• On 13 February 2019, the world celebrated the 8th edition of World Radio Day.
  • There are currently 173 radio stations in Kenya according to data by the industry regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
  • Business Insider SSA went on a nostalgic journey to unravel Kenya’s top ten Radio personalities who ruled the airwaves in the 1990s and 2000s.

On 13 February 2019, the world celebrated the 8th edition of World Radio Day.

This day marks a time where people around the world celebrate radio and how it shapes our lives.

A Radio set
A Radio set

Radio informs, transforms and unites us. It brings together people and communities from all backgrounds to foster positive dialogue for change. More specifically, radio is the perfect medium to counter the appeals for violence and the spread of conflict, especially in regions potentially more exposed to such realities.

This year’s theme is “Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace” and radio presenters across the world would discuss a range of issues such as migration and violence against women etc. and help raise awareness among listeners and inspire understanding for new perspectives in paving the way for positive action.

kenyan men listen to radio
kenyan men listen to radio

From the old days when there was only one state broadcaster then known as Voice of Kenya (VoK) that was largely used as a government mouthpiece, the number of radio stations in the country has since multiplied ten-fold after the liberalisation of airwaves in the 1990s and more and more Kenyans are now tuned in listening to news and entertainment even in their vernacular languages.

There are currently 173 radio stations with their ownership cutting across media houses, politicians and individual Kenyans, according to data by the industry regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

Jalango with Jeff Koinange on Hot 96
Jalango with Jeff Koinange on Hot 96

In Kenya, Radios are extremely popular with stations providing a great platform to stay updated with all the latest news and current events from Kenya and beyond. As a result some Radio presenters have since evolved to become households names and celebrities just for hosting shows on the frequency modulation channel

So as the world marked #WorldRadioDay Business Insider SSA went on a nostalgic journey to unravel Kenya’s top ten Radio personalities who ruled the airwaves in the 1990s and 2000s.

Mambo Mbotela

Veteran radio anchor Leonard Mbotela with Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, Siaya Senator James Orengo
Veteran radio anchor Leonard Mbotela with Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, Siaya Senator James Orengo

Born in the 1940s Mambo Mbotela is the ultimate king of the Kenyan radio industry and has had the longest running radio show in Kenya history.

His show "Je, Huu Ni Uungwana?" (Swahili for is this decorous) has been running for more than 52 years now.

“One weekend after work on a Saturday, we went to Panafric Hotel with colleagues and friends. This was a hotel for the prominent people, and this was a rare event for us. We were used to our local eatery joint.

So one of my friends got impatient and started banging hard on the table. He was trying to attract the waiter. I could see the shock on the patrons faces. And I was thoroughly embarrassed. And so I turned to him and asked, ‘Je, huu ni ungwana?’”  

While they can laugh about it, Mambo acknowledges that it was a light bulb moment for him. And a popular 30-minute radio show which chides society against lack of decorum was born.

Muthoni Bwika

Radio presenter Talia  Oyanda with Muthoni Bwika.
Radio presenter Talia Oyanda with Muthoni Bwika.

Muthoni Bwika ruled the air waves back in the day. She was the queen of radio so much that local artistes at the time were in awe of her. The late Kenyan rapper E Sir even endorsed her in one of his lines; “Rap bila Esir ni ka radio bila Muthoni Bwika” (rap without Esir is like radio without Muthoni Bwika).

She blew up at Nation FM presenting “Party Up” an afternoon hip hop show that was unrivalled and won many awards. Everywhere she went she promoted local content.

She has since however, hanged her microphone and is now reportedly a teacher. It must be cool to be taught by a former radio queen.

Fareed Khimani

Fareed Khimani
Fareed Khimani

Fareed Khimani is another legendary Radio and TV personality who ruled the Kenyan airwaves.

He is remembered by many as the presenter who caused a lot of controversy during his time on radio.

He started as a radio presenter on Capital FM before growing into a renowned host of the morning show. This was back in 2000 when he started off and grew into one of the best radio presenters in the country.

He also worked with other radio stations such as XFM and Nation FM. Fareed recently made a comeback to radio on Nation FM.

Caroline Mutoko

Caroline Mutoko
Caroline Mutoko

Caroline Mutoko is the queen of Kenyan radio and is renown for her ability to handle tough issues and penetrate the minds of her ever-increasing listeners.

With over 10 years of experience in the Kenya media industry, Caroline is no doubt the first female broadcaster to host a morning radio show and anchor the airwaves, especially on issues that concern her people.

She originally started in radio as a traffic girl on 98.4 Capital FM in Nairobi. Ms. Mutoko is currently a senior executive at Radio Africa and oversees 600 members of staff in Kenya.

Maina Kageni

Maina Kangeni
Maina Kangeni

Maina Kageni is one of the most riveting radio personalities to listen to everyday while on your way to work.

He hosts Classic 105’s breakfast show ‘Maina In The Morning’ - a fun filled show where humor and relationships are part of the recipe - alongside Mwalimu King’ang’I (Daniel Ndambuki).

Together the two are the most tuned in radio hosts in the country.

Jimmy Gathu

Jimmy Gathu
Jimmy Gathu

Gathu is one of the media personalities who seems to defy nature by not growing old.

The versatile journalist and producer has worked for a number of media houses in the country including; K24, Nation FM, Citizen TV, Milele FM to mention but just a few.

His shows Rap’Em, Kass Kass, Rastrut, Jam-a-Delic and Rythmix, which ran from Monday to Friday respectively, were quite a hit back then in the days when Internet was but a dream, let alone YouTube.

Cess Mutungi

Cess Mutungi
Cess Mutungi

With her husky voice and infectious laughter couple with her smart wit Cess Mutungi opitomises what the Kenyan radio stations is all about.

She has worked in almost all the trendy FM radio stations in the country and continues to rule the airwaves to date.

She is currently a Senior Capital Fm, presenter/ producer of the Jam 98.4, an afternoon radio show which runs every day from 3pm to 7pm.

Edward Kwach

Edward Kwach
Edward Kwach

Edward Kwach booming voice may no longer be heard on Kenyan radio but his name would certainly never be forgotten.

The current director of Streadman Group, a Marketing and Public Relations company, has worked at over six Radio stations in Kenya – Capital FM, Kiss FM, EA Radio, Nation FM and Urban radio.

Eve D'Souza

Eve D'Souza
Eve D'Souza

Eve D'Souza is one of the most creative and versatile Kenyan media personality, radio presenter and actress.

She joined 98.4 Capital FM in 2001 till November 2010 where she ruled the airwaves hosting Mid morning show, Hits not Home work.

Eve hang up her mic after 9 years behind the microphone for life on the screens. She is currently an actress on ‘Auntie Boss’ and ‘Varshita’ , a spin-off from Auntie Boss. Eve also serves as the Director of Moon Beam Productions.

Nzau Kalulu

Nzau Kalulu
Nzau Kalulu

The late Nzau Kalulu ruled Kenyan airwaves before FM radio stations, the Internet and pay television become the norm.

The only radio station at the time was KBC and as a result presenters became legends, Nzau Kalulu was one of them.

He began his career at the State's broadcaster, KBC where he hosted the famous Sundowner programme, an evening radio show which played mellow music from days of yore to help one unwind after a long day’ and won Kenyan hearts. He later joined the Royal Media as the Head of radio until he met his death.