Triple R Studios, Brunswick, 2pm

Journalists know, as a golden rule, you never interview an interviewer.  It’s suicidal. A bad move. Not a winner.

Why is that you might ask? It’s because they know your tricks, your leading questions, when you want a juicy quote and they know the angle your story will take.

In short – they know your game.

I cast caution to the wind this week, however, and caught up with seasoned radio host and DJ, Namila Benson. She has been presenting Wax Lyrical on Triple R for two years, is a reporter on ABC Arts and at night embraces her DJ alter-ego, Sista Selekta.

By her own admission, Namila is not about being polite, but about being engaging. We met inside her radio booth after her show, and even after three hours on the air, she radiated eloquence. Within minutes, I had forgot my question list and transformed into a doey-eyed journalist padawan.

Power radio

There’s got to be a collective ideal that binds people together and more often than not it’s radio. Radio is intimate, it’s interactive and it’s also portable. You really get into people’s heads.

I know this because I come from a very remote island called Rebaul in Papua New Guinea. It’s extraordinary to go to a remote part of the globe and know people will be able to engage in debate about world issues. People know about these things because their lifeline and access to the rest of the world is through radio.

In western society I don’t see a lot of connection or communities at play, but Papua New Guinea is very much about connection. There are three different races and over 800 languages and over 1000 different dialects.

We call each other ‘wantoks’; one people, one place and one culture and when you meet another islander there is just an immediate sense of connection. In Melbourne, I think we are very connected to technology, but technology doesn’t connect us.

Every face has a story to tell

There is a lot of pride and passion in the shows we present on Triple R, but I felt it wasn’t reflecting the community because it’s very Anglo-centric.

It would have been so predicable for the brown skin girl to go to SBS, because the Australian media still ghettoize people. I thought I couldn’t really make a difference in that way, so I got my show on the airwaves at Triple R, and the feedback has been phenomenal.

What drives my show is that every face has got a story to tell. I always give global issues a very local and grass roots perspective. I don’t want just western voices representing a person’s experience.

On coming from Carlton

The things that kept me out of the media for so long now work in my favour, because I can get inside a person’s psyche in a way a white skinned person can’t. When the questions come from me they know I share their experiences, and I’m not asking to exotify or patronize them.

It’s great that Melbourne has gotten to the stage where we are celebrating differences, but having said that, I am probably moving in quite closed circles.

People can be quite clumsy in the way they want to connect with you. My number one pet-hate is when there is no context at all for conversation with someone and they come up and say, ‘where are you from?’

It’s an invasive and rude question, so now I just say ‘Carlton!’ and keep walking. I know it seems defensive but people don’t understand the frustration when people exotify you and picking you out because they think you look different.

Once I was in a lift and a woman got in. Totally out of the blue she looked at me and said ‘you must be a great dancer.’ All I did was, I got out of the lift and looked at her, and as the door began to close I said, ‘why, because I’m black?’

I just left it at that, hanging in the air. There were six other white people in that lift and she chose to say that to the black girl.

Music is what feelings sound like

Words are beautiful but music gets into spaces that words can’t. I’ll actually have a physical reaction to music, I feel sometimes like my heart is going to explode. Even if it’s in a language you don’t understand, it’s not just about hearing music, it’s about feeling it.

My parents were really into soul music when I was growing up, and I really rejected that and re-found it in my 20s. Now I’ve got a piece of music for every since emotion I feel.

In my Tolai language there isn’t a word for music. For us, when you name something, you have to create a concept that it exists, but music is everywhere in the villages, in the markets, and in the towns. It’s as natural to us as breathing.

I’m getting to a point where I just feel so blessed that I have two amazing cultures that inform my life in really weird and wonderful ways. Triple R is the place where they just come together so harmoniously.

Namila is on the lookout for the new generation of radio talent and encourages you to contact her at namilab@hotmail.com.