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CENTRESTAGE: Podcasts leaving a mark on showbiz

Friday November 29 2019

A photo depicting how easy it is to set up one's own podcast equipment. PHOTO | COURTESY

A photo depicting how easy it is to set up one's own podcast equipment. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By DOREEN WAMUGUNDA

Some are controversial. They talk about topics that cannot be discussed on radio or any television show. Others are educational and uplifting, sounds you can listen to while cruising. Doreen Wamugunda explores the players, money and popularity of podcasts in Kenya.

If you tune in to any popular radio show, you will likely find a discussion about politics, relationship drama, or celebrity gossip. Why? Most listeners find these conversations entertaining.

Fresh and unique audio content can be rare, but thanks to the internet and social media, podcasts are catching on as the hot, new option in audio entertainment.

Before 2015, podcasting was uncommon in Kenya. This relative ‘newness’ of podcasts is perhaps why they are more popular among younger audiences. According to a survey by Forbes in 2018, podcast listening is growing rapidly among 18-34 years age group.

In the USA, 44 per cent of the podcast listeners are between the ages of 18 and 34 years. The most popular podcast apps globally are iTunes, Stitcher, Google podcasts, Soundcloud and Podbean.

PASSIONATE TOPICS
In Kenya, podcasts are catching up as fast. Because most podcasts are hosted privately, the conversations can be very daring and even slightly opinionated.

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An example is the controversial Kenyan podcast, The Spread (hosted by Kaz Lucas and Nini Wacera). As the hosts put it: ‘It is a show about sex, positivity and open conversations.’ Some episodes are so ‘open’, in fact, that in 2016, Kenya Film Classification Board CEO, Ezekiel Mutua found fault with the hosts’ “sexuality” and the sexual content in their discussions.

The Spread was, consequently, dropped by the What’s Good Network but has been privately kept alive by the hosts. Like The Spread, another ‘immodest’ podcast is The Mics Are Open. The hosts, G Money, Andy and Calvin, hold very raw, highly sexual conversations about relationships, sex and Nairobi social life.

Even today, most radio stations only broadcast shows like The Spread and The Mics Are Open in the gloomy hours of the night, for an audience of night-shift workers and “night-crawlers”.

Unlike radio presenters, podcasters get to choose topics they are passionate about. For, Lavin Asego and Jazz, hosts of BenchwarmerzKE, podcasting is a way to channel their love for sports.

“We have a strong passion for sports and radio,” say the hosts.

The BenchwarmerzKE, is a funny yet detailed sports commentary podcast focussing on Kenyan and international sports, ranging from football to rugby and even car rallies, once a week.
So, does podcasting pay?

SPONSORSHIP
In some cases, podcasters are offered sponsorship which may include a studio, a crew and equipment.

An example is the podcast Otherwise? (hosted by Brenda Wambui). This interview-style, informative podcast, breaks down social and governance issues with helpful insights from experts. The conversations are sober and thought-provoking yet simple enough for anyone to understand.

Most podcasters, however, go into podcasting as a hobby with the hopes of getting sponsorship and/or partnerships along the way.

“Everything pays with the right kind of partnership or sponsorship. But if you mean like ad revenue then no, not really, the Google algorithm doesn't really cater to Africa,” say the hosts of the popular Omenerds podcast.

SOCIAL ISSUES

The Omenerds is a hilarious pop-culture podcast that is guaranteed to have you laughing your heart out in every episode. The hosts (Laureezy, Tim, Max, Thuita and Jimmy) take on all kinds of discussions from movies/TV shows to Kenyan life and social issues.

Right from the title you can tell that it is a light-hearted and casual podcast.

“The podcast started from a Telegram group for nerds that is run by Laura (Laureezy). The origin of the name ‘Omenerds’ came from the nerd groups' constant arguments as to whether omena is is good food or not, the argument has yet to be resolved.”

For literature lovers, the Nipe Story podcast, hosted by Kevin Mwachiro, will definitely tickle your fancy. This podcast is a collection of beautiful short stories from across Kenya. On a lazy afternoon or as you sit in traffic on your daily commute, these stories will allow you to escape to fascinating imaginary worlds.

Paukwa Stories is another interesting literature podcast, where the rich and authentic stories of Kenya’s history are narrated, one county at a time. These short but captivating stories will be the history lessons you never knew you needed.

For a musical challenge, the Ado Veli podcast, hosted by Ado Veli and Pesh is the podcast to look out for. The hosts analyse Kenyan music (with occasional input from other music professionals) and you will most likely discover a song/artiste (or two) that you had no idea about.

For the ‘techies’, the 24Bit podcast is definitely one to look out for. The podcast’s hosts Nixon, Kaluka, Dickson and Chenze explore all matters tech and the tech space in Kenya. You will definitely need to hear their opinions on how to identify fake phones in the market.

The Kenyan podcast scene grows every day. With more than twenty refreshing podcasts to choose from, here are a few notable ones to look out for: 2 girls & a pod (an enlightened literature review podcast), She shapes the city (a podcast celebrating strong women making the world a better place), Kenyan Queer Questions (A podcast tackling the presumptions and curiosities about the LGBTQ community) and Surviving Nairobi (Yes, a podcast about surviving in Nairobi).

Whatever your curiosity is, whether film or politics or sports, there is most likely a podcast that will suit you.
If you are new to the world of podcasts, all you is a good device, an internet connection and maybe some good quality earphones to dive into these fun Kenyan conversations.

The top 5 most downloaded podcasts globally:

1. The Daily.
2. The Joe Rogan Experience.
3. Stuff you should know.
4. TED Talks daily.
5. The American Life.

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