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Touching African Lives From The Big Apple

Published 9 years ago
By Forbes Africa

Thabo Molefe, famously known as ‘Tbo Touch’ in entertainment circles, is not your typical, hunky, media personality. In all frankness, mention of his name rarely inspires dreamy emotional reactions from adoring fans. And even though he does his fair share of kissing babies and dishing out top-notch prizes on his many media platforms; the lion’s share of the coverage is about his “annoying” American accent, tabloid titbits of his personal life and how he is supposedly the world’s biggest name-dropper; hell-bent on importing American culture to Africa.

As someone who is no stranger to his drive-time show on South African Metro FM, and the many television shows he has hosted; I was not surprised or put off by the strong American influence which marks his speech and content. With Touch, it is definitely all about hip hop, basketball and “swag”.

“What a lot of people do not know is that my family has a very strong exile background,” he says. “My connection to the US is enforced by the fact that I was raised there, schooled there and I even lost blood there,” he continues, explaining that his father, Vernon Molefe, was assassinated there because of his political activism.

“My father had a project which saw him working with South African struggle icons. Through the Nelson Mandela Education Fund, he facilitated troubled South African kids to be taken to the States to be educated , away from the horrors of the apartheid uprisings. So one can say that I feel indebted to his cause,” Touch elaborates. He says his father was shot seven times in 1992, and that his murder remains unsolved to this day.

“I was taken in by Bishop Noel Jones who became my guardian, as a way of paying homage to my late father,” he says.

The month of July is of significance to Touch. This month brings to a climax his plans of returning to permanently live in the United States, and as he puts it—this time he’s going there to make huge investments, and not to look for hand-outs, like before.

“I feel that I have come full circle as Tbo Touch. In as much as I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given by the national broadcaster (SABC) since my return to the country seven years ago; I feel it is time to take my radio show, The Touch Down 3-to-6, to New York, where it will be broadcast live on a daily basis for the next three years. This has never been done on African radio before, and what it basically means is that instead of calling up big name artists like Jay Z or Mary J. Blige and speaking to them telephonically, I will have them live in studio interacting with our South African listeners,” he says with palpable excitement.

“This has taken many months to set up. My team and I have been at pains to get the national broadcaster’s buy-in, but now I can announce that it is all systems go. We have set up our own studios in New York, and we have engineers on-site working around the clock to make sure that the show runs seamlessly. The radio show will also feed content to other programs as well. Top American broadcaster Ryan Seacrest has been doing it for years; I feel it is now my turn to do it for South Africa.

“No one can debate the fact that New York is the hub of the entertainment, and more specifically, music industry, so really one has not achieved global recognition until you have a New York footprint.”

While this is clearly great news for him as a broadcaster, Touch says he won’t be the only one benefitting from this new arrangement.

“One of the main reasons I am this excited about the venture is because the show, even though broadcast from New York daily, will continue to play African music.” For many decades, Africans have been flooded with American music and culture, so it is about time someone takes ours to them.

“I am hoping this will give local artists another avenue to be exposed and “picked up” by the real captains of the music industry—the kind of artists that practically live on the Forbes’ richest lists. And I am hoping this will be an opportunity where collaborations and meaningful partnerships between those artists and African artists can be fostered,” he says.

Music and radio are not the only elements central to Touch’s relocation; television station SABC1 has also commissioned him as an NBA Basketball sport correspondent, which means he will be courtside every week, linking fans to the game and its icons.

“The culture of basketball and the NBA has been continually growing around the continent since the late 90s, sadly though we could only watch re-runs and old games, but now we will stream it to the continent with no serious delays. As a game that I personally love as well, I am also very excited that I will be experiencing it up close and sharing that experience with the sport’s many African fans,” says Touch.

Not only does Touch seem to have the entertainment side of things well-covered. He is also gearing up to become a businessman in the hospitality industry, which may come as a surprise to many.

“My relocation will also coincide with the launch of a restaurant franchise I am opening up in Manhattan with my business partner Jeff Christie. The restaurant will have a special twist—its main commodity will be trading in wine from South Africa, and we will also have a live-streaming camera linked-up to another franchise in Cape Town, so that patrons on either side can have a kind of shared experience,” he explains.

“The restaurant’s music catalogue will also consist entirely of South African and African music. So I am working very closely with the South African Department of Tourism on this project, as I believe that the restaurant will have an impact on more people wanting the actual South African experience,” Touch says. He needed to raise $450,000 to get the business on its legs, which he did subsequent to getting many doors slammed in his face.

Asking him whether he will consider living in South Africa again, seems a bit foolhardy at this stage for a man with his kind of plans, but alas it has to be asked. “My concert production company, called Touch Lives, will continue to be based in Johannesburg. Touch Lives hosts four major concerts every year, and I will be here for each one. I also have a two-year-old son who will continue to be based here, even though his mother and I have come to an agreement that he will spend some time with me in New York. In many ways South Africa is still my home,” he concludes.

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Related Topics: #Business Man, #Career, #July 2012, #Media, #Radio, #TBO Touch, #Thabo Molefe.