Starr 103.5 FM, Meridian House – Accra
It’s a minute to midday. Dark and muscly, Kweku Obeng Adjei struts briskly from the Komla Dumor newsroom into the studio across, a Lenovo laptop in his sturdy hand, an expression on his face which spells strictly, business. He’s shadowed by a petite young lady of similar complexion. As they enter the studio, colleague broadcaster Kofi Okyere Darko, has just wrapped up his duties on mid-morning show “The Zone” and is on his way out.
A giant table occupies the center of the room. On it rests an iconic console whose channel faders are regularly caressed by on-air titans Bola Ray, Francis Abban, Giovanni & Berla Mundi, Jon Germain, Nii Aryee Tagoe among others. Black microphones, and swivel chairs surround the desk, and the day’s major newspapers rest on a small cabinet in the back. On a muted flat screen TV on the wall behind the glass door, an Al-Jazeera documentary is showing.
Kweku settles in the chair behind the console, from where he is faced directly by one of the microphones, three computer monitors, and a wide section of Ghana’s capital, who will be at the end of his voice in seconds. He sets the Lenovo down, beside the console, and begins to whisper something as he stares at the screen. The lady with whom he has just entered, offering production assistance, also sets up by his side. Suddenly, the familiar jingle announcing the Starr Midday News is heard in speakers in the top corners of the room. The news is live.
For the next half-hour, Accra and beyond, will be equipped with the very latest news items across governance, business, international happenings, and sports.
Classily attired in a chequered long-sleeved shirt, Kweku radiates the calm charisma of one truly in charge, his eyes darting about purposefully in this high-pressure enterprise, squinting at the screen of the Lenovo, working channel faders on the console, monitoring the fleeting hands on the wall clock, nodding for a voice clip to be played, whispering instruction to Ms. Petite, or taking feedback from behind the glass window to this left, bracing for an interview, mouthing the next story…
“I’ve always known that radio was going to be my thing”, says Kweku in his signature gentle manner, recounting how, as far back as his primary school days at John Teye Memorial, he has exhibited traits of broadcasting. This desire to utilize his voice even that young, led him to join such groups as the arts and debate clubs. Today, his old classmates aren’t surprised by his exploits, as hearing his voice invokes fond memories of the Class 5 pupil who once voiced a radio promo for his school’s anniversary celebration.
Possessing a soothing sleekness in a way that entrances you, Kweku’s voice is literally music to the ear. It is textured in a such a smooth tone and smooth inflections that everything it utters is instantly convincing. And as is the consequence of dedicating one’s self to radio, the voice is more popular that the person himself. He knows all about it, and has seemingly even made peace with it: “a lot of people don’t know my face but know my voice. Because I’ve been to places where, once I open my mouth and I’m talking, people then know and are able to relate, and even mention my name”.
For as long as Starr FM has been in existence (since 2014), Kweku Obeng Adjei has manned the afternoon bulletin. With a voice designed for radio, a superior interview technique, and an overall professional edge, he has earned an unquestionable spot among the nation’s top -notch anchors. Further testament: last year, he was adjudged Best Newscaster of the Year (English Language) at the Radio and Television Personality (RTP) Awards, and has been nominated on a number of other occasions. This year, due to how effectively he has maintained his steam, he may well retain it.
Owned by the Bola Ray – led EIB Network, Starr FM towers high in the media terrain. In order to maintain this rank, people like Kweku must remain on top of their game at all times. There is no room for mistakes, as the company risks a dip in ratings as a result. This is where trusted voices as his come into play. Master of the mic, Kweku’s many years of experience, starting from Radio Univers, through Joy FM, Choice FM, and then Power FM (which is now Starr), have purged him of the kind of pressure which accompanies this job.
“It’s just about doing what you have to do, and ensuring that you’re applying all the skills and ethics of the profession. So for instance, if you’re do interviews, you have to ensure that you have information about what you’re going to be talking about. You must also know who you’re going to be interviewing, because you don’t want to go on air and mess up. So there isn’t much pressure, but, of course, you must be on alert, because you never know what can be thrown at you” he posits. He can afford to say that now, because of how many years of professional service he has chalked. In addition, the brands which he has been associated with in the past, have built in him the confidence of a veteran.
“Because of competition and who may be on air around the same time you do the bulletin, you must always ensure that your presentation is apt and on-point, and you have all the big stories on your plate. For me in particular, I have worked with some of these competitive stations so I know how their bulletins are prepared, I know how the presentation is done. But of course, currently with Starr FM, I always focus on what I’m supposed to do to ensure that my brand is leading, and a choice for many”, he adds.
A reliable hand, Kweku not only runs the midday bulletin, but also produces a number of other programmes, sits in for other OAPs from time to time, and is a mentor to burgeoning broadcasters. His work culture is remarkable, and his contribution to modern Ghanaian radio, is just as noteworthy. Still, many hold that he doesn’t get as much credit for his efforts…that he may even be underrated.
But the broadcaster disagrees, stressing that he is acclaimed in the industry — where it matters: “I don’t think I’ve been underrated. I know my stuff. I have worked at great places, and at all these places, I have been able to deliver”.
During commercial break, an editor appears by the door: “let’s do something on Togo”. He vanishes almost as suddenly as he appears. A lady walks in and hands in a piece of paper with information hastily scribbled on it. Sports anchor Dennis Mepouri walks in to present the sports, and then rushes back to the newsroom, which is engrossed in usual seriousness; eyeballs staring keenly at the screens of computers, fingers tapping away on keyboards, assignments being written on a nearby white board. Named after Ghanaian broadcasting icon Komla Dumor (formerly of the BBC), the hall is home to many of the country’s brightest young journalists, who hope to follow in the steps of the late Dumor.
Like many newsreaders in this town, Kweku cites Dumor among his idols (alongside Matilda Asante, who gave him his first real break at Joy, Tommy Annang Forson, and mogul and boss Bola Ray, whom he also now considers a brother and friend), admitting that even today, he occasionally resorts to Komla’s old videos to, among other things, “relive and learn”.
“We all don’t know why he had to leave that early”, says Kweku after a pensive pause, “but Komla was a symbol on the way that, if you wanted to be a journalist …if you wanted to build a standard or class for yourself, you’d look up to him, and I think that his values, his ethics, [and] the zeal with which he performed his duties professionally, encouraged most of us to give this profession all our hope and all our energy.
“Through studying Komla, we realized that journalism is very powerful. I mean, you had the mic to make and unmake, to impact lives, to straighten issues, and to hold people accountable”.
Though he worked at Joy FM, Kweku never got to work with Komla Dumor, as he was on his way to the BBC at the time. Nevertheless, Kweku regularly picked up a thing or two from him, often tuning in to the BBC in anticipation of Komla’s unmistakable smile.
To Kweku, Joy FM proved an impactful grooming platform, where he learned to read the news, conduct interviews, package stories to make an impact. At the Kwesi Twum- owned establishment, Kweku also learned key nuggets as patience, enduring frustrations, and navigating egos –all elements that have steeled him up as a formidable professional. At Starr FM, he has certainly blossomed into a real star!
As far as classic men go, Kweku cannot be overlooked. Always dapper in a blazer or crisp African print, the radio gem also stands among truly well-dressed men in these parts. Radio or not, Kweku believes that elegant dressing (which he picked up from boarding school days, and by associating with sharply-dressed colleagues/ friends) does something to one’s own confidence, and inadvertently influences output.
Behind these microphones, thirty minutes pass very fast, and every second counts. But when you have executed the bulletin as well as Kweku has just done, you too can afford a habitual calm sigh of accomplishment like he’s just breathed.
He makes his way back to the Komla Dumor Newsroom, slightly more relaxed than he came in …Lenovo in hand, and Ms Petite following. A mountain of work still awaits on his desk in the newsroom, as is a rice dish which will be consumed quickly, and out of necessity. A journalist has no rest.
*Born in Accra, and husband to “Pretty Anita”, Kweku is alumnus of Mfantsipim, NIIT, the University of Ghana, and the Ghana Institute of Journalism.