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Fine-tuning for Fine Music radio

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A handful of dedicated souls braved the cold and stormy Cape winter nights, lockdown regulations – putting their lives at risk during the peak of Covid-19, to present their music in live broadcasts to their audience of distinguished listeners.

One of them, Dragana Jevtovic from Durbanville, invited TygerBurger to the studio of Fine Music Radio (FMR), a community radio station broadcasting mainly classical and jazz music to the greater Cape Town, in the Artscape Theatre for the live broadcast of the programme Collage.

Dragana, also well known for her acclaimed range of guinea fowl and Africa design ceramics she creates in her studio at her home in Wellway Park, has been diligently presenting evening programmes at FMR for over 14 years. Her programmes Collage, of which she is one of a team of presenters, and What a Wonderful World are broadcasted on Tuesdays from 20:00 to 22:00 and Wednesdays from 22:00 to 24:00 respectively.

“The station is kept going by a large team of regular volunteer presenters supported by a small full-time staff. The broadcasts are live and the presenters have been driving through wind and rain with masks and risks to keep the station going,” Dragana says.

“Luckily I am an evening person,” she says.

For Yugoslavia-born Dragana, who came to South Africa in 1993, it has been a passion to broadcast live at FMR since it was founded in 1995.

In Yugoslavia she studied art and philosophy at the University of Belgrade and music at the Belgrade Faculty of Music Arts, obtaining an honours degree in opera and concert singing.

“I was four years old when I spoke on the radio for the first time. My father was one of the founders of Yugoslavian radio and I grew up with the appreciation of words and music sent through the air to listeners in their homes.”

She presented classical music programmes on Yugoslavian radio and was a music critic for radio “Belgrade 202” and television.

“I felt the magic of the spoken word and music and I take that magic cloud with me every time I get into my car to drive to the FMR Studio to present one of my evening programmes,” she says.

However, she only started broadcasting at FMR in 2006 when her two very young daughters were old enough and she could fit it in with her singing studio and teaching and performance commitments.

“For me it is about my personal touch to select my own programme. It is about what emotions and sentiment I can get through and what I am giving with my selection of songs. I want to take people on a journey,” Dragana says while putting on next the “24 Préludes Opus 28” by Frédéric Chopin – “bringing calm to chaos”, as their slogan promises.

“I am a musician by profession, glad to be able to connect to my own feeling of music and communicate it to others, and cultivate a taste for new experiences – from French chanson to the distant harmonies of Georgia or the up-beats of the Balkans, wistful sevdalinka songs from Bosnia, the complex rhythms of Macedonia, the seduction of the Argentine tango,” she says.

“Radio represents an opportunity to take the listener on a journey, recalling memories, with each one taking what they want or need,” she says.

“Radio reaches out to both happy and lonely people ... it has been their friend through the lonely evening hours. Listeners are from all parts of Cape Town, also from all over the world (on the internet), including Brazil, Russia, France, Serbia, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Greece, Canada, California, Texas, Minnesota and New York. They communicate with me in the studio via WhatsApp, SMS, telegram, phone calls, emails and Face Book messages,” she says.

“This is what gives me energy – week after week for the last 14 years – to go out into the night to a lonely studio.”

For the last five years she has been accompanied by her dog, Sergei, a 65 kg Black Russian Terrier. “He is very well behaved, and thinks FMR is his other home,” she says.

But, FMR has not been left untouched by Covid-19.

“FMR decided to continue with its daily broadcasts, at the same time taking precautions to protect the staff. The presenters, all volunteers, have been driving through wind and rain with permits, masks and risks to keep the station going,” she says.

The radio station currently has around 113 000 listeners, of which 3% (2 825) are members.

“This means that of every 100 listeners only 2.5 are paying a membership of R320 per year. As a community station FMR receives no government funding, but has to survive on funds from advertisers, donations and membership fees.

“As a result of the Covid pandemic the advertising income of the station has fallen dramatically and the station is reliant on the income from membership and donations to stay on air,” Dragana says.

Standard membership of the FMR Association is R320 per annum, but any donation is welcome, she says.

There is also an FMR benefactor’s programme in which annual contributions can be made in the following categories: silver (R1 000 to R2 999); gold (R3 000 to R4 999) and platinum (R5 000 and above).

Dragana speaks more than ten languages, including French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Serbian, Croation, Slovak and also understands Afrikaans very well.

She is also a solo singer who was invited to present a solo concert at a music festival in Paris in June, but the festival was cancelled due to lockdown.

Help FMR to continue its programmes by becoming a member of the FMR Association for only R320 per year – less than 87 cents per day – for your favourite music!

  • Visit www.fmr.co.za or phone 021 401 1013 for more information.
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