The hidden reserves of diverse podcasts created for niche audiences is as close to Vibranium as the broadcast industry gets. Vooraanstaande spelers en verspreiders, soos die BBC, Spotify en Acast, are already investing in amplifying Black voices because it is rich with potential. Wanneer Have You Heard George’s Podcast? swept the 2019 British Podcast Awards with five wins, the industry sat up. George isn’t from the pedigree of seasoned Radio 4 alumni; he is closer to Potter Payper than Piers Plowright. As with many disruptive underground movements in art and culture, something breaks through to the mainstream, and corporate interests follow – see punk, hip-hop, grime, and now podcasts.
The secret sauce that makes Black British podcasting so flavourful is made up of four ingredients. Vivid characters and intriguing protagonists we haven’t heard before. Access to new precincts or familiar experiences through new perspectives. Talent with the potential to be the next Lenny Henry, Trevor Nelson or Charlene White – and, as George the Poet has so masterfully demonstrated, different ways of telling a story that draws from a broader palette than western European art and literature. Here’s what you may have missed.
Wanneer Have You Heard George’s Podcast? swept the 2019 British Podcast awards with five wins, the industry sat up. George is not from the pedigree of seasoned Radio 4 alumni; he is closer to [Barking rapper] Potter Payper than Piers Plowright. For its third instalment, George and his sonic collaborator, Benbrick, redefined the medium of immersive audio. Their clever cocktail of rhyme, social commentary and edgy narrative is best described as the love child of prog rock and hip-hop.
Otegha Uwagba, author of We Need to Talk About Money, covers everything from feminism in the workplace to managing your finances in this show, with interviews from an undiscovered array of exciting cultural voices. The tone of conversations is frank and friendly, but not raucous (check out Black Scot Pod below for that). You get to hear the thoughts and feelings of powerfully vulnerable women; a perfect counter to the “strong Black woman” trope.
Mykaell Riley, the musician and co-founder of reggae group Steel Pulse, interviews the likes of Dennis Bovell, Don Letts and Linton Kwesi Johnson in this podcast exploring Britain’s soundsystem culture. This show is a perfect example of podcasting proving its value by providing distinct and deep access to stars, such as the episode where the Jamaican record producer Lloyd Coxsone shares an uncomfortable story of how he and DJ Duke Reid went from being friends to bitter rivals.
Podcasting is also an opportunity to explore longer-form documentaries, soos this brand new title about Black hair, which was initially pitched to TV commissioners and rejected because “the audience isn’t interested in Black stories”. Made by Leanne Alie and Sylvie Carlos, Coiled untangles the twisted world of its subject: everything from its pre-colonial history to the economics of what is a billion-dollar industry, plus hair’s controversial social politics.
Easily the most prolific podcast format is the “bantercast”, where a couple of friends get together and riff about life, the universe and anything. Met Black Scot Pod, expect to be instantly transported to a heated hair salon or barbershop, with Shirley Mcpherson and Suzie Mwanza trading raw opinions that would make Frankie Boyle blush. Expect debate on Nicki Minaj’s latest faux pas, Love Island, and the lack of Black Scottish films. Other notable bantercasts are Pressed, Say Your Mind, The Wrap Party, The Out of Home, Black Woman’s Hour and – the OGs of the form – The Receipts en 3 Shots of Tequila: all jaw-dropping listens.
Bernard Achampong en Andrew Spence are co-founders of the podcast network Unedited.