OFM’s breakfast show is a laughing clinic everybody deserves, writes Ace Moloi
The big breakfast in bed
The fantasy of having breakfast in bed has never attracted me, mainly because its sustainability is as impossible a task as flying a kite without the wind. Yet, as of late, I have fallen in love—and accordingly developed irrational desires only love can stir. So I have now started having breakfast with half my body in blankets.
The food is served always on time, in sync with my appetite, and delivered on the 94 – 97 frequency modulation. It is clean: nothing too messy to handle. It is rich: it contains my health necessities. Plus, there’s good music that goes with it.
The Big Breakfast (The BB) is OFM’s morning star show that airs from 06:00 to 09:00 weekdays. It is driven by Martin van der Merwe, who sharpened his tongue on University of Pretoria’s award-winning radio station, TUKS FM, as the shepherd who herds the cattle back home and keeps them together amid the afternoon traffic chaos.
What’s on the menu?
The BB is a laughing clinic of Central South Africa’s biggest commercial radio station. This premier show is built on humour, wit, relevance and good music. With the number of competitions and adverts on it, the listener can tell that the show is a commercial success for OFM. But it goes beyond the books. It’s about radio as an art of intimate yet distant imagination. It is about emotion. Connectedness. Oneness. Strange familiarity.
To stay in touch with OFMers, the show has an active Twitter account and blog, which solidify established relationships. It is effortless to access podcasts and stay updated about the show at large. Although the Twitter followership of The BB is not even 10% of OFM’s 52 200, it is a smart move on the side of the team to keep every channel open for increased reach.
With the involved presence of his producer, Duncan Bayne, and the sports anchor, Adrian Botha, the Centurion boy makes magic in the OFM kitchen. To him and his crew, nothing is ever safe from comedy. Their sarcasm is jaw-dropping, their comebacks heart-stopping and their candour eish-inducing. As soon as they go live, you know it’s OFM O’ clock.
I sometimes wonder how Ladybrand-born traffic anchor Christina Kouveldt copes with the testosterone in studio. Speaking of which, and although the station’s website describes her as a “chilled” character, I think she can be a bit more active – plus energetic – on the show. I used to say the same thing with Radio 2000’s Kia Johnson who dishes traffic updates on the station’s hilarious breakfast show, but the fact that she’s not in the same studio with Just Ice and Lelo Mzaqa explains her distance.
But with Christina I think something can be done, so that it’s not just the image of the breakfast team that is diverse, but its voice too.
The argument could be forwarded that she is the calm voice needed in the charged boys club. Fair, indeed. Except that it sometimes feels like the show has split personalities: there’s The BB of Martin, Adriaan and Duncan here, and The BB of Christina elsewhere.
The therapy of laughter
If the first activity of your morning is to laugh out loud, then you have all you need to tackle the day ahead. Laughter, it is said, reduces stress, medicates you against pain and gives you an extra boost in your relationships with others.
Some people hold a view that if you can reach a stage of laughing about your past, you have nailed your healing process. If you can laugh about it, you can love from it. There’s a profound sense of relief that follows a laughing exercise. There’s joy, contentment, acceptance and bright colours of love. There’s a hope, strength, will and purpose. There’s life.
Additionally, laughter can be a front that disguises hurt and grief. In other words, its function in this context is of a defence mechanism.
I find that it doesn’t matter why a person is laughing; they are laughing nonetheless. Our body and its network of muscles can’t tell a fake or felt laughter. If US-based rapper Nas won in reminding us that no idea is original, why would we bother ourselves with the authenticity of a giggle?
Human nature is constantly creative and adventurous. So, there is actually speculation about the type of a person’s laughter and what it gives away about them: can it be used to determine their IQ? In one of the episodes of The BB, this is the question that was asked, and I found the engagement quite interesting, especially because my laughter is of curry.
Morning and not mourning radio
What would you do if a presenter declared a specific day an unlucky day, and went on to invite you to call in and share with him your anecdotes of misfortune barely two hours into your day? Or allows you to call in and vent about your week? Actually, imagine yourself just waking up and laughing before you can even brush your teeth. Well, OFMers will catch the drift. I mean, this is their daily bread, given unto them in the funniest of ways.
The first time I listened to the show I thought to myself, “Gareth, is that you?”
This is because this kind of crazy radio, with its “what is he going to say next?” grip and gloves off commentary on social phenomena was best marketed by former 5FM breakfast show host, Gareth Cliff.
Gareth, like Phat Joe, made us believe that sometimes the script must be shredded and, with its pieces, recycled into on-air spontaneity. “Yes, I know what the spin doctor said. I’ve read media reports too. But what’s MY take on this?” every presenter must self-interrogate.
An outcome of this honest evaluation will, I hope, bear fruits for the listeners at home, on the road, on the move. It already does for OFMers who assemble every morning for their share of the biggest breakfast in Central South Africa.
Raw and “unscripted” radio is not without contextual analysis, of course. There’s a degree of seriousness that reigns supreme, and which can’t be compromised. On 10 October 2017 I woke up to an interview of Dr Ian Westmore by Martin van der Merwe, which showed the other side of the BCom Marketing graduate.
He understood the sensitivity around mental health so well that he never even once attempted a joke about the matter. The line of questioning itself was short-winded, precise and outcome-based.
Also, the conversation was conducted in English, unlike with some of his interviews which are done in Afrikaans. I think this came from a realisation of the universality of depression and anxiety—a realisation that can only be picked up by an alert mind.
Who is an OFMer?
Of course my politics will always problematise the station’s inability to mature from English/Afrikaans and include Sesotho in its language quota. This is not even about a transformation agenda that will obviously be collapsed by invoking the station’s broadcasting licence specs.
Rather, it’s an appeal to the beating heart, because there are many people across Free State who listen to OFM religiously, yet do not have proper representation as organs of the 94 – 97 FM body.
I come from a village situated at what looks like the end of the world, but the masses there love OFM. Every shack you pass has a speaker out and a “die klank van jou lewe” jingle on repeat. I was excited, in my first year, when I passed OFM’s premises. For years this station had been my friend, and here I was, walking past it. Black child, it’s possible.
Truth is, there are many of us. We may not have the buying power to act on advertisements. People who speak our language may not own restaurants and supermarkets. But we exist, and would feel noticed if we can really hear the sound of our life.
A view from the white house
Nevertheless, OFM deserves my respect for representing our province excellently in national radio awards. This year the show under review – The Big Breakfast Show – was a finalist in the Liberty Radio Awards. In almost every year’s nomination list, the station features.
This is indicative of the possibility of a well-run, commercially thriving, high-quality programming and attractive radio institution.
It serves as a model for benchmarking for everyone who is in the business of radio in the province.
It is clear that there’s greater symbolism in the colour of the building in which OFM broadcasts from—a symbolism that transcends whiteness. It’s a structure of authority, leadership, dominance, prosperity and creativity.
These are the values that define Martin van der Merwe’s radio and social personality. He imports his love for sport to the studio, and spreads its values of constant improvement, self-competition and preparedness across the provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, North West and the Vaal region of Gauteng every morning. With this and more that is yet to come, he has successfully positioned himself as a host of first choice for some of Central South Africa’s biggest events.
I think to broadcast from the centremost part of a nation is in itself a sign of superiority and reliability, so that should Irish Poet W.B Yeats’ things insist on falling apart, The Big Breakfast Show will be the centre we all pray holds.
Ace Moloi is the Editor of ART STATE and Author of HOLDING MY BREATH. He is @Ace_Moloi on Twitter