Dar es Salaam. His programme is probably one of the most listened to by the youth in Tanzania and over the years he has curved an almost cult status on radio where he hosts a three-hour show called the XXL on Clouds FM.
Hamisi Mandi aka BDozen’s story as a radio presenter who dared to take on the unknown as a young man in Arusha is one that has been told in many broken versions, with each claiming to be the original.
As a young man, he always wanted to be on radio, but he just didn’t know how.
At the time it was more of a boyhood dream that was more of an illusion than a reality, given the fact that there were very few radio stations in the country and above all he was still a student.
“One day I gathered the courage to walk into the Clouds FM offices in Arusha and I asked to see the manager Gardner Habash, fortunately he was walking out, I hurriedly introduced myself and told him that I was interested in becoming a radio presenter,” says B12
Just like in most scripts, the manager did not see the kind of quality that the lad was promising, he asked him to come over another day.
It took him several trips before he could finally be handed a test on the microphone, and in his own words it remains to be a day that shaped the path to what he has become today.
“When I met the manager after he had returned from Dar es Salaam he offered to give me a test on one Saturday,” he recalls.
He was particularly inspired by one Amina Chifupa who by then despite being a student, was a popular presenter on the newly founded radio station.
There was excitement in his neghbourhood as his aspirations left many of his peers at school in awe and so was to his family.
But this newly found joy was rather short-lived when the studios in Dar es Salaam were gutted by fire.
“Most of the equipment was relocated to Dar es Salaam and most of the staff was moved as well. This left me stranded in many ways as I saw my dreams evaporate,” says BDozen.
He did not give up, and it was around that time when he met the late Ruge Mutahaba, one of the founders of Clouds Media Group.
Their meeting came quite handy, because this was about the time when BDozen was about to join the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) in Dar es Salaam for further studies.
“Here I felt like I had been offered a second chance at pursuing my dream and at the same time studying,” he says.
Under the tutelage of Vivian Tillya, the young BDozen was to start his apprenticeship the ropes of the trade on a lunchtime show called Dr Beat.
The pairing did not last long, tragedy struck.
Vivian was killed in a road accident alongside her boyfriend producer Complex as they were travelling to Moshi on August 21, 2005.
“Part of the team was already in Tanga for the Fiesta gig, I was the first to receive the news after passersby picked her cell phone at the scene of the accident. I was devastated,” he says.
The path to recovery from the grief was never an easy one and the administration had to change his shift from the afternoon programe to the late night show.
“It was a lengthy healing process,” he says.
The setback in many ways led to his reinvention as a young presenter and even later when the programe was renamed the XXL, he had many lessons to draw from what he had learnt from Vivian.
Today the programe has become one of the most listened to by the youth across the country as it features the best of showbiz and entertainment news.
Born to shine
As a radio host after he was through with school he found himself with plenty of time at his hands, time that he had to utilize profitably.
“I had always had a thing for fashion but I just didn’t know what exactly that I wanted to do, so I started a small shop where I sold men’s clothing,” says BDozen.
It was just a shop and he struggled to find a name for it, but after consultations with a friend who was in the US he settled on the name ‘Born to shine’.
“This was name to the shop but one day as I was seeking promotion for the shop I met Shetta, he was supposed to perform at Club Bilicanas. I gave him six promotional T-shirts, the next day many people turned up asking for the same,” he says.
A new brand had been born, but the early days of dealings came with fair share of the rough terrains of the market place.
“The businessmen that I dealt with were quite unscrupulous, they on many occasions under declared the items under the Born to Shine tag,” says BDozen.
He had to take bold steps which involved registration with Brela and other entities to own the trademark.
Today the entity has grown into a fully fledged clothing line which has signed as contract with a Chinese company Vendome to produce its merchandise.
The vision, he says is to expand to the rest of East Africa and to include more items on their catalogue.
Born to Shine The Company
Born to Shine as a brand has since grown to accommodate other products but above all is, ‘Born to Shine The company’.
Is there any difference? It is a question that elicits a smile of confidence from BDozen saying there is huge difference because of the product range that is serviced under ‘the Company’.
The company as opposed to the clothing line has record label, an online Youtube Channel which he says was part of an extension of what he does on a daily basis.
“Having worked closely with artistes I decided to start a record label but this too came with its challenges because there was quite a thin line between BDozen the presenter and the Record label CEO. In fact one of the artistes who were on the label was Jux,” he says.
“Because of the clashing roles the label was forced to terminate contracts with local artistes that were under our label,” he says.
BDozen says that turned their attention to the international market where they represent interests of artistes from other parts of East Africa and beyond.
These could still be the early days but he remains confident of the prospects that the nascent company has in Tanzania’s entertainment industry.