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An article by Nike Lapite that was published in West Africa, 2nd-8th June 2003

Samuel Tsipotey finds his voice at Choice FM
When I met Samuel Tsipotey at Choice FM’s smart Borough offices in London. I could see how he managed to convince the station that an accountant with no presenting background could walk into a studio and present a show in Urban London’s popular radio station. Somewhere within the firm handshake, self possessed poise and pencil straight posture, you could tell that he was the kind of man who would not take no for an answer.
‘They did say no at first. They didn't believe I could do it.’ Well that isn’t odd. Imagine if the Health Minister volunteered to extend his powers of office to international development.
‘I’ve been pressing Choice FM for an African show since I joined them in 1991. I asked why there was no African show. They didn't think African music was popular enough, so they couldn't find space for it until we won the licence for 107.1 FM.’
So Samuel finally got his show. By day it's cash flow projections and invoices. By night it’s smooth talking Uncle Sam, presenter of African Beats. He was originally given four shows two hours in length between 9 and 11 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and between 3 and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. This was later reduced to two three hour shows between midnight and 3am on Mondays and Wednesdays.
‘When I first started the show the response wasn’t very good because it was never properly promoted and so not enough people knew about it. But through my singular effort and promotion the numbers are holding quite well and the show no longer has the worst figures when the listenership figures are in.’
Some of the previous slots may have made it difficult to attract a large following but the latest prime rime slot will give Uncle Sam the chance to show just how well he can cut it. From June 1 Uncle Sam will be airing on Sunday nights between six and nine. He says this is the best slot he has been given so far. ‘It means that the show will finally have a chance to really establish itself.’
Having proved that accountants can also be presenters, does Samuel have plans to abandon his cash flow charts and go into presenting full-time? ‘Well to be honest this is just a hobby. It is something I enjoy very much and that I am very passionate about. Right now I have a very short term aim and that is just to make African music more popular.’
The show has been criticised bv some quarters for not playing enough music from some regions and too much from others. Playing African music is a huge remit. considering the size of Africa and the number of different ethnic groups. Nigeria alone has over 200 languages.
‘Playing music from all over Africa is my hallmark and I make a point to do just that. I intentionally follow a rotation policy where I consider population. There are, for example, a large number of Nigerians, Ghanaians, South Africans, Zimbabweans and Sierra Leoneans in the UK so they are guaranteed music from those areas. Other smaller areas go on rotation, so within a four week period I will have covered everywhere in Africa from Madagascar to east, west, central and south.
‘The only limitation is if I don’t have the music because the station doesn't have an African music library. In the beginning I had to rely on my own personal collection and finances but now I have established contacts with labels, they also send me stuff.’

So if there is a market out there for African music, why did it take an accountant to come along and find it? Considering that African music is the mother of all music and precedes the kind of music within Choice FM's remit like r ‘n’ b. hip hop and soul. it is quite surprising that Choice FM has never investigated having an African show. Could it be that they couldn’t find a presenter? I put the question, less sarcastically, to the enigmatic Paul Pink. whose CV is as long as the river Nile, including 18 years with Capital Radio and five years with Kiss FM. It seems that Samuel Tsipotey is not the only versatile member of the Choice FM staff. Paul Pink should be a stand-up comedian, but is actually the deputy director for programmes and controller for 107.1FM. He is also the music manager. I detect a wariness of the press on his part. One of those types who watch you too carefully as you digest the information they have just given you. He eyes me with obvious suspicion before explaining that it's all about ratings. "Choice FM already has an established market and so with the new licence the best thing is to start with the established market rather than going into a new area that will take time to build. There are no figures for this audience and even now that we have the show, it will take at least a year, to a year and a half before we can really measure its success."


With Uncle Sam’s indelible African touch, African Beats may well see a very real measure of success.