AIB FOUNDERS AWARD
Abdul Rahman Ramadhan started work in 1980. It wasn’t
a typical career for someone living in Nairobi’s Kibera
slum. He graduated from the local madrasa and chose the
profession of sound, landing a job at the Camerapix news
agency run by Mohamed Amin in the Kenyan capital.
He honed his skills on the job, working with the standard
location sound kit of the time – a Nagra reel-to-reel tape
recorder. Those skills, which would be developed over
the following three and a half decades, have brought the
world sound from across Africa.
For Abdul has recorded the sound that has accompanied
TV news reports from many of Africa’s most troubled
places and challenging events. His first truly dangerous
assignment was the civil war in Sudan in 1992. This
was the first war zone that the young sound man had
experienced. Along with the other Camerapix team
members, Abdul dodged bullets from soldiers and bombs
dropped from Antonov planes. He slept among the dead
to avoid detection.
Soon after, he accompanied Mo Amin to Ethiopia which
was in the grip of the worst famine to hit the country in
a century. It was the pictures and sound captured by Mo
Amin and Abdul for the BBC and other organisations of
the plight of tens of thousands of starving people which
led to the establishment of Live Aid. Bob Geldof saw the
report that Michael Buerk filed for the BBC and was so
moved that he organised Band Aid that recorded the
global hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, followed in
1985 by Live Aid.
In 1994, with his wife pregnant with their second child,
Abdul was sent by Mo Amin to Rwanda where the
genocide had started. There Abdul and the Camerapix
team witnessed many of the atrocities that occurred
during the 100 days of the genocide. In Somalia, it was
just one killing a day, Abdul recounts. In Rwanda, Abdul
saw gangs killing ten people or more at a time, all in the
most horrific ways.
He’s covered stories in his native Kenya, too, including
the election violence in 2008. The two main tribes in the
country fought running battles and up to 1,500 people
died in the violence, with half a million or more displaced.
Abdul was on hand, recording the sounds of battle on his
own home turf.
Abdul Rahman Ramadhan
Abdul is sanguine about the risks to his own life, saying
that when his time is up, that’s just the way it is, however
his life should end.
His wife supports him, despite not knowing if Abdul will
come back from his latest assignment. She knows that
capturing the sound that tells the most important stories
is in Abdul’s blood, and that it is far more than just a job.
Sound is Abdul’s passion. Over the past 35 years, he has
brought us some of the most momentous moments from
Africa’s recent history.
Abdul shows no sign of hanging up his microphone. The
Association for International Broadcasting is proud to
recognise the work that Abdul has undertaken to help
bring us the stories from Africa that need to be told. The
AIB Founders Award pays tribute to a remarkable man –
the Sound Man Abdul Rahman Ramadhan.