For over a decade, Julius Chongo's weekly Nyanja radio drama Poceza m'Madzulo ("Evening Story Time") was the most popular program ever aired on the Zambia National Broadcasting Services. How did this masterful author-performer utilize his dynamic vocal technique to give "eyes" to an invisible and sightless audience—one very different from that of a typical vernacular oral performance setting? My study investigates eight important narrative techniques that Chongo uses to spark the imagination of his distant, disparate, and dispersed listening audience, thus enabling them to both envisage and experience his lively radio dramas. These features are illustrated with reference to a humorous tale that was broadcast some thirty years ago, entitled "What You Cry For." My study reveals that despite certain severe limitations, the faceless radio medium—when creatively manipulated by a skillful wordsmith—has great potential to entertain, educate, influence, and inspire a vast listening audience, enabling them to see in their mind's eye just about anything that words have the power to evoke.


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pp. 98-123
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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