News

6 Hot African Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

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

Talking Heads

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

My Africa

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

Badilisha Poetry

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.

Listen to Badilisha on iTunes

Ifeanyi Awachie is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer and curator of Yale’s AFRICA SALON. She recently published the book “Summer in Igboland.” Follow her on Twitter at @ifeanyiawachie.

Interview
Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF


You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Tanzanian Filmmaker Amil Shivji is Making History with a Story of Love and Resistance

As the first Tanzanian film to be chosen for TIFF, Shiviji's film is sure to get the African country a seat at the table.