Villas&Golfe Angola
· Radio · · T. Maria Cruz · P. Nuno Almendra

Carla Castro

«I grew up on the radio, that’s where I became a woman»    

PMmedia Adv.
She divides most of her time between the world of radio and academia. But, in the rest of her time she always tries to pay attention to her daughters, with whom she likes to watch films and play games and who she tries to instil with her taste in music from the 1960s to the 2000s, in order to infuse them with culture. Carla Castro has been a radio presenter for more than 35 years. She dreamed of being an oil engineer, but it was at Rádio Nacional de Angola (RNA) that, at the age of 15, she took her first steps and hasn’t looked back since. She likes dancing, socialising and travelling. In an interview with V&G, she speaks of the challenge of becoming a presenter, of the role that women currently play in management positions in the world of radio, which are still few, and talked about the media in the world, which, according to Carla, «is no longer innocent, no longer human, no longer obeying the criteria of impartiality and informing with truth». 
Can you share a little bit about your academic and professional career. 
I was a chemistry student, saturated with the dream of being an oil engineer, but I was ‘taken’ to radio because I took part in a voice-over test. I was quite young. I was 15 years old. Radio Nacional de Angola (RNA) was looking for young announcers to work part-time. That’s exactly how I started, without ever having done any children’s or youth programmes. My physical appearance was a little deceiving, and at the time, the management thought I was already an adult. When my age was discovered, the only solution was for my mother to sign a document authorising me to work. Then, at the age of 16, I received an invitation to present a programme about the world of cinema and that was my first TV experience. I stayed at Televisão Pública de Angola (TPA), Angola’s only TV station, until 1994. After that, the dream of being an oil engineer died and the dream of being a journalist or radio presenter came about swiftly. The result: I no longer wanted to go to university in the field I had dreamed about, rather in media studies. This is back in the 1980s and, in that decade and the one after that, there were no faculties of journalism or media studies in the country. In the meantime, I was doing training and technical courses, I was growing professionally in the hope of getting a scholarship to England or Brazil, countries that I was interested in to continue of my studies. In the middle of 1996, I decided to leave media, in a divorce attempt brought about by disappointment. I worked for some years at the South African Embassy, in Luanda, but I ended up being invited to be part of the group of professionals that had the mission to reopen Rádio Ecclésia, from the Emissora Católica de Angola, and so I went back to radio. Later, I left radio again, when I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa. I returned in 2008. In that year, I joined RNA again, where I am until today, and I was invited to be part of Angola’s first private television channel, TV Zimbo, from the very beginning, as anchor of the channel’s main news bulletin, where I stayed for a few years. It was an intense workload, radio and television, at a time when the moment had come for me to become a mother. After some years, I remained solely on the radio. At RNA I held positions as sub-director of Canal A, director of monitoring and analysis of four of the group’s stations and, until the beginning of this year, as programme director of RNA. 

How challenging was it to become a radio announcer in a country like Angola when you started your professional activity?
This is back in 1984, in a country that had only been independent for a few years and under a socialist regime; there were no private companies; the education and health system was public; the state absorbed the entire workforce, besides embassies and oil companies; and the country was still at war. It was a time of massing of technicians to start up a small industry. Few young people were actually working, the maxim was «Studying is a Revolutionary Duty». And that was the prime mission of young people, their education. At 15 years old, I started doing radio, in the only radio station that existed in Luanda and that broadcasted to the whole country. Television started broadcasting at the end of the day and was turned off before midnight and there was no satellite TV in the homes of Angolans, except in strategic posts. The Internet was not even part of our vocabulary. Being at RNA was a great privilege and challenge at that time, the names that were there were big. The whole of Angola knew and admired them, followed their work. It was the way of being informed, but also of being entertained. I became famous very early on and also had television as a springboard.  I participated in wonderful projects and had the privilege of learning from «beasts» in the early years. Also, the salary although being little, for all of us, came in like clockwork. This was not the central focus, but it became so a decade later, the reason for my departure being the demands of age itself, the new times in Angola, already multi-party and with a fledgling market economy. 

«Radio has always been at the forefront of the struggle and conquest for women’s rights» 
When did you become interested in being a presenter?
I spoke of the dream of being an oil engineer, that was really the dream, I was ‘corrupted’ (laughs), but I always had the habit of reading aloud, and pretending to be from TV as well, in that exercise of lowering and raising my head, there was no teleprompter then, (just to put it in context).

What advice would you give to young people who want to follow the same profession?
It’s a world that has attracted a lot of young people, but unfortunately many of them come here unprepared, even in terms of language, linguistics and general culture, without any taste for or interest in reading. I have given a lot of training in voice-over techniques, reporting, interviews and programme production and I urge them to invest in themselves in order to make up for what they lack. On the other hand, we have a lot of creativity. It has to be harnessed and put to good use.

Every day, between 9.00 am and 12.00 pm people listen to you. They rely on your vast years of experience. Is each broadcast still challenging or is it so natural that nothing scares you?
Not in everyday life anymore. But there are days when you feel a chill in your stomach. When new projects go on the air for the first time, it’s a game of adrenaline and the responsibility not to make mistakes, not to do badly and to win over the other side, the audience of a largely young population. It is a constant reinvention and updating. 

How many years have you been at RNA? How do you think radio stations have evolved in the last decades? 
I will have been at the radio for 38 years on the 15th of March, when I was officially considered an employee of RNA. Radio has undoubtedly evolved, both technically and technologically. It is incomparable. But in terms of rigour, both in writing (in chronicles and dialogue creation, for example) and in the spoken word (diction, vocabulary...), with its rare exceptions, it has regressed.

Has working in radio only brought you good things?
I grew up in radio, that’s where I became a woman. It was my first and almost only job. I went through various phases, and I still do... In changing times and living with several generations, things are not always good. We work with humans.

Is the role women take on in the world of radio seen in a different light nowadays?
It is very interesting that radio has always been at the forefront of the struggle and conquest for women’s rights, starting with a programme in the 1980s that was essentially aimed at women. When I arrived at RNA, it was a woman who was in charge of everything to do with programming – the eternal Programme Director Maria Luísa Fançony. Eternal because to this day, even without being that to many, we still call her that: Director. Nowadays, women occupy some positions, but if we look at the quantity of radio stations in Angola, there are few women at the head. In the administration of RNA itself, there has never been a female president of the board and often the few who do occupy management positions come from elsewhere, they are from outside RNA.  

«The world’s media (of which Angola is a part) needs a makeover»

What is your opinion on the media, in the country and in the world?
The world’s media (of which Angola is a part) needs a makeover, it is no longer innocent, it is no longer human, and it does not obey the criteria of impartiality and of informing with truth. As long as powerful groups, both political and financial, rule it, it will only serve the interests of those groups. This has led to professionals and the media falling into disrepute and people informing themselves on social networks, subject to being equally misled by fake news. But it is here, on the social networks, where also the traditional media should turn to, because the feedback from their audience comes in the form of opinion. The listener, the reader, the viewer wants to be part of the topic being covered.

What does being a radio presenter mean to you?
Radio is a world of emotion for those who make it and for those who listen to it. It is the presenter who is the link between the listener and that box, which today is still in the form of a radio, but also a telephone, a tablet, a television, a computer. It is up to the presenter to know how to pass on the work done, which has enjoyed the full commitment of all those involved. A good presenter can save programmes from being badly produced, and a bad presenter can ruin good programmes, so the latter should not even go on air.

What are the main characteristics that a presenter should have?
I have always learned that we should in fact be a model citizen, of exemplary conduct, without scandals and controversy surrounding our life and presence in the public space. Our radio is still very educational in nature and it is up to us to pass on that message, that knowledge, that advice. On the technical side, a rich vocabulary, excellent reading and interpretation skills, eloquent speech, good diction, good voice projection, a good capacity to memorise, a vast general culture, attention to the political, economic and social phenomena of your country and the world. And if you combine all this with a magnificent voice, you can’t help being «loved» by the public. It is important to convey sympathy in your voice, the listener must feel empathy for the voice he hears. 

We are celebrating the 13th anniversary of Villas&Golfe magazine, in Angola. What have these last 13 years represented for you, in your life and in the country?
Villas&Golfe is a necessary magazine for a target public such as yours, a demanding class, of refinement and glamour, of culture, in its various aspects. And it has been able to satisfy the expectations of those who look at the cover and start leafing through it, either in its conventional form or in a click. 
Maria Cruz
T. Maria Cruz
P. Nuno Almendra