Radio Jockey | 01 Nov 2004
“The success of a radio jockey depends on the kind of popularity he can generate by inspiring people to pick up the phone and say hello. And, people would talk to you only when you actually reach out to them. That way, I believe, the must-do for a radio jockey is to maintain a down-to-earth attitude so that listeners can comfortably make calls and speak their hearts out. I think this is the most important asset for a good radio jockey.”
Voice is no more the trump card in winning listeners on radio. The job of a radio jockey involves much more today. Ready wit, extempore ability, humour, knowledge, and, of all things, a genuine effort to associate with listeners – all this put together help play the perfect tune for radio jockeying. Red FM 93.5 (MHz) Kolkata’s RJ Sanjeeb Mukherjea is one such RJ who has carved a niche for himself within a very small time.
Famed for the daily morning show ‘Namaskar Kolkata’, Mukherjea is often seen in different Red FM stage shows and programming initiatives. A passionate singer and an avid reader, he believes it’s the era of constant innovation. To survive in the fast evolving world of radio, one has to be extremely thoughtful and alert. Over a discussion with Kumar Chatterjee of exchange4media, Mukherjea shares his views on the medium, the Kolkata audience and lots more. Excerpts:
Q. What inspired you to take up the job of a radio jockey?
Like any of the Kolkata guys of my age, I was brought up listening to lot of radio. Of course, it was only All India Radio then as there was no FM in our childhood days. However, as a kid, I was always very inquisitive to know how someone could accommodate himself within that small box and speak from inside and play music! This is perhaps what kindled an interest in me about radio. As I grew up, I started developing more interest in the way programmes were presented and determined to become a radio jockey.
If presenting a programme was all that mattered, I could have as well ventured into television but I preferred radio more because of the challenge it throws up. I believe radio is like sunshine to one’s personal world.
Q. How would you define the responsibilities of a radio jockey?
A radio jockey is the voice that connects the world to the listener. The most interesting part of radio is that it is a single-way connect – you can only hear me and I have no other way to attract the listener than by speaking. To ensure maximum perfection, the show must not have a single dull moment. A jockey has to introduce interesting aspects in the show and this can be done best by giving live inputs as we do at Red FM Kolkata. We have the maximum number of live feeds in a day.
Q. What is the mantra for a successful radio jockey?
Radio is no more just a medium of one-way entertainment. It is different from television or print because of its high degree of interactivity. No other medium can offer such high level of real-time interactivity with the listener. The success of a radio jockey depends on the kind of popularity he can generate by inspiring people to pick up the phone and say hello. And, people would talk to you only when you actually reach out to them. That way, I believe, the must-do for a radio jockey is to maintain a down-to-earth attitude so that listeners can comfortably make calls and speak their hearts out. I think this is the most important asset for a good radio jockey. An RJ has to be one of them. You cannot put on anything – radio doesn’t allow you to go under a garb. The most effective solution, to my belief, is to be what you are in your life.
Next, I think, it is the obvious gift of the gab. One must be fluent and most importantly, have a clarity in whatever he is saying. One needs to have a decent knowledge of music, awareness of happenings in and around the city, across the country and the world at large. Quick thinking, instant decision-making and the ability to act fast and execute – these are again characters that are essential for an RJ.
Q. Being a creative skill, radio jockeying calls for regular innovation in order to avoid monotony. How do you go about it?
Innovation is truly the main thing in our job. There’s always got to be a newness in whatever you deliver. I believe, one must think repeatedly. There’s no alternative and no shortcuts. Suppose something is happening in the city and everyone knows about it. But, as an RJ, you cannot ignore the issue. In that case, you need to say the same thing with a different punch in it that give it the most desired edge to woo the listener so that he would prefer to listen to you in spite of knowing everything from the newspaper. This is the trickiest part of the job. Successful RJs have the best ability to twist and turn their speech.
To keep up the entertaining mood, we often play different tricks – one of them being mimicking. Sometimes we imitate celebrities, sometimes change the voice to sound like an old man, for example. Actually, you cannot be artificial on radio. Be it exclamation or mere words – it has to be your own feelings that need to be conveyed to listeners.
Q. How do you update yourself to carry out your day-to-day job?
Staying updated is very important for a radio jockey. An RJ needs to keep track of happening in and around the city. At Red FM, we provide constant spot coverage on different issues – be it traffic, a corporate event or a movie release. As RJ, all of us in the squad try to stay abreast of different topical issues so that we can entertain our callers.
Q. You play the music that someone else has created. So, what is your credit in the entire operation? How does a radio jockey add value to programming?
Often we see a movie falling flat despite some of the super-hit numbers. We forget about the movie but the songs and the music remain immortal in our mind. Now, we play the supporting role to give the programme a holistic success. We play the best songs and the music, and as RJ, we give the prop. At Red FM, the music we play comes after lot of research; there are lot of add-ons that the show requires to create a perfect mix. And, putting all this together in the right chemistry is the task of an RJ. Interactivity – the lifeblood of the medium -- is solely dependant on the RJ.
I would like to mention here that at Red FM, we always do our bid to push the music by inserting information that is normally not known. Let me share a real-life experience. Once on a show, I received a call from an ardent fan of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. The enthused listener thanked us for playing an old Lata number where we offered the info that Kishore Kumar was the music composer for the song. This way, RJs play their role in supporting the music.
Q. Tell us about your morning show, ‘Namaskar Kolkata’. How do you prepare yourself to do the show every morning?
Namaskar Kolkata is a very, very interactive show. We receive a huge number of callers. And, we do up the show with lots of live coverage on traffic, happenings, weather report, and lot many things. Our motto is to graduate it to the level of a perfect wake-up show. We prefer speaking on topics that are top-of-the-mind and we jam in on them. Such topics inspire the listener to call up and share his or her views. We also speak to celebrities and promote young talent.
Coming to the second part of your question, I would say that morning shows are very important on radio. I co-anchor the show every morning. Today, Namaskar Kolkata is doing good and, I must say, this is a result of wonderful teamwork. We have a great team full of young blood and zest. This has helped Red FM Kolkata attain such great popularity.
Q. Being a city famed for cultural and intellectual activities, how is the audience in Kolkata different from that of Delhi or Mumbai?
As is said, every city has a different smell. For Kolkata, there is lots that’s different and absolutely unique. The best part of life in Kolkata is the people and their strange curiosity about everything happening across the world. When you travel by local bus or take the Metro rail to office, you will be bombarded with discussions and confabulations on topics ranging from politics to sport, business and movies. Everyone is vocal and each has his own viewpoint and argument. You can feel a strange passion in the discussion – it’s very original, very warm. Similarly, listeners in Kolkata are very participating. As an RJ, one has to be always on one’s toes because you never know what a caller might pop at you! The Kolkata audience is very challenging, very genuine and very vocal.
Q. You deal with the public directly. There must be various experiences you have had while talking to callers. Can you share some of the more unusual ones?
Well, everyday we experience countless moments of varied chemistry. It is very difficult to pick one or two. I cannot say what has been the most weird or unusual but I can tell you one or two very interesting ones. Once I was foxed by a young listener. This man called on a show when I was playing some witty trick by deviating from one topic to another in a weird fashion and was tagging every spell with a ‘mazaak kar raha tha (was making fun)’. Now, this listener called and started talking on something that was not the topic. When I crossed him, he chose to imitate me. It was good fun.
In another instance, I received a call from a little girl who made me dumbstruck. We were observing Father’s Day. This little girl called and spoke lots about her father, how she loved him, etc. She was very passionate in all that she said. We were all impressed. Then she ended the call saying that she lost her father the previous year. I was at a loss for words for several moments and struggled to end the conversation keeping it as normal as possible. Such incidences perhaps prove how close we get to our listeners.