He is one of the longest Swahili news anchors in Kenya having worked for the oldest radio and TV station, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, for over 30 years. He combines his broadcasting work with that of a public relations officer at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Kenya. Badi Muhsin talks to EDNA GICOVI about valuable lessons learnt from life and the media.
From watching him on TV and having a few phone conversations while arranging for this interview, I expected to meet a humorous and good-natured person. I was not wrong. Badi Muhsin turned out to be a wonderful person to talk to and I enjoyed every moment of our time together.
While I expected to meet him at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), he asked me to go to the Kuwaiti Embassy located in Muthaiga. I was a bit confused when I was told to wait for him at the waiting room of the well-secured embassy, as he was out on official business. When he eventually came, he was apologetic and started by explaining that he held two jobs – one at the embassy and the other at KBC. There was never a dull moment during the entire interview with the jovial and easygoing Badi.
Born 59 years ago to a strict Muslim family in Kitui County, Badi was the first of eight children. His parents were from Mombasa, which explains his fluency and proficiency in the Swahili language. His father passed away when he was still quite young and his mother about six years ago.
PERFORMER AND PUBLIC SPEAKER…
Badi excelled in drama while in school and played leading roles in various school performances and also represented his school at drama festivals. He was so good and confident at public speaking that he was assigned the role of making announcements during school events.
He was also a good writer and wrote several articles for Baraza, a weekly Swahili newspaper. His late uncle, Omar Chambati, who was at the time a news editor at Taifa Leo newspaper was instrumental in inspiring young Badi to a career in the media. Badi’s biggest dream at this time was that one day his face would be on television and he thanks God for making his dream a reality.
After completing high school, he continued announcing at various functions in his home area, and it was at one of such functions that he was noticed by the then Member of Parliament for Kitui, Daniel Mutinda, who was at the time minister for Information and Broadcasting. He was impressed by Badi’s eloquence and arranged for him to be interviewed by the then Voice of Kenya (VOK).
He passed the interviewed and was employed as a Swahili translator in 1980. His work involved translating news and other broadcast materials from English to Swahili. He was later sponsored for training at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) and after five years of working as a translator was promoted to departmental supervisor.
His career as a news presenter didn’t take off as soon as he thought it would. His breakthrough, however, came when renowned news anchors at the station, including Sammy Lui, saw his potential and urged him to give sports news a try. He did so well that was assigned the Swahili sports news segment, Michezo. As a sports enthusiast, Badi loved collecting sports news and presenting it on radio. This programme essentially built his radio career.
He was later assigned presentation of the Swahili news highlights on radio, Mukhtasari wa Habari. His pleasant voice and hard work impressed his seniors and was soon given a bigger role as a Swahili news presenter – first at the off-peak hours of 9a.m. and 4p.m. and later to the prime time news at 1p.m, 7p.m and 9p.m.
“Like most first timers going on air, I was scared and my voice was shaky but with time I gained confidence to become one of the best Swahili news presenters at the station,” says Badi, adding that he thoroughly enjoys his work at KBC. He recalls his most memorable time in his career as being the first to announce the judgment of the controversial burial case of lawyer S.M. Otieno in 1987. “This was a defining moment for me. I felt proud to be the first to relay this important and awaited piece of news,” he says.
Badi transitioned to Swahili TV news in 1989. He was thrilled to appear on screen for the first time and never failed to remind his family and friends to switch on their TVs during news time to watch him. His mother was his biggest fan and really encouraged him.
CONFIDENCE IS IMPORTANT…
Badi says confidence in life, and in particular in his career, is very important. “Confidence helps when you make the occasional mistakes while on air. When you are confident, an occasional mistake when presenting news should not ruin the entire bulletin, as you will be quick to correct it or handle it in a way that does not expose you,” he says.
He recalls one time forgetting to switch off his cell phone and it rang while he was reading the news. Unable to ignore it, he picked the phone and without even checking who the caller was said hello followed by ‘the price of flour and kerosene would remain the same’ (it was budget day), switched it off and apologised to the viewers. Everyone in the studio laughed and he hoped the viewers also had a laugh. “Creativity in handling different situations is very important,” says Badi.
Working at KBC has taught him discipline and resilience. He says broadcast journalism requires talent, charisma and good presentation. “You have to be willing to learn and prove yourself. You also have to be highly disciplined as your work puts you in public limelight and your behaviour, at work at outside, reflects on your station,” he says.
Badi was presented with the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) award in 2011 by retired president Mwai Kibaki for his long service in the Kenyan media. He was also recognised as one of the best Kiswahili news anchors by the famed Swahili author Wallah Bin Wallah in 2010, in addition to being first runner-up for best Kiswahili translator award in KBC in 1993.
WORKING AT THE KUWAITI EMBASSY…
Badi left KBC between 1990 and 1993 to work as a news and sports reporter for Kenya Leo, a Swahili paper published by the Kenya Times. He left the Kenya Times in 1993 when the Kuwaiti Embassy in Kenya recruited him to work as an information officer. Shortly after, he got an opportunity to resume his old job at KBC as a part time news presenter. The Kuwaiti Embassy, his full time employer, allowed him to take up the part-time position of presenting the 7 p.m. Swahili news bulletin, which he has continued to do.
From information officer Badi was promoted to his current position of public relations officer at the embassy. He is the link between the Kuwaiti embassy in Nairobi and the Kenyan government. He has not found it difficult balancing his two jobs because of the flexible hours and the fact that he takes great pleasure in both.
Badi married the love of his life, Khadija, in July 1980. “My wife and I come from the same area in Kitui and she is also from a strict Muslim family,” he says. They have two grown up sons, Jamal, 31, and Jamil, 29. Jamal works with the Kenya Red Cross, while Jamil works with DHL in Bahrain.
Badi is very proud of the men his sons have grown up to be. He believes that he adequately played his role as a father in their lives by bringing them up in the proper Muslim way, instilling in them valuable virtues and putting them through school.
“Instilling discipline in children at an early age is of utmost importance. Parents should not give their children too much leeway when they are growing up, as this is likely to lead to indiscipline. They should set boundaries for their children and give them the right amount of freedom at the right time. Parents should also develop a friendship with their children and know the friends they keep,” Badi offers his comments on parenthood.
On marriage, he says trust is a most important ingredient. He says there is great trust between him and his wife and this is necessary because of the nature of his work. “I often try to get home as a soon as I finish reading the news and if I will be later than this, I will ensure to let my wife know,” says Badi, adding that he is lucky to have an understanding wife.
“Working in the media comes with various temptations and this is where self-discipline plays a big role. I know my boundaries and respect my family. When invited to functions, I prefer my host to make provision for me to attend with my wife,” he says, adding that his wife is a private person who does not like being in the public eye.
Being the eldest in his family, Badi has to lead by example and is a role model to his younger siblings. He is also part of a group of elders in Eastleigh’s Biafra area who instill values like discipline, honesty and integrity in the youth, in addition to urging them to refrain from crime and terrorist activities. He aspires to encourage and motivate young people through his life and work.