Good Morning Oman: Broadcasting for the Country
Few of us are at our sparkling best first thing in the morning. But Faiq Al Mugheiry, popularly known as ‘Faiq on the Mike’, does a superb job in getting Oman up and moving five days a week through a combination of great music, witty chat, news updates and quiz questions. To listen to Faiq’s early morning show, whether you are driving or at home, is to feel instantly more cheerful and ready to face the day ahead at office, college or school. In this interview, Faiq talks about how sheer chance led him into radio presenting, the qualities needed to be a good presenter and the pleasures and perils of radio broadcasting.
1. Please could you introduce yourself to KnowledgeOman.com
My name is Faiq Al Mugheiry. I’ve been working for the Ministry of Information as a broadcaster for Radio Sultanate of Oman for nearly 20 years.
2. Have you always worked as a radio broadcaster?
No, not at all. I’m a mechanical and production engineer by training! I was born in Zanzibar but I went to school in the UK, and later studied at the Central London Polytechnic. Meanwhile my family settled in Oman, where my father worked for the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat for over 30 years. While still in the UK, I was seconded by Shell in conjunction with PDO. Although I had visited Oman many times and loved it, I didn’t come to live here permanently until 1991. I started off working for PDO but I quit after six months. The desert was just not for me, and I found the two weeks on, two weeks off shifts very difficult. But then I learned that the Ministry of Information was looking for engineers, so I applied for a job. In due course, because I spoke good English through having lived in the UK for so long, I had the opportunity to do a voice test for radio broadcasting with Radio Sultanate of Oman. I passed the test, and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. How did you start off presenting your own show?
The first time I went on air I read the weather forecast – all in one breath because I was so nervous! Then I moved onto reading the news. Eventually I started doing evening shows on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, and later I got my own evening show. This was still back in the ‘90s. I used to play the Top Twenty UK charts and also give out the football results. People used to tune in specially to listen to the results as there was no live TV in those days. I would listen to the BBC World Service football commentary on one side of my headset, and relay what was happening to my listeners on the other side . . . that was fun even though I got mixed up sometimes. Then the ‘Good morning, Oman!’ breakfast show opened up – before that it had been mostly classical music in the mornings. I had never done a breakfast show before, but as my daughter was a baby at that time, which meant I was up early anyway, I thought, well, why not come into work early. So that’s how I started doing the early morning show.
4. What do you enjoy most about presenting your early morning show?
It’s great fun. I really enjoy the music I play. . . I’m lucky enough to have the freedom of choosing my own music, as long as I keep within the rules of the radio station. I love making up the playlists. I also really enjoy liaising with people and chatting to them . . . just knowing there is someone out there listening to me is a fantastic feeling, even though it’s sometimes hard to believe at six in the morning when the show starts. I also enjoy collecting quiz questions . . . I look them up on different websites and put them together ready for the next day’s show. Although this takes a lot of time, it’s very enjoyable and I learn a lot.
5. What kind of equipment do you have in the studio?
There are four computer screens – the PC where I look up all the sports news and other news; another two screens where all the music is loaded, and a screen where the SMS messages come in with answers to the quiz questions. There are also telephones for people to phone in. I have to keep my eye on all the computer screens, as well as answer the phones. Each track only plays for an average of three and a half to four minutes, so there really isn’t a lot of time to take calls between the times I’m on air. Some of the listeners who phone in want to chat, but unfortunately I don’t have time!
6. Do you ever make mistakes on air?
All the time. Of course, any mistakes are immediately obvious because it’s live radio. And that’s what I always tell listeners – ‘At least you know that this show is live!’ But there’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to keep cool and carry on. After all, it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake. Some of my worst times have been when I’ve forgotten to turn down the fader at the end of the show. I haven’t realized that what I’m saying is still live and being heard by hundreds of listeners until people around me have started gesturing - ‘Faiq, you’re still on the air!’
7. What do you present apart from the early morning show?
I do the sports report programme in the afternoons and I put music together for Tropical Tunes, one of my colleague’s shows. I’m very keen on sport, especially football. I like rugby too.
8. Do people ever get annoyed because they haven’t won a prize in the quiz?
Oh yes. People are always phoning up complaining that they haven’t won anything. It’s just part of my job explaining that it’s not enough to call in with the correct answer . . . there’s an element of luck involved because you have to be the specified number of caller to give the answer. We have six telephone lines with calls coming in, as well as SMS messages coming in on the computer screen, so there’s a lot of competition. Just because you have the correct answer doesn’t mean you automatically get a prize, but not everybody understands that.
9. What qualities do you have to have to be a good radio presenter?
You need to have confidence, and the ability to think on your feet and juggle things – as I mentioned, I have to keep an eye on four computer screens and six telephone lines as well as chatting to people. You need to be a good communicator, and to know how to keep calm in a difficult situation and not panic. But a lot of being a good radio presenter comes with experience . . . it’s experience that is all important and teaches you how to learn from your mistakes. It’s surprising how nervous even some professional people get about being on the radio – once they see that red light is on, which means recording is underway, they freeze up. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve interviewed over the years who have just frozen.
10. What’s your favourite music?
My favourite period is the 80s, because that was when I was growing up. The 90s’, on the other hand, are a really sad decade as far as music is concerned. I like older music too, even music from the ‘50s and earlier. I listened to a lot of older stuff because of my dad, and I got to really like it. But I don’t really have favourite groups; I have favourite songs. I love soul, R & B and Motown. I can listen to all kinds of music but I’m not very keen on heavy metal and some types of rock.
11. Any final word for KnowledgeOman.com?
I’d like to encourage anybody who is interested in becoming a radio presenter to give it a go. You don’t need to do a special course, you just need to contact the Ministry of Information and arrange to come in and do a voice test to see if your voice is suitable for radio. You never know what may happen. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be a radio presenter, but look at me today. If you just believe in yourself, you can do anything!
You can listen to Faiq’s early morning show from 6 – 9 a.m. Saturday to Wednesday on Radio Sultanate of Oman 90.4 FM. You can also contact Radio Sultanate of Oman on 24602058 or the Ministry of Information on 24602698.
Interviewed by: Anne Collins / ‘Faiq at the Studio’ photograph by Badr Al Qasimi