Ifeanyi Awachie sets out to uncover the world of African radio. Check out these 6 poppin' African podcasts.
As a college radio host, I had many friends who loved podcasts. They would geek out over This American Life, Radiolab and other shows steered by white male voices, linking me to episodes I “just had to hear.” Convinced by the hype, I would subscribe to these podcasts, only to delete them after months of trying and failing to concentrate through a full episode (with some exceptions). Listening to podcasts felt like work. I concluded that I just wasn’t a podcast person and felt less intelligent and hip as a result.
Then, the era of the black podcast began. Shows like For Colored Nerds, Call Your Girlfriend and Another Round started attracting mainstream buzz, and I was shocked to find that listening to podcasts could be fun. I searched for and subscribed to as many black podcasts as I could (including my absolute favorite, The Read). I devoured hours of conversation among black voices while cooking dinner, walking to work, at work. I realized that I loved podcasts. My inability to engage them before was tied to the fact that most podcasts were produced by and marketed to a demographic that didn’t include me.
Armed with this knowledge, I realized I didn’t have any African podcasts in rotation, and that there was probably a whole world of African radio that I hadn’t explored. I set out to find what African podcasts are poppin’ right now. Here are my results. (If you know of any you think I missed, please give them a shoutout in the comments.)
African Tech Round-Up
The South Africa-produced African Tech Round-Up is one of a number of podcasts covering tech innovation on the continent, but its high-quality production, wide fanbase and mix of expert knowledge, witty banter, and balanced debate sets it apart. This program was the one African podcast I had heard about before starting my search. The team, a mix of “media makers and entrepreneurs with a nose for technology, digital and innovation news,” offers weekly tech news served with critical thinking on everything from social media coverage of the Ugandan election, Facebook’s Free Basics project getting kicked out of India, and Kenya’s rocky relationship with Uber. Listen not only for African tech news, but smart tech talk, period. On producing African podcasts, host Andile Masuku says, “I spent part of my childhood in the Philippines, in the 90s, where I got called ‘chocolate boy’ by mean children, and struggled to 'feel normal' amidst flawed stereotypes reinforced by films like The Gods Must Be Crazy. The simple reason why I believe it's important to produce podcasts featuring African voices is because we simply can't trust non-Africans to accurately represent our interests on the world stage, or expect them to adequately articulate our values and convictions. This, I say not with a chip on my shoulder, but simply as a matter of fact.”
African Tech Round-Up on iTunes and Soundcloud
Not Your African Cliché
The four young Nigerian women behind Not Your African Cliché describe themselves as having “interesting opinions and a mutual disgust for ignorant comments about our continent.” Girl, same. The show aims to create a platform that fights Africa’s single story, and it does it well. There was a moment in “Episode 5: African Entrepreneurship” when one of the ladies questioned how many people actually wear Nigerian designer Deola Segoe. As an African fashion fan in diaspora, I know the names of hot Nigerian designers but not much about how everyday Nigerians actually interact with them. Eavesdropping on NYAC’s conversations, which sound like after-work chats between girlfriends, bring the country, and by extension, Africa, to life. It’s so satisfying to hear women who sound like my family and friends give their take on Afropolitanism, the origins of Nigerian names, things they’re currently reading and listening to, American culture－all things I find interesting and can relate to from my particular perspective as a Nigerian-American.
Listen to Not Your African Cliché on iTunes and Soundcloud
The Chicken & Jollof Rice Show
For those of you who, like me, wish Another Round would dedicate an episode or two to Heben Nigatu’s Ethiopian-American background and African pop culture, the Chicken & Jollof Rice Show is for you. CNJR Show’s four hosts foreground their first-generation African-American identities and wield them to provide unique perspectives on pop culture, social justice issues, and more in Africa and the United States. Discussing Beyonce’s “Formation” in a recent episode, one of the hosts described the Beyhive as posturing to send “the wrath of a thousand Yoruba warriors upon your household.” Poised at the intersection of black, African, and American experiences, the podcast’s specific cultural lens makes it even more relatable to me than other black, African, or American shows. As host @And1Grad says, “Africans, especially first-generation, need voices for the same reason African Americans need voices. We aren't a monolith either and we aren't really represented in this country in all avenues. I think our viewpoints on certain issues, as first-gen African-Americans, are pretty unique to [podcasts] and most mediums.” If you’re a first-gen kid, I think you’ll like CNJR, too.
Listen to Chicken & Jollof Rice Show on iTunes and Soundcloud
The production of the Talking Heads podcast will remind you of NPR’s Snap Judgment. In episodes that weave music, sleek audio clips and sound effects, narration, and the guest’s words, the show, hosted by architect and award-winning author of Bom Boy, Yewande Omotoso, offers stories on the academics and intellectuals doing work in blogging, research, storytelling, and more on today’s African narratives. Part of a broader Cape Town-based “Pan-African knowledge sharing platform” of the same name, Talking Heads’ guests have included Sean Jacobs of Africa Is A Country, Dr. Lindiwe Dovey, a senior lecturer in African film and performance arts at SOAS – University of London, and Ory Okolloh, founder of non-profit software company Ushahidi. Tune in for beautifully executed snapshots of the complex issues the continent faces today through the particular lenses of compelling thinkers.
Listen to Talking Heads via their official website and Soundcloud
For a show called "My Africa," this podcast might seem a little Nigeria-centric, but the program is gradually becoming a living archive of personal interviews with the continent’s biggest musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs, and others. My Africa gets up close and in-depth with African artists and Okayafrica favorites like Nigerian singer Brymo, rapper M.I (also known as Jude Abaga), Olamide and Seun Kuti. But those are just the episodes I bookmarked. The show adds diversity through interviews with Ghanaian singer and actress Efya, restaurateur Hamisha Daryani-Ahuja, and even Keith Richards, who the show calls (problematically, in my opinion) an “honorary Nigerian.” If you’re still waiting for Terry Gross to talk to your favorite African artists, subscribe to My Africa.
Listen to My Africa via their official website and iTunes
With poets like Nayyirah Waheed, Warsan Shire, and Ijeoma Umebinyuo being quoted left and right in stylish Instagram and Tumblr posts, what could be better than a podcast dedicated to African poetry? Badilisha Poetry is a project of the Badilisha Poetry X-Change, an online audio archive of over 350 Pan-African poets from over 24 different countries. The podcast consists of super short 5-10-minute episodes in which poets perform one of their poems. If you’re already up on your contemporary African poetry, the podcast provides the treat of hearing your favorite verse writers’ voices. If you’re sleeping on African poets, Badilisha will introduce you to critical names like Ghanaian-born poet and author Kwame Dawes, South African poet, playwright and scholar Koobus Moolman, and Nigerian spoken word artist and actress Titilope Sonuga, who performed at President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2015 inauguration (the first poet to do so in Nigeria). Coupled with gushing insights from host, South African performance poet, and writer Malika Ndlovu, each episode provides a daily dose of poetry that I can see myself starting my day with or sending to friends for inspiration. Sadly, Badilisha seems to no longer update the podcast, but recordings of African poets reading their work are still accessible on the website.