He called himself “DJ Ronnie, the hitman” but by the end of his illustrious radio career, his fans had dubbed him “the love doctor”. At the time of his sudden death at Kadic Hospital, Bukoto, on that black day of September 11, he was quite arguably Capital FM’s largest attraction.
The DJ whose weekly Late Date Show from 8p.m-12a.m enjoyed the most loyal following and displayed no falling off in quality, walked into Kadic because he had not been feeling well, but died shortly after, leaving many dumbfounded. In fact, a day before he fell ill last Tuesday, Ronnie Ssempangi hosted one of his most electrifying shows that seemed to herald exciting new directions.
For the first time on his Late Date Show, DJ Ronnie was seemingly stumped by a female caller identifying herself as Fiona, who called in and all but admitted that she had consulted the services of a witchdoctor. All in the bid to regain the affection of her straying husband and father of her child, who cheated on her with her best friend. Fiona’s problem was that her man was now suspicious.
While Fiona stays in Kampala, she said her man was in Bundibugyo. In a new twist to the show, Ronnie called the husband and asked him to travel to Kampala for a meeting. The couple was supposed to sit with Ronnie last Friday, but he passed away a day before he could iron out another relationship gone crazy.
His first to meet the players one-on-one.Ronnie’s was the show where the dedicated listener was quite used to this smooth-voiced DJ skilfully dragging all the details of love gone awry out of his callers.
It was not unusual at all to hear even male callers break down in tears and weep, live on air. Not only that, most callers ended up requesting to meet DJ Ronnie in person in the hope of getting more advice. Many ended up becoming firm friends with the presenter. There had been other presenters before of the Late Date Show and Capital FM will quite rightly try again to fill up that slot.
But there will never be another DJ Ronnie. With his deep baritone, calm demeanour, almost perfect timing that saw him encouraging a caller to reveal more, and a personal warmness that made you feel like he shared your pain, Ronnie Ssempangi had perfected his craft in the 10 years he worked at Capital FM. It was DJ Ronnie’s highly developed sense of tact and acute moral radar that prevented Late Date Show from descending into prurient, privacy invading levels. It could so easily have gone that way.
Late Date was [and maybe will continue to be] basically the show where a lover called Ronnie and asked him to call a loved one and ask him or her for the name of their boyfriend or girlfriend. It was often heartbreaking for the caller to hear the one they thought loved only them mention a stranger’s name. If it was not about that, it was about seeking love.
On paper it sounds pathetic. But as Ronnie revealed time and again, most of his callers and listeners often turned out to be people who were older than the presenter himself!
His play list of “slow, sensual jams” often provided the soundtrack to many a passionate encounter and who knows, some babies may want to credit their existence to the baritone-voiced presenter’s pillow talk music.
An alumnus of Namasagali College, Ssempangi featured in four dance/drama productions as a bankable actor during the Kamuli-based school’s performing arts heyday. His talent steadily grew during that time from a minor speaking role in 1991’s Spanish Romance to bigger roles as one of Princess Sara-unya’s cheeky friends in 1992’s African Princess, one of Mrs. Pankuku’s matchmaking aides in 1993’s The Wife of Pankuku, and as the leading man in the Roman-themed 1994 production, Amalia.
He had great potential to become a star of the silver screen as well. At the time of his death from reported multiple organ failure, DJ Ronnie was reportedly gearing up to get married after his successful kwanjula. And while he was variously referred to as the ‘Love Doctor’ and ‘Dr. Love’, Ronnie’s own stories of being unlucky in love were not new to newspapers and their readers.
Adieu, Love Doctor!