From keeping night-owls company as she pushed to perfect her craft during the ‘graveyard’ slot, to now keeping the country entertained as they go about their weekends, Keabetswe Boya is definitely on a winning streak.
The Tuks FM alumnus, who graduated with a psychology degree from the University of Pretoria in 2019, and who is also the host of her own podcast, titled Inside Out with Keabi, is one of the newest radio DJs to join 5FM. She is part of the station’s line-up overhaul, which saw their previous vanguard of presenters make way for a new cohort of talented broadcasters.
Boya’s appointment at the Auckland Park-based radio station makes her a part of the many success stories to come out of UP, and more specifically, the university’s multi-award-winning campus radio station, Tuks FM. She joins a station that has previously been home to South African household names such as Anele Mdoda, Gareth Cliff and Rob Forbes, all fellow Tuks FM alumni. Boya joins the current line-up with big names such as Nick Hamman, Karabo Ntshweng, Nicole da Silva and fellow Tuks FM alumnus, Zanele Potelwa.
This is not the first time that Boya’s talent is recognised on a wide scale, as she was a part of the Tuks FM team that took away many awards at the 2019 Liberty Radio Awards, where Tuks FM still stands as the country’s most awarded radio station. The awards, dubbed the “Oscars of South African Radio”, also saw Boya walk away with the award for Best Afternoon Drive Show, as well as a nomination for Best Afternoon Drive Presenter that year, cementing her place in the radio industry as a talent to keep an ear out for.
In celebration of her recent achievements, and having been endowed with ‘The Power of 5’, PDBY caught up with Boya to discuss her journey in radio, and the steps it took leading up to this leap in her career in media.
When did the radio bug actually bite you?
The radio bug bit in 2016, just a few months after my first few shows on radio. Radio really wasn’t always the plan – I usually just tell people I “fell” into radio because from an early age, I had always aspired to be a television host instead. I just took radio as an extracurricular activity – but that was until I cried hysterically after my first graveyard show (02:00-04:00)! That’s when I realised that I actually really love this thing.
Tell us about how you joined Tuks FM in the first place.
On a regular Saturday morning, I was sitting with a colleague of mine, and I was being my usual, talkative self, when Gugu, a friend of mine, paused for a second, looked at me and said “Kea, you know you would sound really great on radio!” I asked her if applications were open for the station’s February intake, and she walked me to the Tuks FM studios where I filled in the forms. I then received a call to come in for an interview, and, well, the rest is history!
How was your time at Tuks FM? What was the experience like, from your first broadcast, right up to your last?
Well actually, the interesting thing about my TuksFM journey is that I was what you could call the “weakest link” among the volunteers selected during my intake. I messed up the station name during our mock show – which had to be done in the presence of all the other presenters! Based on this experience, I told my manager at the time that I could not do radio, and that I wanted to leave. He suggested that I do my first three live shows, and then I could make my decision to leave thereafter.
With that being said, the journey from then on out of absolute growth which saw me cross paths with amazing, talented individuals. I learnt a lot from my peers, my managers, the people I got the chance to interview, as well as the many individuals within the radio industry who would come to chat to us about their radio journeys.
Working at Tuks FM surely comes with some of the best experiences. Which of these experiences stood out to you?
Oh, my goodness! I have so many – I mean, being part of Tuks FM was a highlight in itself! But the two events that definitely come to mind are, firstly, being the first black woman in the history of the station to win the “Member of the Year” Award. It is awarded to the volunteer who consistently goes over and above the call of duty, who is enthusiastic, a top achiever in their department, makes a positive contribution and truly embodies what it means to be a Tuks FM volunteer, and secondly, getting the chance to interview the Deputy Minister in The Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize.
Winning any award is a big deal but winning a Liberty Radio Award is a massive deal! Can you recall how it felt being in the venue as a part of the Tuks FM team and winning those awards?
Yoh! It felt surreal! It was absolutely amazing because that year, we celebrated Tuks FM winning Campus Station of the year. What made it even sweeter was that it was the first time after two whole years that we hadn’t taken it home. It encouraged me to work even harder. Our programme manager always encouraged us never to make winning an award our sole focus, because not winning would make us think we weren’t talented, which isn’t always the case. But it was really a beautiful moment of recognition, as well as a true encouragement to work hard.
The first week of April is known as the “radio shuffle season” in South Africa, as most radio stations change their offerings and switch up their line-ups for the next year. The SABC’s national youth-oriented radio station, 5FM, underwent a line-up overhaul, cheekily dubbed a “System Upgrade”. To much fanfare, the station released its new, much anticipated line-up, which saw a refreshed daytime line-up on the weekdays and weekends. This line-up saw Boya take over the coveted weekend afternoon spot from 14:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Boya tells PDBY about her shift from campus radio at Tuks FM to commercial – and nationwide – radio at 5FM.
The move from campus radio to commercial radio is always a massive deal. Tell us about the journey to 5FM and how this opportunity came about.
You know, these things are tricky! I genuinely believe that it’s all a matter of timing. I had been sending my demos to the programming manager on a weekly basis throughout the whole of 2020. Early this year, I was contacted by the station manager, JD Mostert. I almost fainted when he texted me! Like, I had to breathe because my heart was beating out of my chest upon the realisation that my dream was about to come true. He then asked to meet up with me, and it’s during this meeting that he offered me a show on 5FM.
Any commercial radio job is huge – but it goes without saying that 5FM is colossal. It’s easily one of the most recognisable stations and brands in South Africa. How does it feel knowing you’re a part of what is often regarded as “The Voice of the South African Youth”?
I am, to this day, still struggling to wrap my head around that reality. It’s absolutely surreal and it’s really humbling. I must say, it’s a tad bit intimidating because it comes with a huge responsibility, but I am really just enjoying finding my way in this industry.
You currently find yourself on the same station line-up as big names in radio like Nick Hamman, Nicole da Silva, and the iconic Roger Goode. How does it feel to be listed alongside such greats in the radio industry?
I never get used to it! I think it will take some time because I really try not to be a fangirl when I meet these broadcasters. I have also just had to make the mental shift that this is the field I am in now. I am sharing the same space with some radio legends of our time, and I could not be more grateful.
Speaking of mental shifts, how did you manage to deal with the shift of broadcasting to just the Greater Tshwane area when you were at Tuks FM, to being on 5FM and broadcasting to the whole country?
Honestly, I am still dealing with the shift. It still scares me to hear someone send in a voice note saying they are from Bloemfontein in the Free State or Cape Town in the Western Cape – I am yet to get used to that. I have also had to stretch myself in terms of the manner in which I create content for my show. It’s not just centred around Pretoria or Gauteng anymore, but it needs to be inclusive of the entire country. So, in that sense, it has brought a lot of growth, not just in my work as a broadcaster, but also personally.
Finally, for someone still putting in the effort at a campus or community radio station, what advice would you give them about breaking out into the commercial radio industry?
Work hard. Focus on your craft. You won’t always love what you do but commit yourself to it. Have a solid reason for why you’re doing this, because that is what will keep you going when your peers get ahead of you, when your journey delays and when you feel like quitting. This journey is a journey of patience, so make sure you have your faith to keep you strong as you embark on it.
Listen to Keabetswe Boya on weekend afternoons every Saturday and Sunday between 14:00 and 17:00 on 5FM (98.0 or 103.6FM in Johannesburg and Pretoria respectively or stream live on 5fm.co.za). You can also listen to her podcast, Inside Out with Keabi, which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcast platforms. Follow her at @keabi. boya on Instagram as well as @Kea_Boya on Twitter.