INTERVIEW WITH CHANEL O'S KABELO Interview by Dimeji Alara; Photos by Wale Ademokoya

Could Kabelo Ngakane have achieved more than taking tapes from one side of Mnet office to the other? The odds and the elements were totally against this diligent Channel O South African presenter, yet he carried it off with perfection and grace. In this exclusive interview with NE, the conscientious international TV presenter bares it all.

NE: You seem to be tangled in so many things, can you tell us the projects you are working on currently?
KABELO: I’ve just opened my own entertainment company called Krazy boy (KB). The idea obviously is first and foremost TV production, eventually we’ve already done some projects recently in Ethiopia for the Bob Marley’s birthday celebration…I was there with my production company shooting for Channel O, we are also in the process of coming up with another project for Channel O called ‘Urban Massive’, that will have me traveling round the continent and give me the opportunity to find out the urban lifestyle of young Africans wherever we go in the major cities around Africa, and of course Lagos Nigeria will definitely be one of them. So by the time I get back home today, we should be ready to get into production, that’s the one thing I am busy with. For now, I am still struggling to get off the ground as far as the music thing is concerned, I mean I did that project as well for Big Brother Africa and that went quite well because we actually got a South African music Award nomination for that song. I am still presenting, so this initial ‘Urban Massive’ I’ll be producing and presenting it. Right now I am doing a reality soccer show back home, that is gotten me well on the national platform (South Africa) and I am still on breakfast radio back home on Metro FM, so yeah…I am still doing a bit of that. So now, because I am doing production I am saving my last month in the offices at Channel O, I am going to concentrate on presenting and producing.

NE: How do you hope to achieve all these, I mean…aren’t you going to get distracted doing many things at the same time, don’t you think it’s better to do things accordingly?
KABELO: I think I have been blessed and I just push hard, it’s the hunger that I’ve seen. My traveling around Africa has made me realize how fortunate I am to be what I am and have showed me that people with even less that I have, fight and strive and actually get more than I get, so why shouldn’t I? I think the experience is also going to be good for me in the sense that all these things I am coming up with have experiences of their own, which means I will be learning something in each thing that I do. The school of life is endless and it teaches you more than books can teach you, its important that you get your education from books but the school of life is also very wide.

NE: Still talking about all these things you do. Don’t you get exhausted at times that you feel like giving up?
KABELO: Yeah, it does get like that. I wake up half past five in the morning, get the breakfast ready, after the breakfast is ready I go to the office at Mnet and stay there for about five to six in the evening…trying to come up with some ideas, prepare for the next day etc I have to be sleeping by nine so it’s really hectic and then on weekends…that will be the only time I try to rest but something is always going on. I do MC jobs too. I also do voice over, it’s really crazy you know?

NE: So, which would you say you are more perfect at?
KABELO: Oh the presenting, yeah…that I do flawlessly now. I mean after seven years of doing it now it becomes a second nature, that’s the easiest thing that I find doing and everything else is about learning. I also am going to move to music, video production, maybe eventually making movies, that sounds like a ten-year plan but I don’t know where life is taking me.

NE: What keeps you going?
KABELO: Well…life, I am grateful to still be alive so while I am still alive I think I should use every opportunity to do whatever I can, looking at the blessing yet again, looking at the plight of the young Africans. We have so much opportunity and it would be a wasted opportunity when you’ve got the chance to do, if you’ve got the skills to do it.

NE: Nigeria’s been rated the second most corrupt country in the world. What is your opinion so far about Nigeria?
KABELO: People are drive in Nigeria, I was speaking to somebody earlier on, a lady from South Africa, she was saying huh…you know what? One thing you cannot take away from Nigerians is their drive, no matter what job it is. Whereas in some countries you’ll find that people do get lazy while they’ve got so many opportunities but here…everybody is doing something and that drives me as well and it also makes me realize that I can actually be more than I am…looking at what people are doing everywhere around the continent, so I definitely love the drive…your women! Jesus. And of course the friendliness of the people, it’s refreshing to always come back here and see the love the people have, the friendliness and the energy that they have…yeah, that’s definitely nice.

NE: But when Nigeria is mentioned anywhere, people are always like scared you know…Nigeria’s being typecast as a whole.
KABELO: I think that stereotypy has been sent around the world. We live with a whole lot of Nigerians back home in South Africa. I feel people just come with that preconception, I know better because I have traveled and I have been here (Nigeria). Every country has a corrupt side, I mean right now in the news paper ‘Business Day’, there is an article about corruption in my country “South African President fires his deputy” why? Because of fraud, it doesn’t mean that the whole country is like that. Every where…New York, South Africa, Nairobi, Lagos, Abuja you know, I mean there’s going to be the good and the bad, that’s the reality of the world, that’s the balance of the world. I think most people who exist within the realms of the good would like the bad not to exist. So it’s the balance of the world, you’re going to get the bad; you’re going to get the good…so I have been fortunate enough to experience the good of Nigeria. I have never experienced a corrupt Nigerian, so I’ve been fortunate but the stories still come…I mean, there is a warning on my hotel table there that “hey, look out for the 419 men” and I think that shows that all Nigerians are not bad, why? Because they’re warning you.


NE: Some Nigerians even complain about the way they are being treated in South Africa and even the South African Embassy here in Nigeria…
KABELO: Yeah, all over the world. I mean you just think about anything bad in London then Nigerians and Jamaicans will come up. So it’s a reputation, if Nigerians are so bad why are people trying to come and visit here anyway? So people do realize that it’s not all bad. But people interacting with Nigerians will find out that it is more about the drive of Nigerians that you’ve got to look at and not what a few people have done. I think some stories have a reputation to be inflated for the sake of a beautiful story. I remember talking to a lady yesterday at the club and she said she was worried about coming to Johannesburg because she heard that so many people get killed there, and I was like yeah… if you come to a bad part of Johannesburg just like if you go to a bad part of New York. So there are some bad parts in the world and unfortunately we cant help that. But we need to educate people and say hey look “My country is still beautiful, your country is still beautiful, they say things that are right and wrong about them and it is what you decide to do with that balance that matters most”.

NE: You come across as someone who adapts to any situation in life, not that you have a choice though…does this have anything to do with your childhood? How was growing up like?
KABELO: My first memories were with my maternal grandmother. My father got married twice and both marriages failed…

NE: Really?
KABELO: Oh yeah…my father came to pick me from my grandmother when I was about 8 years old, I lived with him and that gave me the chance to attend multiracial schools which helped me interact with people from different backgrounds…Chinese, Taiwanese, English, American etc. I remember that I couldn’t speak English then. My first plane trip actually was huh…I was much younger and my father took me on the plane. I was sitting down in the plane as a little black boy and the white lady (the waitress) comes through and talked to my father, I don’t know what they say because I didn’t understand English and he gets food and I’m like, hey. The only word I knew in English was ‘Yes’. So she comes to me and ask me “would you like this or that?” and I’ll just say “Yes” and she’s like “No no, would you like this or that (pointing to the two different food on the tray)” and all I’ll keep saying is “yes”, so I ended up hungry on this flight because she gave me coke and some snacks and my father was eating a meal (laughs) and he’s not saying anything so I was like I must learn this language as fast as possible. So, my first experience of trying to learn English was at one of these multiracial schools that my father sent me to and I learnt English from these American young boys and from then I just got love for trying to find out other people’s cultures and where they come from etc. My father got divorced twice as I said, the second time was quite traumatic and actually damaging because it just broke the family and I was left there to fend for myself. I had two sisters and my mother (step mum) couldn’t do anything but take care of those kids and my father was on his own, so he was like “so…you’ve got to be a man, fend for yourself”. At that time I was studying mechanical engineering, I just finished school, I ran out of money. The next year I got some money and was able to study computer soft wear support that got me into Channel O, the following year I tried as a presenter and the rest is history.

NE: I can imagine what you went through then. So, what is your present relationship with your dad now?
KABELO: It’s quite ok, though its not the greatest relationship but I respect him a lot. I think that is one thing I have been thought in the family, because we come from a big family and we’ve been thought that you should respect, irrespective of your differences and even though that’s been hard, its been something that I’ve had to do and I think that makes you a better person to say just because you did wrong to someone doesn’t mean that you need to go and do something else wrong so definitely, I still have respect for him…I mean, he brought me up and that can be appreciated.

NE: Why are you still single…one would have expected someone in your line of work having girls flaunting around every corner to get you?
KABELO: I knew you were going to come to this Dimeji (Laughs). Well, I think I am very choosy and at this moment in time as well, I am doing a lot of things. I tried a relationship about two months ago and it didn’t work out because of the work I do. I don’t believe its fair to have a relationship and you don’t see the person for a week, that’s ridiculous, so I think the right person will come whenever it will happen.

NE: Maybe a Nigerian girl…
KABELO: (Laughs) I am thinking yeah. Oh no, I’ve seen the women here; they work with such grace…goodness!

NE: So what’s your opinion about the music industry and the entertainment industry as a whole in Nigeria?
KABELO: I think it’s growing very well, it help the youngsters as well. The music in Nigeria is really gone far. You’ve had guys that have had world acclaim like Fela, Femi Kuti, Lagbaja, King Sunny Ade and then the youngsters…Tony Tetuila, 2 face etc it shows that the legacy of Nigerian music is in good hands, it grows for as long as you’ve got good structures. It’s a good mixture of people because if its just one view from one person, it doesn’t make it interesting enough.

NE: How difficult is it to get into the entertainment industry in South Africa?
KABELO: It’s quite difficult because it’s still a new industry. I think that the industry as a whole in the continent is quite new to the success that we wanted from it. There are many kind of music that is selling quite well but not all young people can do that. And then, there is the culture of hip-hop that is really growing. R&B…yes still coming but there is not enough artist pushing it and perfecting it to make it big enough but you have to start from somewhere.

NE: You’ve been in the entertainment industry since 1998, would you say you are fulfilled?
KABELO: No I am not yet fulfilled. I still have a lot to give and to learn from in the industry, that’s why I evolve. I started out as just a guy who was taking tapes from one side of Mnet to the other and now I’ve become the most popular face on Channel O, I am a presenter right now, I do MC work now and I also do productions. So there is a lot that I can still offer the industry.


NE: Can you tell me one major thing you still look forward to?
KABELO: I’d like to grow my entertainment company to a company that can get a few people from around the continent to work together. I’ve had the fortune of having fans based all around the continent whereas not everybody can have that, I have people that know me in Nigeria but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody knows people from Nigeria in South Africa and else where, and if you’ve got that it means you have an opportunity to make ties with people, bring business vice versa, they bring business into South Africa through me, I’ll bring business into Nigeria through my context. I know there is greater opportunity for things to happen with what I have.

NE: Looking at your success from being an ordinary guy at Mnet and then one of the most sought after faces on TV, what goes through your mind?
KABELO: I think most of us never take time to look at what we’ve achieved, we look at the problems that exist right now. If you look back and ask yourself “over the last five years what have I achieved?” that would blow you away and that would keep you trying to strive for more and it will make you look at the situation right now and say “Look, I can still try and get this even though there is a few stumbling blocks…I still push forward”. So it’s encouraging for me to say, “Ok, I’ve gotten this far from where I started”.

NE: So do you plan to do anything outside entertainment in the future?
KABELO: If there is an opportunity to do something else that somebody else can’t do and I happen to be able to do it, so be it.

NE: Doing all those things you said you do, one wonders if you ever have time to relax.
KABELO: I just stay at home and play my Playstation2, I enjoy playing soccer on it, and I can play for the whole day.

NE: What’s the downside of being a popular face not only in your country but everywhere you go…it must be very tiring at times, how do you cope?
KABELO: I think I am coping quite well, fortunately I am a friendly person so it goes with my nature to be the way I am, it’s not a struggle for me to say hello to anyone, to speak to anybody and make friends. I think the scary thing is that you don’t have privacy, but that’s the price to pay for it, but it does get scary to say ok “I don’t have a moment where I wont be judged”. If I don’t say hello to you because I am feeling sad or my father passed away…you don’t know that, but I can be judge and that can mess up a reputation, so that’s why it’s scary sometimes, you live, learn and you go with it.

NE: Thank you very much for this interview.
KABELO: You’re welcome Dimeji, thank you very much for this interview. Hope to see you again soon.


» NE's Top 5 of 2005 » Event Coverage
» Music » Movies
» Art and Stage » Lifestyle
» Penned » Playlist
» Forum Talk » Event Calendar
» Links