5 Mins With Zweli Mbhele

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Zweli Mbhele (24), famously known as Zweli B Magic, has been working the commercial airwaves for Joburg’s hit radio station, 947 (previously known as Highveld Stereo). We caught up with him to know more about his career.

Zweli

How did the 947 gig come about?

While working for campus radio, a friend of mine who had been working for 947 recommended me to the programming manager. I was asked to provide the station with clips of the shows I had done at campus radio. After an interview that went well, I got the job.

We have seen you present on the 947 videos and promos. You clearly have a talent for television presenting, so why do radio?

It has been something I have always wanted to do. In high school, I was always interested in performance art activities such as drama. I’d like to think I’m good with speaking to people, so this field works for me.

You first worked at Voice of Wits (VOW) FM. Tell us about that experience.

I grew up listening to a lot of radio; If I wasn’t listening to it, I would pretend I was on the radio. It was thus only fitting that I do campus radio when I got to Wits University, where I learnt useful ways to make radio work for me. Campus radio doesn’t need formal training as you would for a commercial radio station. I personally think you cannot study radio, especially if you want to be a radio presenter. I think to make it in the industry you have to know your audience, make people want to listen and interact with you. It’s about personality, more than anything.

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Did you have to study any other courses in relation to what you are doing now?

I studied Media, which has worked in my favour. Being a Witsie prepared me to stomach the workload that comes with this career. Because of the work ethic I got there, I can handle anything. However, everything else is skills-based, which I had to acquire outside my course.

Tell us about your experience with 947, how has it been so far?

It has been great. I think we lead the pack because we are innovative and trendsetters. We are also up to date with the digital age, which has been a good experience for me. The station is one big happy family I am happy to be a part of.

What does it take to make it into commercial radio after working for a community or campus station?

There are a few:

  • You need a lot of patience, because you just might not get the job. The misconception people have is that you will work for a campus station, build a big brand for yourself and quickly move up the ranks with an afternoon drive slot. But that isn’t the case. Once you start your journey at a commercial radio station, you have to work your way up, doing graveyard shifts.
  • Another thing, you have to be a people’s person; that allows you to understand your listeners when interacting with them. You have to remember that you deal with all kinds of people and have to make each and every one of them feel like a part of your show.
  •  And you must learn time management. I’m still trying to figure this one (laughs). Be flexible and prioritise.

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Would you say you have everything it takes to do radio?

Not at all! I’m still learning, looking to improve and find ways to better myself. I’m still gaining experience, which serves as important learning curves. But, I’m enjoying the space I’m in.

Besides being a 947 presenter, what else do you do?

I do some of the digital content for the 947 website and I’m also a club DJ.

Any last tip to aspiring radio DJs?

Do radio because you love it. Your love for it should go way beyond getting paid for it. The more effort and time you put into it, the better the reward.