No Signal Radio, a station run by a team of young black creatives, are paving the way for a new age in radio broadcasting and beyond. Linking up with adidas for their innovative new sneaker, the ZX 2K BOOST, their combined vision is clear: stand up tall and be counted.

Words: Yemi Abiade

While most of us were getting to grips with the newly-established constraints of COVID-19 lockdown, No Signal Radio was plotting, seizing an opportunity to make their mark on British radio. Over the course of lockdown, across a diverse range of programming, personalities and truly unforgettable moments, No Signal became the premier listening space for #blackradio, a place of refuge for Black Britons and the African diaspora beyond to come together and exist in a space that is completely theirs. As lockdown has slowly come to pass, it now stands tall as a legitimate and flourishing station to rival other hallmarks of modern British online radio such as NTS, Worldwide FM and Reprezent.

The secret to their success was simple, yet profound. If you didn’t know who was initially responsible for the #NS10v10 DJ battles, you knew the premise. Pitting two artists (represented by resident DJs) and 10 of their best tracks against each other, with the winner determined by a public vote, the battles caught the imagination of the world, opening the door to No Signal’s rise. Across two seasons so far, the showcases have included Burna Boy vs Popcaan, Drake vs Rihanna and Kano vs Dizzee Rascal and, in early May, a battle between Afrobeats legend Wizkid and dancehall king Vybz Kartel gained the station more than half a million listeners from 99 countries. The message was clear: No Signal had gone global, a phenomenal achievement despite very humble beginnings.

No Signal was established by brothers Jojo and David Sonubi, a sister platform to their popular club night, Recess. Initially one-off livestreams on their official website, the station’s audience was small but devoted, consisting mainly of loyal frequenters to the various Recess events. As lockdown swept through the country, forcing the cancellation of planned parties, the Sonubis were forced to regroup, reviving No Signal into a fully-fledged radio platform. Dipping into their vast social network, the brothers have employed a full roster of DJs, hosts, programmers and producers, turning it into a dynamic organism knee-deep in all Black everything. Employing the services of everyone from presenters Henrie Kwushue and Jason ‘Scully’ Kavuma to sex blogger Oloni, No Signal possess nothing but energy and drive in their ranks, nurturing a new generation of Black entertainers. The station has also welcomed as guests a number of titans in Black British culture such as Ian Wright, Julie Adenuga, Ghetts and more, an indication of the growing faith in the station from all corners of the industry and the country at large. All while recording sets, shows and general content from their homes, which is no mean feat.

The radio station has left no stone unturned in its musical tapestry. Playing everything from gospel to reggae, from highlife to drill, a dedicated and ever-growing fanbase have begun to identify the richness of Black music and culture across decades and generations. A newfound appreciation for the music that would play in our homes by our parents any given Sunday morning, breathed new life by a vibrant, young and celebratory platform. At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has placed itself in the centre of the world stage, where more and more of the viewing public have borne witness to our struggle for equality, No Signal has provided a respite, a reminder of the wealth of Black culture.

In the UK, where genres such as drill, UK rap and Afroswing are the dominant sounds, a young audience is receiving an education on these sounds’ origins via No Signal. Cultural bridges, therefore, are being built between the sounds of today and yesteryear, a full circle moment for many listeners. Outside of music, with No Signal in full support of and giving a platform to initiatives such as the Black Young Professionals Network and The Black Curriculum, listeners are given the keys to their history and interconnection in the professional world, proving the station’s MO, at large, lies in the advancement of Black people.

In a short space of time, No Signal has revolutionised the interactive aspect of radio. Its branding has become synonymous with what is brand new, fresh and cool in the music scene, while they have made great use of their social media channels to determine content, to engage with listeners and comment on the topics of the day. It shows an alertness and a finger on the pulse that mainstream radio can lack, particularly when addressing Black music and culture. Completely organic, No Signal have made radio must-hear content with little to no resources, except endearing imagination and a strive to entertain the masses. Forming a relationship with their audience has proven key in this process, a chapter all radio stations should look to take from their book.

Now that lockdown is over, No Signal are continuing to thrive. In addition to their regularly scheduled programming, partnerships with Spotify, Wray & Nephew and adidas prove their presence is growing. And with plans to open up a physical broadcast studio, a natural next step, the station wants to transcend its online origins and become a staple of British radio, much like Capital, Heart and other mainstream stations before it. Hard work is sure to follow, but they are fully up for the challenge. The sky is most certainly the limit for No Signal, and it will be taking the history, dynamism and ultimate resilience of Black people with it all the way to the top.


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Posted on August 12, 2020