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Elegy to a longtime nightly companion

Posted by: redsaid


Every day I excitedly counted the hours until the stroke of midnight, knowing that I would be hearing his soothing voice again. Even if the reception was marred by irritating static, the crackle could not disguise the loveliness of his voice, infused as it was with warmth, kindness and, often, mischievously tinkling with humour.

That voice made me happy to be, if not a full-blown insomniac yet, a definite night owl. He was always so punctual that you could set your watch by him with up-to-the-second accuracy.

So promptly at midnight every night, as one day ticked over into the next, he would be there; often accompanied by a short burst of cheerful music, introducing the new day by announcing the date, telling me what the weather was like in faraway Johannesburg, and laughingly adding –  almost as if it were an unimportant aside – that I was listening to “Mevrou Alexander se jongste en mooiste” (Mrs. Alexander’s youngest and most attractive”), a referral that, along with “brrrright eyed and bushy tailed”, eventually counted among his most beloved catchphrases.

And for the next few hours, Robin Alexander, the man who so brilliantly gave voice to South Africa’s dedicated night time FM station, Radio Orion, would enchant me until I’d reluctantly fall asleep. The inexpensive little radio set – which had become my most prized possession – clutched close to my ear.

I was approximately eight years old when I took possession of that radio and first encountered Mr. Alexander (I’ve paid tribute to both of them before over here). During those delightfully clandestine listening sessions all throughout the 1980’s, his voice and talent for radio broadcasting made me fall in everlasting love with the medium. He was so fluently bilingual, seamlessly switching between English and Afrikaans during his broadcasts, that many people actually wondered what his true mother tongue was. (It was English, for the record.)

During the years since his retirement, Mr. Alexander pretty much dropped out of public sight and ear, but certainly not out of mind. The mere mention of his name and of the now defunct Radio Orion on my blog a number of years ago has drawn large amounts of hits from people who were obviously still wondering about him.

About two weeks ago, South Africa awoke to the shocking and tragic news that Mr. Alexander’s beloved voice has gone silent for good following a heart attack at his home in Johannesburg. Although I was sad at the news of his passing (still too soon at 73), it seems poignantly poetic that he died just five minutes past midnight on January 4. It was the beginning of his time slot, after all, which typically sounded like this.


Comments (3)Add Comment
written by sgb, January 17, 2012
He did infuse radio with a little more charm. Just listening to his voice was a pleasure.
written by redsaid, January 18, 2012
He did, didn't he? I really adored him. And from the spate of listener tributes that have been streaming onto Facebook and elsewhere online following his death, I KNOW that I'm far from the only one, so my adoration for him didn't just stem from the fact that I was a child during his Radio Orion stint. His appeal truly transcended generations - and wow - that in itself was an amazing gift.
written by DBS, January 26, 2012
Ah yes what a man. I always enjoyed his voice, clear diction, and elegant use of English.
So many of today's so pedestaled voices could learn a lot from him

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