When I used to stay with my aunt Kayoso during the school holidays, we had to listen to what she enjoyed most on the radio, which meant NBC-Oshiwambo station all day long. A twelve year old doesn’t really appreciate endless announcements and old school music. So I regularly tried to tune to another station, but it wasn’t easy as aunt Kayoso was quite protective of her radio and the station she wanted it to listen to.
This was probably about the 100th attempt to give another station a chance – I glanced over my shoulders: and this was the perfect time to make my move! So, I reached out my left hand and landed my fingers on the tuning knob. Just as I was about to turn the knob, aunt Kayoso’s hand landed on mine and put a firm stop to my tuning mission. At least she hadn’t used a kop-klap this time…“Maybe next time,” I sighed. She grinned and walked away with the radio tucked under her right arm. My cousin Elise and I made a few plans to capture this notorious radio, even if it was only for few hours.
Aunt Kayoso did not want us to tune into either Energy 100, Base FM, Radiowave, Omulunga Radio or any station that played too much music – “They damage my radio’s battery”, she said, and it was clear that she truly believed this. Whenever she was not around the house, we grabbed the opportunity, tuned into a battery-damaging station and turned up the volume of that radio! These moments of victory were usually short lived, as she was a master in tracking her radio down.
Transistor radios were and still are popular in many homes in Namibia. Unlike the newspaper it does not require a high literacy level and reminds us of a time when television was not affordable or available.
A time when most Brave Warriors’ matches aired on radio and audio dramas or comedies allowed us to broaden our imagination and when only one radio in the homestead was enough. And families looked forward to taking in smithereens of information together under a tree or around a fire place. Today this has become a rare occasion, as everyone is glued to smartphones and television.
While radios are in line with the longing for simpler living of city dwellers, in Namibian rural areas they are often the main source of information and entertainment. You’ll find radios hooked to trees or carried close to the ears of young herdsmen as they listen to music, bobbing their heads and dancing while they tend to their cows, goats or sheep.
Some radios live closer to the ground because their owners like to have them close by while they work on the fields, knit or enjoy a morning coffee or tea.
When the antenna dents or breaks, a piece of wire serves as substitute to ensure the radio continues to function as normal.
Wherever you are in Namibia, you will see how listening to the radio brings families together and connects people, and is essential for community development. It allows us to tell stories, express ideas and developments taking place within our country in our different languages, and connects us to the world. – With radio around, you don’t have to miss out on Trump’s latest tweet or law, even if you’re not on social media.
Like Ouma Teresia, who comes over to help us with the ironing and first asks where we placed her radio. I often hear her yell at the NBC-Damara/ Nama host in disagreement or singing along to music as she smooths our crinkly laundry.
It’s time to dust off that transistor radio in your garage, replace the old battery and turn it on again! Or simply turn on your radio on your phone, in your car or via internet stream and get your latest news or music and a Namibian laugh or two.
Sorry, but Namibian transistor radios aren’t antiques yet – you might just see one at a roadside craft vendor on your way to our Zambezi Mubala Lodge.
When last did you use your transistor radio? What are some memories you have of it? Let us know by sharing your story in the comment section below.
Author – I’m Nela, from Windhoek Namibia but born in a small village called Omatunda in northern Namibia. I am passionate about writing, research and photography, as it helps me gain knowledge about people and my country.