I was hyper-focused for about two years to research and write Absolute Radio. Getting to the end of the two years, I started winding down and took a few days off to do normal things, like watching a couple of movies with my family and listening to a Podcast. I surfed my Podcast App to find something meaningful and entertaining. That was when I found Wild Boys, a production by Sony/Campside.

An aerial view of Market Circle in Takoradi, the city where Absolute Radio was made. the photo, captured in December 2007 shows the centre central business district where hundreds of thousands of people converge every day.

Two Boys from the Bush

I quickly checked the website of the Podcast for some details. The introduction was well written and definitely enticing:

“It was mid-2003 when two half-starved young men turned up in a small Canadian town telling an incredible story.

They’d been raised in the British Columbia wilderness, and this was their first-ever contact with society — they’d never seen a TV, gone to school, or registered for IDs. So the community took them in and set about introducing them to the modern world. Before long, the international media descended on the town, enthralled by the mysterious “Bush Boys.” There was just one problem: not a word the boys said was true. Nearly 20 years later, award-winning comedian and journalist Sam Mullins uncover the bizarre true story of the strangers who turned his hometown upside-down.”

Attention Captured

I was hooked and started listening right away.

The host, Sam Mullin’s description of his hometown was alluring. Looking back over two decades, he paints a picture of his memories as a teenager in the town where he grew up and actually saw the two “Bush Boys.”

“Vernon is a small town, a quiet town, it is a ski town, a beach town… it is also a town that didn’t get FM Radio until the year 2001.”

The extraneous point about the town of Vernon not getting an FM Radio until 2001 hit me.

Not surprising because I had just researched and written Absolute Radio, a groundbreaking book about the extraordinary developments brought about on the wings of FM Radio in an African twin city called Sekondi-Takoradi.

The foundational book, “Absolute Radio” which explores the impact of private radio in Ghana’s Western Region.

“Sekondi-Takoradi got an FM station four years before the town of Vernon in Canada,” I asked myself.

Skyy Power FM became the first private FM Radio in this African twin city in Ghana in 1997. Ghana’s national capital, Accra, got it two years earlier.

It was AM Radio All The Way

It isn’t that the beautiful Vernon didn’t have radio stations.

It did. It had AM Radio, and AM Radio only.

The little Canadian town in the Okanagan region of British Columbia was just so slow in adopting the more modern FM Radio – at the time when Takoradi in Ghana, West Africa, had already acquired its own.

FM Radio is not just super funky. The spoken word and music broadcast through this medium in stereo sounds so much better than in mono transmission over AM Radio.

Of course, times have changed dramatically over the last few decades – in fact, over the last decade alone. Now, anyone with adequate passion can run their own Internet-based radio station. I know more than a few people – even friends – who run web-based radio stations on budget.

The “Leapfrogging” Principle

With my author’s experience and thinking cap firmly on my head, I could not help, but find a link between the delightful Sekondi-Takoradi and the far-flung city of Vernon.

I could imagine that residents in the city who loved their AM Radio, perhaps, over many decades wouldn’t be desperate to have a taste of FM Radio. AM Radio still exists and you will have to agree that the sound is still good, so it is understandable that it took a while.

The old logo for Skyy Power FM, the first private radio station that took over Sekondi-Takoradi with the power of news, information and music in 1997.

Then again, the principle of “leapfrogging” occurred to me.

FM Radio probably represents a radical innovation in broadcasting that a city like Takoradi embraced quickly because it didn’t have its own local AM Radio(Sekondi-Takoradi had a state-run FM station from 1994 before Skyy Power FM became the first private FM Radio).

It is again comparable to some places in the “developed” world that had the excellent infrastructure for old landline phones. When the much more advanced mobile technology came, less developed lands were very quick to adopt and use it more rapidly and widely in many cases.

I enjoyed the scintillating story from Vernon. It was so well told on the Wild Boys Podcast by Sam Mullins and his team. At the same time, I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that advancing technology allowed some less-privileged communities around the world to “leapfrog” ahead.

Takoradi Made it in 1997!

In the case of Takoradi, it was the use of FM Radio, in which Skyy Power FM became the first private radio in Ghana’s Western Region which started a new revolution in broadcasting.

As narrated in Absolute Radio, FM Radio technology was embraced in Takoradi in the mid-1990s to advance human resources development. It also displays the richness of music, tradition, and culture. Flying on the wings of this relatively new form of broadcast technology, many dozens of boys and girls became women and men of substance, leaving many remarkable and inspiring stories of entrepreneurship, media, culture, and rich traditions.

PS: Absolute Radio is due to be published globally in Paperback, Kindle, and Audiobook on 6 September 2022.

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