An interview with legendary Bra Max ‘The Mixer Boy’ Mojapelo, an award winning radio personality, an author, researcher and music compiler of note. He is currently a host of a lunch hour radio show called ‘Disa fisha’ from 12h00 to 14h00, Mondays to Fridays at ThobelaFM (SABC). Bra Max Mojapelo talking to King Mavuthela of Ubuntu FM Africa.
King Mavuthela: Welcome on Ubuntu FM Africa and thanks for your time Bra Max
Bra Max Mojapelo: Thanks for the opportunity my King. It is both honor and privilege to guest on this truly African station that promotes the essence of who we are as Africans – Ubuntu. I am because you are!
King Mavuthela: Who is Max ‘The Mixer Boy’ Mojapelo to those who do not know you? Tell us brief about your background.
MM: Max Mojapelo is a village boy at heart. I was born in a small and intimate village called Matome, named after the mountain under whose shade it peacefully rests. I was culturally, emotionally and spiritually wired by the village environment. My African-ness can still be traced back to my childhood upbringing. In most situations I encounter in my daily life, I am informed by the village norms and standards before I can draw any reference from this modern life.
KM: Your love for radio started at a very young age and that feeling stayed with you for years. Even though you had such a feeling but went on to study for a teaching diploma and taught for eight years. I wonder how was like?
MM: It was like driving a car using a learners’ licence with the hope and wish that one day I’ll have the real thing – a drivers’ licence. You see my King, teaching and broadcasting are almost the same game, except that the classroom restricts you to four walls whilst radio is a far wider platform. The classroom presents you with learners who have faces whilst on the radio you talk to faceless people some of whom are more educated, exposed, wealthier and experienced than you. Radio compels you to conduct thorough research in order to educate, inform and entertain with confidence.
KM: You ultimately end up on radio as a radio announcer? How and when did that happen?
MM: In December 1982, a day after I had finished marking my subject.
KM: Max was a teacher before becoming a radio announcer.
KM: Wow! That showed you were more than ready for the big challenge. How did you find radio now that you were living it and doing what you wanted to do for years?
MM: A blessing! A calling from above! From day one, I was prepared to serve my audience to the best of my ability. For me, the sky was not the limit, but my dreams were. I won almost every radio competition in my time to prove that I was the best among my peers. I also thank God for allowing me to climb the broadcast ladder step by step until I became a station manager and led a team of radio men and women who called me their “Coach”.
KM: After a number of years, if not mistaken a career span of more than 20 years, you decided to leave radio. What prompted that decision? What were you doing during your absence from radio?
MM: You see my king, before I joined radio I was also an author. That is why when I became station manager, I made it clear that I would hold that position for only five years. By the time I left the station, I had too many dreams about researching, recording, publishing and preserving stories about our musicians, kings, authors, athletes, politicians, heroes and leaders in general. Being a station manager allowed me no space to achieve these dreams. I joined a team of likeminded men and women to write academic books for the new South Africa. On the other hand, I completed my long-cherished dream of writing about the history of the South African music industry in the form of a book titled “Beyond Memory”. Whilst I was a part-time music lecturer at the University of Pretoria, I got involved in music projects of musician like The Soul Brothers and Dr Sello Galane. I was also chairman of a community radio station in our township, Lebowakgomo.
KM: That’s great Bra Max. This brings us to the question about “Beyond memory” a book you wrote. What drove you to write this book?
MM: I always had a feeling that while musicians and artists of other nations were recognized and profiled, our African stars were either omitted or ignored. Due to that kind of exposure, many of our youngsters hero-worshipped foreigners and bought their music at the expense of their own. Even after I wrote the book, I still believe that much has to be done to instill pride and patriotism in our people, especially the youth. I’m thankful to God for giving me dynamic people like Dr Sello Galane who made it possible for the book to be available world-wide on the net.
KM: Indeed a book I believe any music loving person who is keen to know more about South African music must have. It really documented a lot of stories about musicians and history of South African music. I am fortunate to have a copy with me here. I cannot stop reading it. It is my reference book. How much did it take to be successful in answering questions and circumstances that made you write it?
MM: It didn’t take me too long because it is based on my dairies and memoirs as a radio presenter. Being on radio offers you the privilege to meet, mix and mingle with very special and high-ranking individuals and if you do not record such meetings and discussions, you’ll regret it someday. Most of the information in the book is based on the one-on-one interviews I had with the musicians, promoters, managers, producers, engineers, composers and record company executives.
KM: In 2011 you made a comeback on radio after so many years oozing with the same confidence, passion and drive and focusing on playing the old school or should I say way-back music. Why such music and how your listeners responding to it? What is the significant of continuing playing such music on radios?
MM: The confidence, passion and drive flow from my knowledge about golden oldies; the hits, the stars, the companies, the years and the cover versions. I was always passionate about music and growing under the watchful eye of my musician uncle, Jimmy Mojapelo meant that our discussions were always about new releases, gold discs, platinum discs and the Grammys. He also taught me how to compose songs but denied me the opportunity to play music instruments as he wanted me to continue with my education. The drive is derived from the feedback I receive from my millions of listeners across the country who always urge me not to drop the ball.
KM: You have gone to an extent of releasing compilation album under the name ‘Chirichiri’ Volume 1, 2 and hope 3. What prompted you to come up with such initiative? Is it distributed wide enough for people to buy them as most this songs you can’t find them anywhere these days or can music loving people access these compilations?
MM: Most of the music I play in my show, Di Sa Fisha (Still Red-Hot) is not available in CD form; it is still on the old LP’ and 45 singles. The listeners’ demand for the hits to be recorded on CD pushed me to find ways and means to do this. I had to do it legally by registering the tracks with SAMRO and apply for copyright approval. Each CD contains 14 tracks and every song is played in full for listener’s satisfaction. Though available in some music shops, distribution remains the biggest challenge due to piracy and high profit demands from the distributers.
KM: It is indeed a good thing you doing. It is important to make our music available to play and appreciate it. Our musicians deserve all the support. On 24 September 2016, on a Heritage Day in South Africa, there was a launch of a book ‘Never Say Never’ written by Dr. Tlou Setumu. Share with us what the book is all about? Why such title?
MM: The book is my biography, written by heritage activist, Dr Tlou Setumu. When I left the SABC, he thought I was lost to the radio world and felt that he had to tell the world about me. He grew up listening to my shows and says most of the achievements in my career were like miracles. The title was inspired by my achieving many things that people thought could never be achived. A rural boy who became king of the airwaves; a young radio presenter who won almost every competition; a radio presenter who became the first African Specialist Announcer; the station manager who came back to be a presenter once again, by popular demand.
KM: Hahahahaha truly so legend! Absolutely you are one of the few radio personalities whose life story has been written about. This must be a legacy worth to talk about?
MM: It is. As radio personalities we say so much about other people’s lives and when we die, all we leave behind is dust and silence. Future generations should be able to refer to our work for them to push the frontiers of broadcasting beyond recognition.
KM: Bra Max you have done a great job with your God’s given talent, you are a legend, a role model par excellent. Thanks for sharing your life and talent with us. You are indeed an inspiration like what Peter Cetera of Chicago says, “You are my inspiration”. Wish I can sing it louder for you. Keep shining!
MM: My King, God has blessed us with talents and it remains dormant until we share it with our brothers and sisters. Blessed are those who leave footsteps on the sand of time for they can look back with a smile. Prolific writer, John Maxwell sums this up in these words: “People don’t care that you know until they know that you care”.
KM: Thank you for your time and all the best!
MM: Ubuntu is the glue that binds the African nation together. Our hope for peace, prosperity and stability is in your hands. Spread your wings!
In a book Bra Max Mojapelo wrote titled ‘Beyond memory’. There is a poem he wrote dedicated it to 'Tata' Nelson Mandela whom I have decided to share it with you in an attempt to spread the spirit of Ubuntu with which Tata Nelson Mandela lived for.
Thank you Tata
As a child I learned you were a Prisoner
Your Rivonia trial became a Protest
Later History taught me you were a Prince
On the Island you were Prominent
To millions of Blacks you were a Prophet
On your release you wished us Prosperity
Reconciliation is what you Preached
Through the struggle you became President
Your inauguration was Prestigious
As author your pen is Prolific
You chose to be a premier Pensioner
You continue to be our Principal
A globe trotter who champions Projects
You make all South Africans Proud
Not long ago you rushed to Paris
To save humanity from Perish
Your 46664 campaign is a Platform
To fight the HIV/AIDS Plague
Arrow, arrow shoot away Prostate
Arrow, please shoot away Ulcer
Arrow, kindly shoot away Cancer
Mother, Mother, Mother Nature
Father, Father, Father Future
Please give him more Coffee
No, not yet a Coffin
100 is Mighty
So is Ninety