In the structure of modern radio everywhere, one of two shows strings all of a station’s programming together and truly embodies its lifeblood: the morning show, or the evening drive…occasionally, both. Thankfully, a dozen examples have immediately flooded your mind, so I don’t need to further demonstrate my point.
For Accra –based Live FM though, the Lifestyle Café, hosted by the talented Antoine Mensah, appears to be what the station’s sunsum is contained in. That’s unfamiliar because the Lifestyle Café airs mid-mornings, and mid-mornings are intended to be sombre: soft music and soothing voices to assist work. The show deviates from the ‘models’, and turns out to be brilliant…and the show is brilliant because the team behind it is. The anchor too!
Born Anthony Offori Mensah, Antoine has, with a remarkable combination of creativity, steady desire, wit, and charm, led the Lifestyle Café to among very fore of urban broadcasting in these parts if you ask me (and the millions who listen to the programme five times a week, and him, six times a week).
Antoine’s accent – his voice –is instantly appealing, because it’s alive and sunny. Also, the words, when they are spoken by his voice, descend in spectacular smoothness. Radio-speak is fast-paced, and Antoine’s words come quick, while still maintaining their superior eloquence. Perhaps, his initial acquaintance to the microphone as rapper is why words are so easily accessible to him in the spur of the moment. This finesse with words means that he makes everybody happy in the end, whether through his expert line of questioning or with thoughtful compliments.
There’s perfection about Antoine’s character: he’s simple, funny, polite, charismatic, kind, passionate, professional, and dedicated to radio in a way that is unmatched. It is therefore no wonder that in 2014 for instance, he was adjudged most dedicated employee at the annual Dream Holdings Awards Dinner Night. It is no wonder that he’s everybody’s favourite person, not just Vanessa Gyan or Lenny Coco’s. In the eve of colleague Geovani Caleb’s wedding, when he paid a surprise visit while Antoine was on air; you could hear him (away from the microphones, but not too far off to be completely inaudible) hollering “ The Great Antoine!”
Antoine is an excellent listener. How can I tell? Well for the Eat Right, Look Right segment presented by Lenny Coco (who’s also involved in producing the show), he has on several occasions had to sit through, and participate in some of the most bizarre conversations about grooming for ladies. Listening to women discuss pouting techniques using a bottle, or harmonizing make-up colours, or substituting lotion for cow milk can be torture…should be torture. But there’s Antoine, sitting across the table from a woman serious about her sermon, genuinely trying to make sense of all 712 ways a woman can enhance her look –constantly and tediously holding back a laugh or possible offensive comments which are a natural by-product of his bewilderment. But he would listen, and take mental notes, and reserve questions concerning glue for lash extensions for when next Lenny comes. In those few moments too, he represents the male constituency creditably. Antoine is an excellent listener!
Not only does he love to present on radio, he also enjoys listening to it –for, among the first things he does once he goes on-air for Lifestyle Café weekdays (or ENT Live, Saturday afternoons) is to recap all previous programmes before his –often with personal testaments of how he enjoyed House music by DJ Isaac Cool late nights, or how Berla Mundi was splendid as usual on Touchdown, or how Commotion’s RnB selections on Nocturnal Vibes were completely enjoyable, or how Sheldon’s turn was especially “vibely”, or what success Route 919 was, or Light on Live…
Again, Antoine possesses impressive musical awareness and wide influences, so that in the end, his shows are as much education as they are entertaining to listeners, hence such a segment as “Album of the Week”, where listeners are treated across weekdays, to songs off a classic album from any part of the world. The music that comes on when Antoine is live, and the sequence in which it is dished out, is some of the best sound you’ll ever hear. So that, popularity doesn’t necessarily influence his playlist (done in collaboration with an incredibly gifted DJ Masta Jay) –the fundamental requirement, I infer, is that the music has to be genuinely wholesome, one that is capable of pricking your very soul.
This understanding of our music and the way it works has ensured that his opinions have developed to become both fearless and trustworthy. His views have always remained professional, and though several of them have drawn criticism, sober reflection upon them would reveal that he’s speaking the reality we’ve all been sidestepping, accidentally or on purpose.
And how could we not mention the curiously famous baobab juice! Since his last bout of flu months ago, Antoine Mensah has come to cherish baobab juice in a way that is suspicious. He’ll have us believe that it solely cures common colds. And while I’m not suggesting anything, I would like to point out that the baobab represents manliness, therefore any broth made from no less a tree than the colossal baobab, must also have potencies that reach farther than healing the flu. Otherwise, why would he still grant it refuge in the crook of his arm, even when it is apparent that his cold has been long cured?
Then again, this is not necessarily odd, considering that we can associate nourishments to a few other Live FM on-air personalities –Jay Foley’s mornings won’t hold unless he has tea-bread in black polythene. For days, Vanessa Gyan went on and on about delightful waakye a listener gifted to her and AJ Sarpong one holiday. Even now, she brings it up once you mention waakye. And then, it’s no secret that Berla Mundi is enamoured by the meal in ways that are wrong, just wrong!
Anyway, back to the matter:
Ultimately, the place of inspiration cannot be overemphasized in anything he has been involved in, because Mensah is entirely about inspiration, and our very role on earth. Else, why would he stop to emphasize every word of motivation? Why does he hold charity work so dearly to his heart? With his #MyDailyDoseOfVim series for instance, he has shared with listeners many life-changing soundbites. The Lifestyle Café might not be taking credit for reshaping young lives, but it is doing incredible reshaping. This is how Antoine takes care of his radio; this is how he takes care of us.
And after a show, which is always guaranteed to bring fulfillment, here are his parting words to listeners. Today, they shall be mine too:
“It’s all in the mind, there are no boundaries. Reality is what you make it. It may be your life, but it’s God’s rules”.
–Gabriel Myers Hansen is editor of enewsgh.com. Follow him @myershansen on Twitter.