On-Air-Personality, Disc Jockey and Compere; Ebitan Egbuson is the whole package and then some more! In this candid interview where he admits he was ‘super horrible’ when he started, he answers the questions: Why do Nigerian OAP’s fake foreign accents? Why do aspiring OAP’s constantly need to update and improve? Does an OAP come fully made? How do I fulfil my dream of presenting on Radio?
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KA: Once upon a time, Nigerian OAP’s were simply called Radio Presenters and not given much notice…what changed?
Along came private radio stations, a lot of them using the informal style of radio which has become quite popular internationally. This style of broadcasting is driven by the personalities of the presenters, hence the name ‘On Air Personality’.
KA: For an OAP, it’s all in the voice…true or false. Kindly explain your answer.
You could have a personality that people love yet possess a voice that people don’t really deem special. And you could still do well. There’s a lot of good advice you can follow to get the best out of whatever voice you have been blessed with. After that, you better be interesting.
KA: How did your radio career begin?
I had always been the kid who carried the little radio about the house. So when I saw the ad for vacancies at the new Rhythm office in Port Harcourt, I had to send in a demo and an application. I have always loved music like I love oxygen, so it was a blessing to see that vacancy ad.
KA: Was becoming a disc jockey a fall-out of your radio career?
I had tried to buy professional DJ equipment back when I was in secondary school but I couldn’t afford it. I just wanted to work in an environment where there was music. Years later when I got the OAP job, I linked up with a professional studio in Town where I learned how to DJ for a couple of months. I did it so my shows would be better. People appreciate music when it is arranged by pros. Plus I also DJ at events – for the right price.
KA: Was there one big break for you that set the motion in process?
Well I remember in the early days, I used to work with the station’s DJs on my shows. They would play the music while I do the talking. One day the DJ was reluctant and put in a recorded disc during my show. I was so disappointed that I vowed to put in the time to learn. I still think he was my greatest inspiration.
KA: What is a day in the life of an OAP?
A lot of your time is spent researching stuff for your show, so you could be quite distracted. When you settle into the job, it is wise to find something else to do because you might have some free time. For me that is my blog, www.howfana.com, or any of my other business interests. You have to stay fresh. So while a civilian might watch music videos or browse the internet for fun, I have to do it with dedication because my listeners deserve the best and the latest.
KA: Why do Nigerian OAP’s come across as trying to ‘put on’ a foreign accent? Can’t we just talk Nigerian?
I haven’t noticed. [Just joking]. An OAP only needs to speak proper English. That means pronouncing words the way they are meant to be pronounced (you know English is not a Nigerian language and there are a lot of faulty conventions in the way English is spoken in Nigeria). If that OAP has a foreign accent all well and good. But if they don’t, they should just learn proper pronunciations of words. Unfortunately in striving for that excellence, some of them confuse it with faking an accent. Admittedly some media houses used to encourage this problem, but these days everybody knows better. Oral English here is corrupted, and we blend our ignorance with arrogance when it comes to speaking right. But there is a difference between speaking right and faking an accent.
KA: What part does education play in the life of an aspiring OAP?
Oh man, you have to keep improving yourself, from your English to specific aspects of the job…who wants to listen to a caveman? I have a Bsc. in Mathematics from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
KA: You have spent a decade and then some as an OAP; what would you consider your greatest achievements to date?
I promised myself that I would do a decade on radio before I do anything else, so yeah I am feeling a little fulfilled. I decided on a decade because I was super horrible when I started. So my greatest achievement has been winning over listeners who may have thrown up the first time they heard me. I couldn’t have left without making myself a little bit proud. As for what I will do next? I have some exciting plans which I can’t speak about.
KA: Kindly share some industry secrets with us…what does it take to embrace media and entertainment the way you have?
I grew up in Warri, Delta State, Lagos and Port Harcourt, Rivers State but today people laugh when I speak pidgin. I am not used to speaking it anymore so I sound funny whenever I do. You have to let pidgin go if you want to improve your English. As for your voice, there are a lot of resources on the internet that you could study to improve your voice. I get a lot of compliments for my voice. I say thank you but I know it didn’t always sound like this.
KA: Did you have to undergo further training or does a media personality come fully made?
When recruiting, we look for people with a broad knowledge base and it does help a whole lot if the person sounds intelligent. You can’t really learn that in school. But you have to train yourself in news reading, voice over work, etc.
KA: Advice for aspiring OAP’s?
Think hard about other things you could do when you get the job, especially because you will have some popularity you can leverage on. I don’t think your ‘fans’ even want you to be someone who does just one thing. It is dull. Also, don’t get carried away with the popularity. Be humble and respect everyone. Never assume that you are too much.
KA: Any mentors, sources of inspiration during your sojourn as an OAP?
Like I said earlier, our job involves harnessing one’s personality, so it is tough to call someone a mentor as people might interpret that to mean that you are copying your mentor’s personality. As for the concept of OAPs who can also DJ, that was inspired by Eldee. He set that standard and a lot of us under him emulated that. I owe much of my success to him because he gave me my shot and a chance when no one else did. He is a big hearted guy and a close personal friend.
KA: Inspire a young African in one sentence:
The 3 R’s that form the foundation of a good life are Reading, Running and most importantly, a Relationship with God.