Sardar Pritam Singh Chaggar, one of the last Kenyan Sikhs pioneer doyens of a bygone era has passed away. A prominent presenter in the golden days of Voice of Kenya (VOK) in the early 1940s – 1960s.
Pritam Singh was amongst dozens of Sikhs who served many decades in the state radio station that also broadcasted in Hindi and Punjabi, besides Kiswahili, Dholuo, Kikuyu, Kinandi, Kiluhya, Kikib, Urdu, Gujarati, Konkani and Arabic. It was back then, a truly unifying station, which has since been rebranded to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation which is still owned by the Kenya Government.
He moved to the UK in the late 1960s.
VOK was established in 1924, and the broadcasts targeted white settlers who monitored news from their home and other parts of the world. The first radio broadcasts targeting Africans came during World War II to inform parents and relatives of African soldiers what was happening at the war front. It was not until the 1950s when Africans and Asians content was created and broadcast.
In 1954, VOK was renamed to KBS (Kenya Broadcasting Services) and finally to KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) in 1989.
Voice of Kenya from the 1940s had a very good share of Sikh presenters on television and radio besides Bikram Singh and Pritam Singh – Inderjit Singh Dhillon, Harbhajan Singh Preet and Teja Singh who were celebrated for their plays, talks, stories, news-reading commentaries.
Though VOK no longer has any Indian presenters left in their service, there are however, two major Asian entertainment radio stations that have some Sikhs as very popular presenters, but sadly, the turbaned ones remain a legacy that no longer continues in Kenya save for just Amarjit Singh Barha who hosts a Punjabi show on Nairobi’s Sound Asia every Sunday evening.
In its historic years, VOK had over 200 Asians involved in various departments of operation, making it the most prolific anywhere in the Diaspora and outside of India.
Following the Independence of Kenya in 1963, the Africanisation policy began to systematically take effect, replacing Indian workforce with African ones, and the legacy of turbaned Sikh personalities is now relegated to the pages of historic nostalgia.