Meet Fresh Air's new host: Nana aba Duncan

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Meet Fresh Air's new host: Nana aba Duncan

CBC's Fresh Air is getting a fresh voice this weekend. Nana aba Duncan, who listeners might recognize from CBC's Radio 2 Top 20, takes over as the host of Radio One's weekend morning show.

Fresh Air has been helmed by a rotating cast of guest hosts since last July, when long-time host Mary Ito stepped away. Guest hosts included Mary Wiens, Jelena Adzic, Chris dela Torre, Eli Glasner, and Errol Nazareth.

Fresh Air airs on CBC Radio 1 between 6 and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Nana aba joined Eli Glasner recently to talk about her new role on Fresh Air.

Questions and answers have been condensed.

Eli Glasner: Before you came to the CBC, you studied journalism, but you also worked for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation?

Nana aba Duncan: I worked at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation for a little under a year. It was great for me personally because I was born in Ghana, so it was this 'coming back' thing for me. I had a chance to reconnect with family there and to do work in the country that my parents came from, so it had a lot of meaning for me.

EG: Then CBC brought you in to do something called Contest Nana.

ND: I worked with a woman who used to do scripts for a show called GO! I worked with her outside of the building, doing something else. When she needed an extroverted person, she thought of me and brought me in. When I came in, I basically took the producer aside and said, "So I'm supposed to be working here, what can we do?" And that man, David Carroll, had a meeting with me and then when he had a job, he thought of me. Contest Nana was a section on the show where I had to give away prizes by asking questions. It was just fun, it was silly, and I was only meant to be here a number of hours a day but I stayed and I pitched to a number of other shows and some doors opened.

EG: You're going to be hosting Fresh Air, which is a very different kind of gig. What was it about this opportunity that appealed to you?

ND: I love talking to people. And the shows that I've been doing have been very interesting, but I didn't get to do the journalism that I wanted to, which included learning people's stories, and getting into their brains, and learning about their experiences. So when this opportunity came up I said yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. What happened was: there's a time after or during your mat leave where sometimes, for many women, you feel a little bit unmoored. You feel like, "Who am I?" I went through that. I came back to, "What is it that I want to do with my life?" And I know that part of it is telling stories and learning about people.

EG: The great thing about this show is that it broadcasts to the entire province. You're a city gal. How do you connect to those other parts of our province?

ND: I've been connecting to those other parts for a while. Growing up I was a singer in a choir and we went to a lot of different Ontario towns to sing. I was also part of the army for a short time.

EG: Wait, what were you doing in the army?

ND: I was a private. I finished high school half a semester early and there was an opportunity, and I tried it. It was a really great experience. And part of it was going to places like Meaford and Petawawa to do these exercises. It was really fun. And it's another way that you can get to know where you live. 

EG: Do you have anything in mind you'd like to bring to Fresh Air, besides your love of conversation?

ND: What I've been thinking about is getting a sense about different parts of Ontario, maybe through music or some of the interviews. Maybe there'll be chances to visit some places and include that in the show. And I come from music, so you're going to hear some of the things I've been thinking about and the music that I've been experiencing.

EG: It's a bit of an early call and you have a family, you have two kids . Are you going to be in a good space when you sit in the chair at 6 a.m.?

ND: I've been thinking about this. I have a three-year-old, I have a one-year-old, and I am so lucky that I have a partner who is so supportive of my career. So he is willing to do the "morning run" on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And I know when I get back he is going to hand the children over. We'll share it. I'm excited about all this because I think it's going to be really fun.