Maverick Life

PODCAST REVIEW

The things that connect us

(Photo: Unsplash/Daniel Fontenele)

There’s something comforting about the human voice. A soothing effect unique to audio. This week we listen to stories about connection through sound. Stories about human connection, of longing to be together and keeping each other safe by staying away.

I have a linocut pinned above my desk. It’s a picture of two trees standing apart with their roots enmeshed below ground. The text reads: “Physical distancing, social solidarity.” I’ve thought about this a lot this year – how to maintain connections to loved ones while also protecting them by staying away? It seems antithetical, not at all intuitive.

It’s no coincidence that during this time when so many industries are shrinking, that podcasting keeps ballooning. Here are stories about human connection, of longing to be together and keeping each other safe by staying away.

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The Borders Between Us – Transom.org

Format: Single episode
Length: 38 minutes
Year: 2019
Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or any other podcast app or streaming service

The best way to describe this award-winning story is as poetry in sound. Not only is it literally constructed from lines of poetry, but it is poetic in the way that it renders the specific universal. Saidu Tejan-Thomas, a poet and producer at Gimlet Media, pays homage to his mother, a woman from Sierra Leone trying to forge a life in the US.

It’s a first-person account of the messy tangled threads of family and immigration and possibly the best audio piece of 2019. It is touching and heart-wrenching all at once, conjuring Cuban-American writer, Richard Blanco’s words: “What is home? It’s like asking, What is love? It changes, and it’s complex.”

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Centenarians in Lockdown – Radio Diaries (Radiotopia)

Format: Single episode
Length: 13 minutes
Year: 2020
Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Radio Public, or any other podcast app or streaming service

If ever there was a tonic to this year, it is this award-winning audio gem from Radio Diaries. True to form, the Radio Diaries team sent two lovebirds (Joe and Anita) under lockdown in Florida a recorder to interview each other with. He’s 107 and she’s just turned 100 and they’re engaged to be married. Without any reporters to get in the way, the conversation is intimate and natural, giving us a snapshot of two people very much in love. This sweet exchange proves that love and a sense of humour never get old.

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Here I Am and Here Be Danger – Annie McEwen

Format: Single episode
Length: 12 minutes
Year: 2014
Listen on: SoundCloud

A classic in the audio world, Annie McEwen’s award-winning ‘Here I Am and Here Be Danger’ is a story about foghorns. More than that, this montage is an allegory in love and loss. Interweaving the sounds of seagulls, the low moan of foghorns and stories of love, this piece is like an audio quilt stitched together by metaphor. Opening the piece is a line about the function of foghorns that feels very apt for 2020:

“They aren’t saying come here. They’re saying I care about you and go away.”

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The Boys in Blue – First Person (Kagiso Media)

Format: Single episode
Length: 24 minutes
Year: 2016
Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or any other podcast app or streaming service

An uplifting story about a policeman turned soccer coach hosted by Daily Maverick’s very own associate editor, veteran journalist, Marianne Thamm. Taking place entirely on the noisy sidelines of a soccer pitch, we hear from Kayamandi’s Sergeant Simphiwe “Charlie” Mgwetana about why, in addition to his day job, he spends so much time coaching football. Quickly, we learn that it’s not really about the sport: “Many of these boys don’t have parents … You look after someone’s child like they’re your own.”

It’s a heartwarming story of coming together and expanding the definition of family. A sweet parallel story is Thamm’s growing enthusiasm with the unfolding soccer match taking place in front of her, drawing the listener into the action with her shouts from the sidelines.

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If – The Listening Room (ABC)

Format: Single episode
Length: 6 minutes
Year: 2002
Listen on: The ABC or Third Coast International Audio Festival.

This short award-winning experimental classic by Sherre DeLys and John Jacobs takes us into the perspective of a young boy who keeps asking “what if…?”

Based at a children’s hospital in Sydney, Australia, we are reminded of the transformative power of humour and imagination as we listen to the list of “what ifs…?”

“What if I were a fish…” “If I were a crocodile…” “If I were a plant…” Part musical composition, part audio profile, the listener travels beyond the confines of the real world and into a fantastical dreamland akin to a sonic Magic Faraway Tree.

If you’re wondering how to listen to these audio gems, local podcast organisation, Sound Africa, has prepared a handy guide to show you how.

Happy listening! ML/DM

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