by ASJAD NAZIR
BBC ASIAN NETWORK HOST NADIA ALI DISCUSSES RADIO, TV AND ART OF BALANCING
ONE of the biggest champions of Bangla music is talented radio host Nadia Ali. With her popular weekly BBC Asian Network show, she plays a wide variety of songs, including classics from major artists and exciting newcomers.
The show also features interesting guests, entertainment news, and of course the lively presenting style of a loveable host who has had an interesting journey. Nadia has presented a wide variety of television shows, hosted live events, written for leading publications and qualified as a barrister.
The proud Londoner is firmly connected to her roots and has become a shining beacon for the Bengali community. Eastern Eye turned the tables on Nadia for a chat about radio, music, inspirations and more…
You have had an action-packed media career, starting from TV and going on to do an award-winning BBC radio show. How do you look back on that journey?
Wow, when you put it like that, it still feels totally surreal! Eleven years ago I started as a Children’s TV presenter on Channel S and did a live show every Saturday for six years. As a child, I was always very confident; I loved dancing, singing and being in front of a camera.
I was a British Bangladeshi girl from east London with big dreams. Never did I think I’d be working at the BBC and have my own radio show. It’s been a long and tough journey. Alongside my career, I’ve had to pursue my education in law which was very challenging. But I never gave up my dream of working in the media and doing what I love doing the most, which is presenting.
What has your radio adventure been like?
Not many people know this, but I kind of slipped into radio. I’ve always been a TV girl, but by chance I was approached to do a demo for my radio show at the BBC Asian Network. I still remember saying to my little brother as we were making our way to Birmingham: ‘Is radio really for me?’
So it all started from there. My first time on the mic was five years ago and now I don’t know anything but radio! It’s been an amazing adventure, learning how to connect with my audience through the airwaves instead of having the lights, camera, action of television.
Tell us about your show…
My show comes on the BBC Asian Network every Sunday from 8-10pm and I play you the best of Bangla music from across the globe. And let’s not forget all the banter, fun and games we have on my show, which my listeners can be a part of. It’s the perfect mix for your Sunday evenings.
What has been the most memorable moment of your radio show?
Winning an award! I was just a year into my show and we celebrated Bangladeshi music talent across the whole station. The BBC Radio and Music Awards presented us with an accolade for Bangladesh Music Week 2013. It really put us on the map.
Who has been the most interesting person you have interviewed?
It would have to be my queen of music, Runa Laila.
You perhaps feature the most Bengali music; what is your favourite?
(Thinks) There is so much great Bengali music that it is impossible to choose. It honestly depends on my mood! But urban/r’n’b Bangla music is definitely something to listen out for.
Which upcoming Bengali artists should we look out for?
I have a few names for you. I just recently got back from Bangladesh and met some really talented singers. Xefer, Bammy and Pritom are releasing some great music, so look out for them. I’ve gotta represent my home boys Nish and Lyan too! These two are just killing it at the moment.
Does it sadden you that Bengali artists and music don’t get as much exposure as Punjabi and Hindi music?
Yes, totally! I think Bangla music does get forgotten about and there’s not enough exposure for artists in this genre. However, saying that, I do feel that my show, which is on national radio, is dedicated to playing Bangla music. It is one of the only national media platforms for our Bangla music scene.
Over the last few years, Bobby Friction has been a huge supporter in sharing Bangla music through his show. Also let’s not forget about BBC Asian Network’s Bangla Music Week, where we showcased Bangla music across the network. So I guess it comes down to artists to share their songs and not be shy to send music across to people and stations around the world. Bangla music is awesome! You just need to have a listen.
What keeps you so connected to your Bengali roots?
My parents, along with my great love and passion for my Bangladeshi culture.
Is it easy to host a radio show if you are in a bad mood?
(Laughs) It’s the only time that I am never in a bad mood!
Can you share with us any funny behind-the-scenes moments?
(Laughs) There are so many crazy moments off air! But I think for me the funniest moments are when I turn up to the BBC dressed up in my full Bengali attire after hosting the Boishaki mela in London.
Every year I host the after party on my radio show and everyone in the office just looks at me thinking: ‘She’s a little overdressed for radio’.
What is happening on the TV front?
I still do some TV work and I love it!
How does radio compare to doing television?
I feel television is easier to present on than radio. TV allows me to have visual cues that can sometimes provoke the response I want from my audience. I also have that visualisation where my audience can see me, and if I make a mistake it’s easier to laugh it off.
On radio, it’s so personal and intimate. I can’t fall back on visual effects to keep listeners engaged. It’s literally me, a mic and my amazing listeners.
How have you balanced your media career with being a barrister?
I’m not currently practicing as a barrister, but am working on a few projects. These include coaching and training, women’s empowerment, and domestic violence campaigns alongside my media career. I guess the key to keeping it all balanced is to have a diary, a plan and sticking to it.
Is it easy to balance a busy professional life with family life?
I got married last year and I thought it would be really difficult to balance my very intense media career and family life, but I’ve been lucky. Like my parents, my husband has been such a huge supporter of my work and we have a great understanding where we talk and communicate. That’s honestly the key to having the right balance in any profession and family life.
You wear a lot of eye-catching outfits when you host events; what are your fashion inspirations?
Anything with a Bangladeshi twist works for me.
If you could learn something new, what would it be?
(Laughs) To sing! I think I’d be an amazing singer. I can lip sync like a champion.
You have become a hero to many with your radio show, but who is your hero?
Can I please be really cliché here and say my parents? My mum and dad, because they have taught me to be confident, happy, kind to people, to live my dreams and be fearless. My dad has always told me that I can achieve anything I want as long as I truly believe in it.
What inspires you?
The thought of helping people inspires me. If I can be successful in whatever it is I do, then I can help 100 more people in achieving their dreams. That to me is inspiration.
Finally, why do you love radio?
It’s who I am, what I am and what I love doing.
- You can follow Nadia Ali on Instagram & Twitter: @SimplyNadiaAli and www.nadiaali.co.uk