By Prudence Minayo
Journalists come and go but some stick around for a pretty long time. These breed of media personalities ooze talent and are simply irreplaceable. Fred Obachi Machoka is one such talent who has for decades remained ever fresh. He was the host of the popular TV music show ‘Music Time’ and a host of other popular shows on radio.
He now hosts roga roga show aired on Citizen TV and radio, a program that promotes rhumba music. He has been in the highly competitive industry since 1975.
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His exact age isn’t known but he is in his early seventies.
A young Fred was working as a GSU (General Service Unit) soldier at the Northern frontier when he discovered his talent as a journalist. The year was 1975 when he heard of a competition branded “SANYO juu SANYO talks”. Since he had nothing to lose, he tried it out and surprisingly won. He had to pick is prize ‘Sanyo radio’ from Nairobi. The program producer met him and commented on his unique voice. The then GSU officer was asked if he would be interested in radio broadcasting. Though he was still in the GSU, he agreed to try it out. They gave him the job of promoting SANYO electronics which were doing poorly in the market. He helped popularize it with a five-minute advertisement on KBC, known as VOK (Voice of Kenya) at the time. The campaign was so successful that in the span of three years SANYO became a top selling electronics brand in Kenya.
Resignation from GSU
A year later, Obachi resigned from service:
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“ Having worked in the forces for 4 years, I felt I had served my time. In addition, the Northern Frontier was an extremely harsh environment and it was also traumatic to loose friends and colleagues daily as this was the time of the Shifra war,” Obachi explained.
Despite being new to journalism, the determined young man worked hard to improve his skills. The former program host, the late Said Sonko, was very patient with him and taught him everything. He also went back to college to pursue public relations and advertising.
He established himself in commercial broadcasting. Coming up with promotional concepts about companies was his forte. The most popular shows he broadcasted are:
- Seng’enge ni ng’ombe
- Ugua pole na Lucozade
- Sportsman ni sawa hasa
- Mchanganyiko maalum na Bitchman
The accomplished man also hosted two music shows on KCB: Talk of Time and Music Time.
In 1988, he began his outfit FM 35 (Fred Machoka at 35) His main focus was still commercial broadcasting.
In 2002, Citizen radio approached him for a gig. At first he was quite hesitant since it was a new station competing with big stations, like, metro radio. Taking a leap of faith, he joined the station and started hosting rogaroga. Within no time, ratings were even higher than ‘Sheki legi’ (shake your leg), which was a popular musical show on metro radio back then. The roga roga show airs up to date and is now even on Citizen TV.
He told Parents Magazine of his entry to Roga Roga show:
“Despite my initial apprehension, I took a leap of faith and agreed to the deal. At the time Citizen radio was facing a lot of competition from Metro radio, which had a popular musical show dubbed Shaki Legi (shake your leg). I launched an African musical show, Rogaroga, and within three months was at per in ratings with Shaki Legi. By the time we were at six months my show was leading. Now, 15 years on, Rogaroga remains the number one radio show in its segment and has fans from all over the country”
In today’s world, marriages are synonymous with divorce, especially among couples in the public eye. Not Fred Obachi’s marriage. The veteran journalist has been married to Sophie for four decades. They have 4 grown up kids and two grandchildren as of the year 2017. In an interview, he revealed that in marriage people have to work at making it successful. At first, Sophie hated the fame but learnt to live with it as time went by.
“For instance, there will be times when my wife and I are out on a date and our peace is disrupted by enthusiastic fans demanding my attention. This really bothered her in her younger days but now she is okay with it,” explained Fred.
Fred Obachi mentors young people in the industry but also has a ranch in Kajiado. It specializes in barbecue cuisine and a host of activities, such as, horse riding, quad biking, farm tours, picnics and children’s playground. The general manager of the business is his son, Victor Machoka, nicknamed sheriff because of his dressing style.
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