Tansen Nepaul says goodbye to the SABC after 32 years
Durban - Tansen Sanskrit Nepaul worked for the SABC for 32 years, but the senior technical producer at the national broadcaster has opted to take early retirement. His last day at the office was on Thursday.
Nepaul, 55, of Reservoir Hills, who is also a music composer and performer, said: “I could not see myself fitting into the new SABC structure with a reduced salary. I decided to take the retrenchment package and early retirement. I was not ready to retire but the circumstances I was faced with forced me to make a sudden decision. I was fortunate that I was eligible for early retirement.”
Nepaul, who obtained a diploma in electrical engineering light current from ML Sultan Technikon (now the Durban University of Technology), said he joined the SABC as a junior technical producer of programming. He was responsible for packaging the programme material for the region’s radio stations in 1989.
The stations included Lotus FM (then Radio Lotus), Ukhozi FM (Radio Zulu), SAfm (Radio South Africa) and East Coast Radio (Radio Port Natal).
“One of the biggest challenges was having to wait for five years after applying for a technician post at the SABC. When I managed to get in, I worked as a technical producer of programming. It was not what I wanted as I hoped to join the technician team, who were involved in the repairing and maintenance of broadcast equipment. But I took on the job and worked my way up.
“The SABC, in those days, recognised and rewarded its employees in a systematic and efficient way with the appropriate training. Therefore, in a short space of six years, I climbed up the different levels of technical producers, from junior to senior, then from principal to specialist. I was motivated by my passion for audio-recording, which was not a job but a lifestyle. The highlight for me at that time was being the first Indian to receive the SABC’s Artes award for music production.”
Nepaul, who also has an NQF Level 5 (higher certificate) in music technology, said he later moved to Radio Lotus as a music producer and, under the management of Fakir Hassen, he managed to raise the Indian South African music content from 2% to 16%.
“This was not an easy feat. It required long hours and late nights. But, to date, I may have recorded more than 2 000 songs with various artists and I have composed original music for more than 300 of those artists.
“I also produced music for many SABC television programmes in the 1990s and went on to become a programme executive and then the acting station manager at Lotus FM for a year. I then moved back to the operations department where I remained until my retirement."
Nepaul said he was grateful to the SABC, which had given him the opportunity to learn about music technology, South African culture and management skills.
“My work took me to different communities and I experienced their various cultures, lifestyles and music. This helped me to grow, understand and appreciate the South African rainbow nation in all its beauty. I also used every opportunity to learn as much as I could about everything broadcast-related and I was identified by the training and development department as the most versatile employee at the SABC in all the regions.”
He said one of his greatest achievements was his role in uplifting music in the country.
“I was able to take it to greater heights by using the best technology available. I also believe that I played a role in changing the perception of our community towards local musicians and singers. I believe artists today enjoy greater respect, especially our women in the arts, because of the kind of exposure I gave them as compared to seeing them perform at a hurdee musical evening.”
Nepaul, the founder of the Tansen Nepaul Showband, was chosen as the backing band for several Indian playback singers, including Sukhwinder Singh, Sudesh Bhosale and Pankaj Udhas.
He said despite his early retirement he hoped to remain at the forefront of technology and continue producing music.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, it has been a difficult period for artists. We went from performing regularly every weekend to nothing at all, but live streams helped to keep the passion going.
“Whilst the income from music was virtually non-existent, I managed to invent a device that fed clear sound from an audio mixer to a cellphone for other artists to use in their live streams. This took off well. I am happy to say that over the Easter weekend, this device was well used as many churches, temples and mosques used this creation to stream their events live.”
Nepaul said among his fondest memories at the SABC was time spent with his colleagues, working as a music producer and his interactions with various artists, including film actors Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji.
“I will miss my daily routine at the SABC and the many colleagues that have become a second family to me. I can’t see myself working permanently for anyone (now), but I see myself working on many projects as a consultant.”
His advice: “Don’t wait for doors to open. Create your own room, windows and the doors are sure to follow.”
More than 600 employees were retrenched last week after the SABC concluded its Section 189 retrenchment process. Last year, the SABC announced that it would be retrenching staff as part of a renewal strategy to make the broadcaster financially sustainable, self-sufficient and fit for purpose. The SABC, which issued the Section 189 letters last June, concluded the retrenchment process on March 31. Of the 621 employees who were retrenched, 346 opted to take the voluntary severance packages.