Lotus FM’s Alan Khan reflects on the 30 years of his radio career

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Mar 22, 2020

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Durban - If you tune into Lotus FM around 8pm on March 31, you’ll hear the show’s host signing out with the words: “Do good, be good.”

And if he gets the station manager’s blessings, Stevie Wonder’s hit song, You are the Sunshine of my Life, will be the music to cap the occasion.

Broadcast personality Alan Khan, who was inducted into the MTN South African Radio Hall of Fame in 2015, is due to end 30 years of association with radio at the end of this month.

Those who have worked closely with Khan agree that his imagination, immaculate presentation, leadership and professionalism have been a bright ray of light in the industry. At age 48, Khan’s zest to inform, educate and entertain his on-air audiences has not been toned down.

He just prefers to spend more time with his family, especially his wife, Mariam, who was diagnosed with cancer last year.

“Although Miriam’s treatment went well and she has made good progress, I’ve chosen to spend more time with my family.”

Khan said the timeout would also afford him more opportunities to engage with his sons Nasser (21) and Ameer (18). Apart from being the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) senior director of corporate affairs, Khan’s radio act since 2013 was hosting the hour-long Walk the Talk with Alan Khan show on Lotus FM, from Mondays to Thursdays, at 7pm.

During his time with Lotus, Khan showed why he is a respected radio-man. Walk the Talk competes with the country’s leading talk show offerings, and it is slotted in the evening when listeners are usually saddled with other attractions and distractions.

Drawing on his years of broadcast experience, which includes time with Capital Radio 604, East Coast Radio (ECR) and Jacaranda FM, Khan and his crew have been able to consistently churn out content that is candid and catchy.

Walk the Talk won the “Best News and Actuality Show” award at the 2017 Liberty Radio Awards, which he regards as another great moment in his career.

There has been a plethora of outstanding moments for Khan in his broadcast career, where he has interacted with some of the world’s greatest musicians and personalities. They include the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Sir Richard Branson, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Cliff Richard, Jon Bon Jovi, Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer, and Michael Schumacher.

Khan was present in Zurich when Fifa announced South Africa as the 2010 World Cup hosts. He was among only four journalists in the auditorium who got to ask the then Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, this question: “In 1976 you were on an executive committee that decided to exclude South Africa from Fifa, now you are on another committee that decided the country can host the World Cup. What does it mean to you?”

Khan said the question he asked was not pre-planned but just came to him instinctively.

(Nelson Mandela, who was also in Zurich, thanked Khan for the question.)

“I am blessed to be doing something special, something I love. It doesn’t make me special or better than anyone else,” he said.

Khan, formerly from Overport, is mindful that in the broadcast world some people have big egos, but his upbringing ensured he remained humble and focused.

“The values instilled in me by mom and dad in my formative years has helped.”

Khan said he still got a bit nervous before going on air, but that kept him on his toes.

“I may have 30 years of experience under my belt, but you are only as good as your last show.”

Khan said it was his mission to “help at least one person be more positive”, each time he went on air.

And it’s that sincerity, and his genial personality, that have ensured his good following.

In the old days, a DJ’s good voice and music knowledge were stellar qualities, but not anymore. Khan said those traits were nice to have but multi-skilled all-rounders, who could tell a good story and sustain the listeners’ interest, were what was required.

As a youngster he showed promise as a horse-racing commentator, but with limited opportunities, he then became set on becoming a chiropractor and studied towards it.

During his student days at DUT his career path shifted completely.

He saw two students (Mark Burgess and David Young) carrying a massive speaker and he decided to help.

They were from the local campus station, T&T Radio, and they persuaded him to join them. He did, and that marked his association with radio.

Khan wondered how things would be had he not bumped into Burgess and Young. While on air once, Darren Scott, a Capital Radio DJ who visited the campus on one occasion, was impressed with Khan’s presentation.

Through Scott’s influence, Khan joined Capital in 1993 and the first song he played at the commercial station was Stevie Wonder’s classic: You are the Sunshine of my Life.

Khan remembered how he got to the station at 2.30am for his two-hour show scheduled for 4am.

“I removed every grain of dust on the record player and I kept testing the start/stop button in preparation.”

When the station was forced to shut in November 1996, Khan said it was a low moment: “Kenny Maistry and I hosted the last show. It was an emotional time because we never thought that the radio station that played a role in the liberation movement would be shut, two years after democracy.

“The station had aired Oliver Tambo’s interview from Stockholm and carried other news about the ANC in the apartheid days. It still hurts.”

ECR hired him immediately and he grew in stature as a radio person. He hosted various shows, including the Bokomo Big Breakfast, with co-host Sorisha Naidoo, and handled many roles.

By the time he left ECR in 2006, Khan was the station’s deputy managing director.

He joined Jacaranda FM, the largest commercial station at the time, and moved with his wife and children to Gauteng. He became the tweetalige (bilingual-English and Afrikaans) station’s chief executive.

“I was there until June 2011. I loved the environment. It was hard to be at a station and not on air”, but every now and then Khan made cameo appearances.

Khan said radio gave him some of the best moments in his life.

“I am a big believer in destiny.”

He even met Miriam through radio. He interviewed her on Capital in September 1996, she was heading up the count of Durban’s street children for the country’s census.

“I was captivated by her intelligence and how articulate she was. We were married 178 days later.

“I’m sure there will be tears when the clock strikes 8 on March 31. Then I will realise that’s it,” said Khan.

Sorisha Naidoo described Khan as charming, articulate, knowledgeable, and a true professional with an unforgettable voice.

Scott said: “Knowing Alan, he’s very grounded. It is understandable that he’s putting his family first.

“He’s is a great broadcaster, consummate professional and a great manager.

“I had the privilege to give him his first break in radio and later worked for him.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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