|Ace Broadcast Journalist with the BBC World Service Radio, BBC World Television and presenter of BBC Africa Business Report Komla Dumor is one news personality flying high the flag of Ghana in an enviable way to a world audience.
Komla, known as ‘The Boss Player’ among his Ghanaian fans, turns 41 this October. He shot to fame in Ghana by hosting Joy 99.7 Fm’s ‘Super Morning Show’ to a discerning audience for years. He was awarded the overall best Ghana Journalist of the Year in 2003.
The Boss Player gave an insight into his career and personal life in an exclusive interview he had with television presenter, Eddy Blay.
Komla: Life is interesting and exciting, Eddy, it’s all about the work. I can’t say I’ve become a “Londoner”, because I spend most of my time in the studio or sleeping. I wake up and it’s back to the studio. But life is good. I can’t complain.
How’s the family? Three kids?
Komla: Yeah, the family’s doing incredibly well. Kids will be happy wherever you take them, so they’re good. They were still young when we moved up here, so they adapted well to life in London and they’re enjoying themselves.
Do you miss Ghana much?
Komla: Oh yes! I miss Ghana a lot, everyday! What I do for a living is fantastic. I love my job and the opportunities the BBC gives me. However, there’s no place like home. I get that nostalgia especially on the weekends when I know the boys in Ghana are having a good time somewhere without me. I miss that camaraderie that Accra is all about. But in due course I’ll be back home.
So it’s been seven years since you moved to the UK. Did you have any problems settling in on the way of life here?
Komla: Not really, because I’m here to do a job and that’s it. I remain focused on my work. Obviously, you build relationships in the communities in which you live in. I must be frank though, I’m all about the work. When I’m doing the morning news, I leave home at 2am in the morning and I’m on air at 5. I’m always thinking about the stories that need to be told and the journalism that needs to be done.
A couple of years back I was traveling once a month to a different African country to report. I went to 30-40 cities across Africa reporting for the BBC. I went all over Europe and the USA as well. I’m having a great experience but my focus has always been on the work.
What would you say is one of the best moments of your career?
Komla: You know the truth is, I am proud of some of the things I’ve done. I’ve been nominated for “Speech Broadcaster of the Year” in Britain. I have interviewed the good, the great, and some very fascinating people. I’ve traveled to some amazing places. However, I don’t know if it’s me or just the nature of the job, but I find myself thinking about the next thing that I need to do. I think the most important thing, as we are constantly reminded at the BBC, is that it’s all about the audiences.
The audiences have daily expectations. You look back at your last great interview as just a job. The next day you move on and try to deliver the same quality or even better. I tend not to reflect on those things, but I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with Africa. We have a new Africa TV program, a precedent. I was the first host of Africa Business Report, another precedent. Being able to tell the African story in a very different way than before is something I’m very proud of. As a matter of fact the BBC is very proud of that too, as they put a lot of resources behind it. Everyday you just try to be the best you can possibly be at what you’re doing.
What’s a typical day in your life like?
Komla: It depends. If I’m doing the morning European facing news, I’m up at 1:30 am. A car comes to pick me up at 2:30am. I’m in the studio from 3:15am, and I start meeting with the team to build the stories. I usually read the stories on my way to work to prepare, and when I meet with the team, nothing seems strange to me. It’s never a “so what are we doing” kind of scenario. You want to be a part of what is happening, so you get in, look at the stories, chat with the business presenter to find out what her stories are, discuss the stories in the papers, go to make- up then on to the set.
How long does make- up take?
Komla: I take the shortest time for make-up! (laughs) There’s no hair to do! Whoever thought I would say “oh I just use a bit of foundation”?! (laughs). There’s no argument, the make up team does a great job on me!
So what time does your day wrap up?
Komla: If I’m doing the morning, I wrap up at 8am. If there isn’t anything to discuss post the interview, or any support I need to give, that’s it. There are times I might be anchoring a different program, so I might stick around till the afternoon. But generally that’s how it is. Then the week after, it flips over and I do “Focus on Africa”. So for that, I’ll come in for midday, and it’s a similar pattern, with meetings and going through the stories. The challenge with “Focus” is obviously getting the material, the footage, because this is television.
It’s easier with European stories because the footage is available. But if you want to get a story out of Africa, you need to get a camera person there, etc. Therein lies the challenge. The show must be of the same content quality as any other program on the BBC. So a lot of work goes into it. The real tribute should go to the support staff. The presenter delivers these things, and it’s important that he knows what the subject material is and how to deliver it, but the team is essential. The success of the program is absolutely a team effort.
You’re obviously very passionate about what you do. What is it about your job that intrigues you the most?
Komla: Just being able to tell, and live a story. I like to travel, but traveling for its own sake is just sightseeing. Traveling and meeting people who under normal circumstances I wouldn’t come across is fulfilling. I’m not talking about just famous people or Heads of State, but ordinary people with amazing life stories, and being able to share those stories with the rest of the world. I love hearing something from such people and knowing that the audience will really be engaged by this individual. It’s all about the people I get to meet. There’s no glamour in it for me.
How’s the money?
Komla: (laughs) I can live.
So what do you do in your down time?
Komla: That’s a good question, Eddy, because it’s very hard for me to get any in my life with my busy schedule. But I spend any down time I have with my family. This job takes me away from them quite a bit, so it’s the quality of the time and not so much the quantity. The great thing about kids, as you know, is they appreciate the quality. The other day, I had a free Saturday, so I took my daughters out to learn how to fly a kite. Those are the things they will remember. I think I have about 50 movies that I’m about 20 minutes into because I fall asleep, wake up and go to work. I do like to read books and magazines that give my context of the stories that I’m about to run.
Your job allows you to be in touch with all that’s happening back home in Ghana. You haven’t been there in a while though.
Komla: Yeah, I have just been preoccupied with things here in the UK. But previously I was in Ghana fairly regularly, like every 3 months or so. If they gave me an assignment that took me to Sierra Leone or something, I would catch a plane to Accra and see my dad and my sister. But I do try to stay abreast with all that goes on in Ghana.
What do you think about all that’s happening in Ghana now?
Komla: Ghana is a fascinating story right now. The whole world is watching Ghana right now with a lot of interest. In terms of economic performance, and this is what the international media is reporting, not a personal endorsement, it has come a long way and it’s an exciting story to tell. The international media has been reporting this for several years now, running through the current and past administrations. The emergence of commercially viable oil is also very fascinating.
Is this emergence of oil a good or bad thing?
Komla: Well it depends on who you ask, and it always depends on how it’s managed. What is interesting to the international media is that here’s an opportunity for a country to transform itself. However, there are experiences from other countries very close by, that have transformed themselves but not in the right way, as a result of oil production. There are many examples where resource rich countries end up mismanaging their resources.
Whether Ghanaians like it or not, the country is still very much held up as an icon in terms of the management of the electoral process and democracy. The world is very interested in Ghana, and it gets a lot of kudos for it’s political and economic performance. But obviously the best judge of whether or not those praises are justified, are Ghanaians. Ghana needs to be seen within the context of what’s happening regionally, and globally, not just what we are doing in our own small patch.
Are you a perfectionist?
Komla: Not really, because nobody’s perfect and I do know that we all have our faults, but I am very hard on myself. I like to reflect on the work I’ve done even after the program is over. It’s about being satisfied that the product we delivered to the audience was good. Then I can go home and do what a daddy does. But if not, I tend to beat myself up a lot. I appreciate sincere feedback, and I’ve had some pretty brutal feedback in the past from people who are friends and I respect.
Like this one time the editor, who’s a friend of mine, said my delivery was great and fluent, but the program wasn’t. Now I could have been offended by this but I wasn’t. I went back, looked at the program and realized he was right, and noticed what went wrong. So now I think of ways to do it better. That’s what it’s all about and that’s how you learn, always remembering it’s all about the audience.
A message to your fans?
Komla: Well, Eddy, thank you for coming round. It’s very generous of you and thanks to the paper for having me. I have a lot of great friends back home that I miss very much. If I could drill down the message, I guess it would be that people should be ambitious with whatever they want to do. Along the way you’ll be hit by amazing frustrations. I’ve been hit with all kinds of things. But trod on!!Victory is certain, trod on!!