“I’m hoping the face of the industry looks more like mine [in the future], featuring more youth,” says Aisha Al Mazmi, the UAE’s first Emirati woman to host a show on English radio.
Describing her journey as ‘a series of happy coincidences’, Aisha Al Mazmi tells us about her journey. Having started as an undergraduate student at the college of Arts, Architecture, and Design, a change of three majors and a seven-year long hussle later, here she is. Her journey continues, she’s bringing pop culture and internet lingo to the masses through her radio show Afternoon Karak on Pulse 95, alongside her co-host Mikail Atiyeh.
Pulse 95 is a part of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority and launched last year in May, becoming the emirate’s first English radio station.
BAZAAR caught up with the trailblazing radio personality to get her insights on the need for more youth in radio, her family’s influence in her journey, and role models.
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: You mentioned your father quite a few times as a guiding force in your journey. Could you talk about your family’s contribution in you choosing this somewhat unconventional career path?
Aisha Al Mazmi: My dad was the one who looked out for an opportunity like Pulse 95 and encouraged me to apply there. Being a public speaker himself and belonging to the media background, he always wanted me to speak out. My family was consistently encouraging throughout my shifts between majors and supported me even when I decided to start with an Art based major to begin with — that tells you that they were always open minded, since day one.
HBA: Could you explain the origin of the show’s name Afternoon Karak?
AAM: The Afternoon Karak (afternoon tea) is a key element in college students’ experiences and memories. It’s a part of daily life, to go and grab some karak during breaks between classes. Karak over time has become part of youth culture, not just Indian or Emirati culture. The name worked even though our target demographic went from being the South Asian community to the youth as a whole.
HBA: How do you prepare for your shows?
AAM: The great thing about our show is the amount of autonomy we have, we’re given a lot of levy in what we want to talk about. Whatever the youth is interested in and discussing on the internet, we want to bring to our radio show. That’s how we select topics, we look out for pop culture and strange stories. The format is casual, it should sound like a living room conversation. Sometimes we have a whole running order planning for the following day and then the that morning, we change everything because something new has happened in the world.
HBA: Which do you prefer? Traditional radio shows or podcasts?
AAM: I prefer podcasts because they make more room for youth, there’s more place for them. Radio journalism hasn’t yet reformatted itself to include enough youth, if there were more youth-oriented radio shows, I’d listen to them. Even in terms of topics, many of the ones fleshed out on radio aren’t too appealing for the youth as opposed to podcasts where there are whole podcast series dedicated to history, conspiracy theories, mythology, murder-mystery. Radio in UAE has for the most part, followed the same formula and no one seems to be deviating from it.
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In the holy month of #Ramadan, Muslims from across the world become dutiful in the act of giving and kindness. @SpreadingGrace, a social enterprise that's organized by Shaima Deemas & Sara Albasha. They joined the #EveningKarak to tell us more about their ambitious programs that change the lives of many for the better. Tune in to the podcast to learn more about what you can do to help those in need. Link in bio. #Pulse95Radio #AfternoonKarak #CreativeLearning #Sharjah
HBA: Who would you say are the Emirati women that you most look up to?
AAM: The first female Emirati figure ice skater, Zahra Lari who broke through a very tough ceiling is definitely one. Her aim to represent the UAE in the upcoming Winter Olympics is inspiring. Also, Dr. Aysha Al Busmait: the first woman Goodwill Maritime Ambassador of the International Maritime Organisation, she's the reason the organisation awarded UAE a Category B membership, making it the first Arab country ever to win this.
HBA: Are there any radio personalities that you grew up idolising?
AAM: Not a radio personality per say but a person whose enchanting voice I always grew up idolising was Sir David Attenborough. He’s been doing the iconic narrations for BBC for over 40 years and he’s so involved, more than just a narrator. I look up to him very much even to this day.
HBA: You’re greatly responsible for changing the existing landscape of radio in UAE by bringing in youth in the paradigm. What do you envision from the future of radio and podcasts in the UAE?
AAM: I’m hoping the face of the industry looks more like mine, featuring more youth I mean. I believe in the power of social media and if you go on Twitter at any point, you’d be surprised at how outspoken the Emirati youth is. The faces that are so active on Twitter, the vloggers on YouTube, we need to see more of these voices in mainstream radio. The content creation by them on the internet should translate to traditional media. I hope youth becomes more courageous and are encouraged by their families to find their way into this field.