NAIROBI, Kenya Sept 23 – As Capital FM marked celebrations to mark its 25th anniversary of being The Best Mix of Music, news and entertainment, you may have seen the poster doing the rounds on the social media simply stating, “And on the 9th Month, Lynda Holt said; “Let there be sound!”
This spin-off of the creation story that was adopted by the Capital Group Creative and Digital team points to the critical role, Holt played in the liberalization of the country’s airwaves by pioneering Kenya’s first private FM radio station.
With KBC’s General Service as the main provider of radio entertainment, Lynda as she prefers to be called, was dreaming up an uprising; one that would revolutionise the drab nature of Kenyan airwaves in a way that she would never have imagined.
She recalls how in 1996 she lobbied to have the Frequency License to prop up a station where people were not afraid to have fun while working. This led to a court tussle over the Capital FM brand name which another state-backed entity had attempted to wrestle from her.
“We got the license because I did not want to have news due to the controlled environment that existed then. But KBC was not pleased with that and they stole my name, my Capital FM, and we went to court and we won,” she said on the station’s Drive-Inn show on Wednesday morning.
Lynda describes Capital FM as a ‘passion project’ which developed the now famous logo ‘of the morning sun peeping from the side of Lonrho House’ while sitting in her room.
“The idea was to bring rock to Kenya, and bring a choice of music that you could listen to, so I believe it was received so well. The greatest thing about Kenyans having peculiar habits and not being loyal to one number is that if you introduce new things to them they absolutely love it. So when we introduced rock and Rock Nights at The Carnivore, it was so easy to do,” she said.
As the interview progresses on, like a mother speaking about her favourite child, she reveals what inspired her to fight for the 98.4 frequency.
“I wanted 98.4 because that is your blood temperature in Fahrenheit, and I wanted us to be the heartbeat of Nairobi,” she said.
Capital FM; Eternal Family
Lynda, says when she started the station she wanted a place where it felt like family, a trait that she observes has been carried on for 25 years.
She points out that she was pleasantly surprised to be met by Esther (the Company’s famed tea lady) and Chepkonga who have been with the station from inception but even more humbling for her was the reception she received from the staff who joined the company after 2003 when she sold it to businessman the late Dr. Chris Kirubi.
“Capital FM is one of the highlights of my life. I am so proud of the team that has managed to keep it going, because we are one big family, and we will always be one big family. In all the events that we had, everybody came, they were not there to work, they were part of the team and the family. I believe it was part of my job to bring everybody together,” she said.
Caroline Mutoko: A bad receptionist but the Queen of Radio
When the station started, Lynda says she knew what she needed to get her dream on a footing at least and a big part of that was recruiting radio guru Phil Matthews who was among the 50 people she interviewed in London and so together, in 1996, The Best Mix of Music 98.4 Capital FM was born.
“We bought in BBC trainers, to train people and we were very strict about the format of the station and prior to that I don’t think there had been any form of structure to programming and I think we brought in that and everybody had to stick to it,” Linda recalled during her interview with Drive-Inn Presenters Fareed Khimani and Davina Leonard.
But along the way, Lynda’s urge to constantly bring out the best out of any situation, she often came across some undiscovered raw talent literally before her. One of these happy coincidences was Caroline Mutoko, a leading Kenyan media personality with a radio career that spans more than 15 years.
Lynda recalls that she and the then Programmes Controller Phil Matthews decided to give Mutoko, her on-air debut after they heard her sassy voice on the phone where she used to answer calls at Capital FM’s reception.
Mutoko is recognised as the first female broadcaster to command the airwaves with her ability to tackle controversial topics during a radio career spanning over 15 years.
“Kenya’s Oprah started here. She is one of the biggest names in media in Kenya, East Africa and even in the United States (of America). I have an ear for voices that discovered the likes of Fareed, Jo Thoenes, Zain Verjee, Caroline Mutoko, and that is important,” she said.
Plant a tree not those ugly billboards
Lynda says she is now turning her attention to pulling corporates to support the country’s reforestation agenda, through a company called African Forest.
“I am doing a CSR programme and I am hoping that a lot of corporates will spend some money on growing trees instead of having those ugly billboards. So we are giving them hectares of land and we will grow and nurture the trees for them for a period of three years,” she explained.
The pioneer media owner turned philanthropist says she started the project last year with beach clean-ups which she notes were very successful and also provided a source of income for people at a time when the tourism industry had been rocked following the global outbreak of the COVID-19.
Below are some of the pictures of Capital FM’S 25th anniversary that was marked in September 2021.