How Jimmy Gathu discovered Yvonne Okwara & Kenya's most popular media personalities

Jimmy Gathu gave them their first opportunities and moulded them to become Kenya's best

How Jimmy Gathu discovered Yvonne Okwara & Kenya's most popular media personalities

Maina Kageni, Mwalimu King’ang’i, Yvonne Okwara, Johnson Mwakazi and Eve D’ Souza are some of the most accomplished media personalities in Kenya.

What do they all have in common? All the five stars were students of broadcast guru Jimmy Gathu.

In a recent interview on The Standard, Gathu recalled how he discovered and moulded the aforementioned media stars and watched them rise to become household names.

Jimmy Gathu started his media career at KTN where he was first employed as a continuity announcer. At the time, he would read out the program lineup. He was then tasked to create a number of shows that aired music in the evenings.

One of the many shows Gathu created was Niaje a youth talk show where Nazizi, Redsan and DJ styles were discovered.

He is also credited for creating the popular Klub Kiboko, which is a kids' show that has been airing on KTN for more than 20 years.

Jimmy then moved to Capital FM in 1998 where he served as a host on Hits Not Homework and deputy programs controller. It is at Capital FM where he met his first protege, Eve D’Souza.

Eve came from Catholic University as an intern. She was a trained teacher but Eve was different. She spoke very well and I listened to her and was wowed,” he recalled their first encounter.

He would then encourage her to host the midmorning show when the main host Pinky Ghelani was away.

Unfortunately, Gathu’s immediate boss did not think highly of her and planned to let Eve go. However, the media Guru intervened by speaking with the station's management and she was retained.

When I left Hits Not Homework I told Eve I am leaving and I have forwarded your name as the person to take over,” Jimmy recalled.

Eve D’Souza went on to become one of the longest-serving hosts of the Hits Not Homework show

Jimmy Gathu then moved to Radio Africa Group where he created the characters Maina and King’ang’i on Classic 105 FM.

I designed Maina and King’ang’i, that was my concept. Patrick Quarcoo (Radio Africa CEO) told us that he wanted us to take the station from obscurity to at least the 2nd or 3rd best radio show in the country within 9 months.

I called Maina and King’ang’i (for a meeting) and told them not to discuss any politics on the show. Maina was surprised but I told them to let Caroline Mutoko (of Kiss 100) and everyone discuss politics,” Gathu said.

He then gave directions on the characters he wanted the two presenters to portray on air.

You and Churchill (Daniel Ndambuki) should touch on human interest stories, specifically relationships. Maina I want you to support women irrespective of their decision, just be their guy and then you King’ang’i, be that male chauvinistic uncle we all remember or that teacher who doesn't like women and don’t make any apologies for it,” he told the two who went on the become the most formidable breakfast show duo.

Jimmy Gathu was then poached by Royal Media Services to help revive the defunct Y FM which was replaced by Hot 96 FM.

I designed Hot 96 and that’s where I discovered and trained Yvonne Okwara who was my first breakfast show presenter. I remember telling Yvonne that I will teach you what they don’t teach in journalism class,” he said.

Jimmy took a chance on Okwara who had graduated with a degree in microbiology and trained her to become a radio presenter.

For me, I was looking for talent that was able to dissect research and take on an interview with facts. Yvonne had a co-host who was a lawyer and their first guest was Tana River MP Danson Mungatana and when the show ended, he was like who are those girls?. He enjoyed it but they tore him to pieces,” Gathu narrated.

Okwara would go on to become a fan favourite news anchor at KTN before she returning to Royal Media Services as a senior anchor.

She hosts The Explainer on Citizen TV which is a research-based show where she breaks down current affairs and topics of interest.

After discovering Okwara, he would then hire former Citizen TV anchor Johnson Mwakazi after attending an event where he was the MC.

I go for this event at Serena, I was the MC. I introduced this entertainer and the guy grabbed the mic and his voice, oh my God!

"I asked him his name and he said Johnson Mwakazi. I gave him my card and told him to see me the next day,” Jimmy recalled, adding that he was very excited to share his new discovery with his bosses.

On the first day Mwakazi read the news on Hot 96 FM, Royal Media Chairman SK Macharia rushed to the studio to find out who the amazing voice on air was.

He was later promoted to be a news anchor and even after leaving the newsroom, his voice has been used in many of the station's adverts.

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