Coffee Chat with Chislon “Verse” Banfield
Radio announcing and deejaying has always been viewed as somewhat glamorous professions. Certainly, the radio announcer’s upbeat, carefree banter over the airwaves have added to this feeling. And, lively announcements of the latest fetes, the booming tones of new releases from popular soca, reggae or R&B artistes has only contributed to that impression. Yet, with an increasing number of radio stations vying for listenership radio announcers’ impressive expertise and diverse skillsets become more evident. The profession calls for more than an outgoing personality and deftness at selecting and quickly alternating records. Chislon “Verse” Banfield of SLAM 100.5FM spoke with Yello, giving us more insight into this highly intensive profession.
Is being a DJ and a radio announcer synonymous, or do they involve differing responsibilities?
They involve different responsibilities; however, it’s still a cohesive operation. The deejay’s main role is to play good music and the announcer’s main role is to make it a memorable experience. It’s a bit like a storybook and a narrator. Of course, the announcer would have other functions such as reading ads and playing commercial both are responsible for a smooth or enjoyable shift that listeners should enjoy.
How would you classify yourself/profession?
I would classify myself as a radio personality and an entertainer.
When did you start radio announcing?
I started professionally five years ago
What prompted you to become involved in the industry?
I had always been a fan of radio announcers. I liked their ability to captivate an audience with their vocal skills and speech. And, I was also fascinated by their ability to play on words. I liked how they used this skill in current situations or events either drawing the public’s attention to an issue or easing tensions with humour.
Who were your early influences?
I’ve definitely admired Jason Williams and Ancil Isaac Jr or JW & Blaze as they are more famously known, and the late Devon Mathews.
What are the challenges you currently face as a radio announcer?
This is a very competitive industry, and getting into mainstream or prime time is almost impossible. Also, nothing is guaranteed, public appeal can oscillate—today you’re loved, tomorrow you’re not. I’ve found that being a radio personality requires mental agility because a lot of it you learn as you go.
While seeking advice from seasoned announcers is advisable, the challenge is to knowing how to filter, and implementing the parts that are applicable because what may work for one person may not necessarily be suited for another. Lastly, another challenge would be to gain and sustain listeners. This requires creativity and of course to be entertaining otherwise listeners become disenchanted quickly.
What is a misconception about radio announcers you’ve noticed?
This one is funny. People seem to expect that you to know every song under the sun. So, if they sing you a line, then you should know it.
What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?
The aspect that makes it interesting for me is the ability to influence and change people’s moods. As a radio announcer, I like that I can change someone’s day if the right words are spoken to compliment a song that is being played.
What do you usually do to prepare for a set?
I always read the newspapers and watch the news before a set. It’s important to stay up to date on current events. Then depending on the mood, I will decide on which genre of music I should begin the set.
What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets?
Playing a particular record depends on the speed, tempo, or the mood. It can also be determined by the listeners’ requests or not to mention the vibe. And for me “vibes” or energy is very important.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My family is my greatest inspiration. Without the Almighty blessing me with the great support that they provide on a daily basis, I would not be where I am today.
What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it?
Do I have to pick one? Ok, Sizzla Kalonji’s “Solid as a Rock.” The lyrics in that song will never get old nor become irrelevant.
How would you describe your style as a radio announcer?
I would describe my style of radio announcing as innovative, energetic, positive and sure to put a smile on your face.
In what way would you like to see radio announcing develop in Trinidad and Tobago?
I would like to see people respect announcers and their craft as well as announcers respecting people. Don’t take advantage of each other or fight one another let us all work together, fair pay for fair work.
As a profession radio announcing is highly sort after, what advice would you give to young people wanting to enter the profession?
Let’s see, I have a few things to share here. I would advise them to work hard and practice harder. Also, to always take advice and never take constructive criticism, personal, instead listen—learn and adjust. That being said, they should know that not all advice is good, so be wise in who you seek advice from. And above all, never give up and know that confidence is key, but humility will always keep the door open.
What is next for Verse in the area of professional development?
Well, there are a lot of things planned but for now, keep your eyes open. The voice you hear on the radio is going to be on your TV.