaster claims to represent especially when it comes to local content.

Y-FM is probably among a few stations that can rightfully claim to have and sill make a meaningful contribution in the support and growth of local music. “We (YFM) give local music a platform, as we do for unknown SA artists,” reads a line on the stations website. “We’ve defined ourselves as THE “new music station” and our core genres are house, hip-hop, kwaito and R&B, but this doesn’t mean we neglect other genres.”

The stations track record and the product delivered on air often supports the claims made. Following three weeks of constantly tuning in, one is convinced that Y-FM renders an important service where the economic activity of locally produced music is concerned. It’s also pleasing that the station’s presenters’ consistently display enthusiasm and come across as passionate about local talent and music.

Looking back at the emergence of Kwaito; it cannot be dispute that Y-FM identified, aligned itself and played a key role in exposing a huge youth market to a music style that among other things economically liberated countless black people, not just the youth. Arthur Mafokate, Mdu Masilela, DJ Oskido, Kabelo Mabalane and many others some of whom have since lost their glow and wealth are to an extend beneficiaries of Y-FM’s unapologetic and proud support of kwaito.

Today, the likes of Casper Nyovest, KO and many other mzansi musicians and producers (of hip-hop, house, afro-pop and some kwaito) probably sleep well at night knowing Y-FM has got their backs (as a partner) and that they have friend’s in most of the station’s presenters. Y-FM is most likely going to be (one day) at the centre of a book, thesis or study done on local hip-hop just as it has been the case with Kwaito.

Sadly though producers and performers of laid-back music like afro-soul, fusion or locally produced adult contemporary and jazz music cannot say with utmost confidence, certainty and pride that their backs are covered at all times by one local station or another. The situation has probably more disappointing since Radio 2000 recently took into a format that gives more action to foreign oldies. In the past 2000 gave hope and the impression that it was a home for most of the locally produced music mentioned in the previous line. Power FM does a commendable job of playing South African music, but that is only on weekends as they are a talk station. Meanwhile South African rock, dance and pop music seem to be well taken care of by stations like Highveld and Jacaranda.

Ok, emotions are threatening to digress one from the main star of this piece. Of course not everyone is happy with Y-FM for a number of reasons. First there’s an issue of attachment to ‘what used to be’. There are those still hanging on, on the memory of the Y-FM of Betrams, Rosebank, the station’s past personalities and the style and culture of that era.  One of the remnants of the past that the station can certainly do without is the mimicking or echoing of DJ Fresh’s style of laughter by several of the broadcaster’s DJs including its impressive presenter Mo Flava. Unless of course the laughter is part of the station’s sacret culture.

Perhaps what has also created a negative vibe around Y-FM was a move, a while back, that has seen less Kwaito played at the station and the disagreements between the stations’ management with a popular house music producer. Those (including yours truly) that tend to be sickened by the mimicking of American culture and mannerism have most likely dismissed Y-FM as another platform that promotes cultural colonialism trough local hip-hop performers and other means. There may be a point in that argument, however it equally has to be appreciated that local hip-hop fuse township slang and embrace African languages to a certain degree in its presentations. One is hopeful that with time and more opportunities to express themselves most of the local hip hop cats will find a sound that makes their brand of hip-hop sound even more African. Also to be honest, American music accents cut across many genres (including afro-jazz, soul, r&b and even jazz) in South Africa not just hip-hop.

If it happens you are tempted to tune in on Y-FM; MusikMag Afrika recommends you listen to The Best Thing Ever presented DJ Sabby and Tshepi weekdays from 12pm- 3pm.  It’s a fun show, often has light entertaining topics and features great music from within the continent especially during the African Boom Box feature on Friday’s. It is recommended though that you listen with an open mind especially if you are not the targeted audience (age-wise).

If any, there’s little doubt that Y-FM is about youth culture, lifestyle and is passionate about promoting South African music suited to their broadcast format, targeted audience and commercial objectives. At this point,  the station gets two thumbs and both toes up from MusikMag Afrika.


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1 Response

  1. davidchiz

    I don’t think the problem is that Y FM exists and does what it does. Rather it is that there are NO other stations that do similar things with other genres. If you switch across the dial around mid afternoon into early evening for example, it is very hard to distinguish between 5 FM, Metro FM, Kaya FM, Y FM and Highveld. They all play a seemingly indistinguishable series of pseudo urban and pop music, possibly with a smattering of light rock (except Y FM)

    Our airwaves are dominated by a money making mind set that sees music and listeners in terms of TARGET MARKETS that can be milked for advertising revenue from brands similarly aligned.

    I am not sure even that advertising agencies and radio stations are to blame. Clearly the majority of consumers are happy with this as you very rarely hear any complaints about this terribly bland fodder. The unsatisfied turned long ago to streaming audio, hand held devices and online radio.

    From my perspective though, if we hope to seriously develop culture as reflected by music, we need to change this super-economic perspective around and revisit the idea of music as ART not commodity and begin to showcase its variety and depth, not leverage the financial gains by repeating the same small sample to an unenquiring public ad infinitum.

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