By Marley

He is the host of one of the biggest breakfast shows on air. He is known for doing charity work especially when it comes to animals, won multiple awards and is a musician. Martin Bester is well known and well-loved by many South Africans as he greets them in the weekday mornings. You might have seen his band, Kinky Robot, here and there or as a solo artist. You might have shed a tear during the heart-wrenching stories of “Good Morning Angels”. Martin is pretty much there in your world, every day.

Born in Mpumalanga and growing up on the Eastern Cape coastline, Martin always had a passion for animals, people and radio work. Kicking off his radio career on campus radio stations before moving to one of the largest private radio stations in the country – Jacaranda FM. But Martin is not just another radio jock, he is passionate about music (both English and Afrikaans) and performing live just like another other musos we love and know. He also loves animals and has a handful of them at his home in Gauteng which includes a small flock of chickens.

With the Covid-19 outbreak and the country being lockdown meant that many live events were cancelled. I am here to tell you that Martin and his band will be visiting Nelspruit on Friday 30 October to perform live and the man is hungry for live performances! Small Town Music got the opportunity to speak to Martin about life, Good Morning Angels, music, lockdown pastime, dogs in the background and all things Bester.

Martin Bester at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
Martin with fans at Sabie Tube Race 2019
(Photo by: Small Town Music)

STM: You are one of the most popular breakfast radio hosts today – what is your secret for getting up bright and early 5 days a week?

MB: You know what, I think this is the third time I’m doing a morning show and this time around it’s slightly easier to do. Because I am a little bit more focus and a little more disciplined. I try not to go out during the week and keep to getting to bed early kind of thing. Because my day is slightly longer as well as doing other things as well. You have to be disciplined, you have to be focused otherwise you become way too tired. But at the same time, I have such an incredible team around me of producers and online team that honestly make it a lot more fun to go to work. And helps me being better prepared. All in all, it’s not THAT hard although it’s very early in the morning especially if you had a long weekend of travelling filled with gigs and shows. But then again I wouldn’t have it any other way, I absolutely love it, it’s a fantastic part of the day to be on the radio. The energy and the vibe is next level. Also, I need the money.

Martin Bester performing at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
Martin performing
(Photo by: Small Town Music)

STM: Don’t we all. You work with very strong-headed, independent women Liesl and Elma, on your radio show. How do you keep up with them?

MB: Yes, I get to work with two incredible women on the show. Powerful, independent, forward-thinking, compassionate, strong women and it’s an absolute pleasure. I learn from them, they are successful in their own right. They also have long full days but they are also highly dedicated and creditable focused and add to the show in their own special way which is just so cool. But it drives me and inspires me to be better. What a pleasure and a privilege.

STM: You have listened to a lot of heartbreaking stories on “Good Morning Angels” especially now during the lockdown. How do you balance this emotionally? How do you pick yourself up and continue the good vibes on your show?

MB: Good Morning Angels is a challenge in a way but in another way it gives you so much hope, you know, the fact that we can make a change. The fact that other people make a change, the fact that other people care to tells us about other plight and desperation gives you hope. It really does. It’s also a slice of life, that’s how life goes through the cause of anyone’s day as it not just fun and sunshine the whole day through its South Africa. You see it in your car as you drive to work, you see the struggle. And that’s how I approach the show; I try to keep as real as possible. Yes, there will be moments where we hear sad stories from people that desperately in need and then we move on to another moment where it’s lighter, it’s a balance. I think it’s a reflection on life, that’s how it is. And I’m perfectly fine with it; I think we cope with it pretty well. We don’t want to one or the other thing; I don’t think that is fair on a South African context.

Yes, we have enormous fun where we don’t take ourselves seriously. We joke and we laugh ourselves silly but we have to stop in our life to be aware what’s going on around you and to be a kind, compassionate South African. Who cares about their neighbour who stops and helps and I think that the people who listen to the show and station we all share that if you see how much they give we ask them to donate and sometimes we don’t even ask they come forward and they say I want to help that women, that child or that family. And that is just on GMA. It’s an eye-opener, it always gives you perspective on life, it always ends with hope and with people getting together and makes a change.

STM: With your radio career you also have a successful music career – how do you balance it all?

MB: Since I was a child I was incredibly busy with many things, I never did just one thing. At school I was in the choir, I acted, I played rugby, cricket, tennis, you name it. I love being busy, I love expressing myself. Right now its radio, television and music, music is a very important part of my life. It’s always been there and always will be there long after the radio and everything else. So for me, it comes naturally to balance it all, you have to stay focused obviously, the day starts very early on a very big platform. You have a lot of accountability and pressure there but what pilferage to be doing what I’m doing. Not a day goes by where I don’t realise how lucky I am. Some days I get tired especially when I have a lot of gigs and a lot of shows and a lot of things happening. But who am I to ever complain about that? Never, I love it.

Watch Martin Bester’s latest single “Anders”

STM: You have a new single that was released earlier this month called “Anders”. Can you tell us a bit more about “Anders” and where the inspiration came from?

MB: It’s about what makes it okay to be different, being okay with standing out and doing it proudly and accepting yourself. Sometimes you do feel like you are a minority because you are different but then you realise ‘hey, a lot of other people are also different and okay with it’ and together you can be much stronger. I think it suits the tone of the world in 2020 about accepting, about breaking down former stereotypes that made people feel bad about the way they were born, bad about how they are. I’m very proud of the single, I really am! It’s now the third time I have worked with the same producers as my previous singles “Konings” and “Vir Die Liefde”. Ewald and Dolf and Ruan as a songwriter as well we work together fantastically, Pop Cult Studios they are amazing and I hope people like it, I really do. We also shot the music video and I’m very much proud of that as well, I can’t wait to see the final product I think it’s going to be very cool.

Martin Bester and his band - photo supplied by Martin Bester
Martin and his band performing
(Photo supplied)

STM: What do you miss the most from live shows?

MB: I miss everything about live shows. I love the part where I get to spend time with the band on the road and just laugh and have fun together. I miss the road trips. Even I miss the sound checks! When you get to a venue for the very first time or you have been there before and you see all the familiar faces. Also meeting new people at shows, hanging with them afterwards and them telling you about their town or city or part of the world. For me, music has taken me to places I would have never been or gotten otherwise. I’ve seen places, met people, learn things about South Africa through my music and travelling with my band and I absolutely love it. I obviously love it the moment when we go on stage and share the stage with an incredibly talented band, I love every time, just having a great time with people through music.

STM: During hard lockdown what was your favourite thing to do to keep your mind occupied?

MB: I did a lot of writing during the lockdown, planned and chatted to various role players for production and recording with people in Cape Town about songwriting, I did a lot of that, I must say, really been given the time to sit, write and planned to get excited about recording even more and that is the one thing I did. The other thing I did was spend a lot of time at my new home, we had moved at the end of last year so got to spend a lot of time here. Braai, spend time around the house and watch Netflix, we went through a number of series I think just like a lot of people properly. I used the time to really reflect on my life and what I do and it all made me a lot more excited to record more music and perform again. We even planned another tour.

STM: You have a deep love for animals and your Instagram is filled with pictures of your pets. Where does your love for animals come from?

MB: I guess probably from my parents, we always had pets. My parents were very adventurous, we cruised a lot with the caravan, we saw a lot of the country, of nature. I probably got it from them. I love animals so much. I really do. My animals are very important in my life and contributing to animal welfare as well, I think we all must do. I love the quote from Gundi that goes “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” and I do believe that. People’s relationship with animals and other people tell you a lot about society.

STM: Dare To Believe is the local band which will open for you on 30 October 2020 at The Pub, Nelspruit. Do you feel there is room for local bands on the national scene?

MB: I’m very excited about them. I know Cash, I got to know him over the last while, an incredible guy and his wife Monique, their willingness to help other artists as well. Network and connect through music and shows and to support that is incredible. Of course, there is room for bands. You know what, this is what I think is a great thing from this year, the upside, a lot of people went online. It was equal for everybody the platform whenever you are sitting in Nelspruit, Witrivier or Cape Town, we all had the same kind of platform that was the internet. And I discover a lot of other bands around the country.

Martin Bester live at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo Small Town Music
Martin Bester live at Sabie Tube Race
(Photo by: Small Town Music)

STM: What advice do you have for bands who are trying to crack the radio audience?

MB: Listen to what is happening on the radio if you really want to be on the radio. Know what’s going on, what are they playing, what’s the vibe, what’s the trend. Work with producers that have a tendency to have radio success, production is incredibly important – don’t skimp on that. And just keep trying! It took me a long, long time before I got radio play – it didn’t happen overnight. Before I got my first single on air.

STM: You are no stranger to the Lowveld. Do you a specific spot you enjoy to visit while down here or can fans send you suggestions via your social media?

MB: I love coming to the Lowveld, I really do, and I got a very special relationship with the Lowveld and shows. I was born in Mpumalanga, Bethal, I love going to Dullstroom as I have had some of my favourite shows there. I love going to places like Nelspruit, I have had many shows there, Witrivier. I discovered Sabie via a show last year what incredible vibe, I loved that show so much. I always look forward to coming to shows in the Lowveld. And I would love people to invite us more, we do the smallest of small shows to the biggest of stages that you throw our way. We just love to perform and to see more of the Lowveld. So absolutely hook me up on social media to make suggestions and can’t wait to see you at the end of the month.

STM: You are speaking about The Sabie Tube Race. The show on 30 October is Halloween themed – will you dress up for Halloween and if so what will it be?

MB: Yes! It’s a Halloween show. I’m so looking forward to what people come as to how they dress up really. I absolutely think we must make an effort to dress up and I will encourage the band to do so as well. I recon one giant mask and that’s all, what do you think? Maybe I dress up like Joe Exotic, it was one of the shows I love watching at the start of the lockdown – Tiger King – that could also work.

We like to thank Martin for his time, advice and his love for the Lowveld. You can listen to his new single “Anders” on your favourite online music source. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Tickets to the Halloween at The Pub show feat Martin Bester and Dare To Believe are now on sale for R80 – prizes to the best dressed.

Marley is the founder and owner of Small Town Music. Born and bred in Nelspruit aka Nelsparta. Marley loves music (rock being a firm favourite), tattoos, festivals, animals and South Africa. Self-taught photographer and writer.