Just like streaming platforms are rendering network, studios and cable TV obsolete as more Hollywood stars gravitate to the former, radio shows are being surpassed with podcasts - at home and abroad.
Radio Ga Ga
At the stroke of midnight, on August 13, 1947, Mustafa Ali Hamdani read out the very first broadcast from a newly created Pakistan. Radio Pakistan began broadcasting, for the first time from Lahore and similar introductory announcements were made from stations in other cities as well. It was the beginning of a new era.
But the history of Radio Pakistan is a story for another time.
Pakistan’s radio content evolved as Radio Pakistan grew. It gave us news and entertainment; Pakistan’s political environment also found a space to express itself through radio. Today, Pakistan has numerous radio stations, providing everything from news updates, local and global music to talk shows to cricket commentary. In some ways, it is all there but the question is for how long?
It appears like the best experience of listening to the radio has morphed into podcasts, for the better.
For one thing, you don’t have to wait for your favourite radio show or get annoyed if you’ve missed it. This is where podcasts can be your best friend.
We live in the age of excessive content in every shape and size. From YouTube programs to Netflix to the plethora of streaming platforms having come up or in the works, there is such a thing as too much choice. Even with streaming platforms, ultimately we will be forced to decide our favourites because who wants to pay subscription fees for every platform out there?
Think of podcasts in similar ethos except there is no imagery so your mind actually plays the role of visualizer. Concentration levels will not get pulled by visuals. But like streaming shows, while podcasts are now available on every subject possible, including fictional shows, it all depends on your taste and what you’re looking for.
In Pakistan, the birth of music streaming platform Patari (even with all its distasteful controversy), has brought with it not only a music-streaming platform but also one where you can find a slew of podcasts. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the best podcasts out there and where you can find them…
Platform: Patari, YouTube
Listening to Zia Mohyeddin is an experience in itself, given his oratory skills. When he reads an essay by the great Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, it is impossible to not laugh while learning about Urdu literature.
Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi is known for satirical, comical works so there are a slew of essays that will make you burst into laughter. For the selection you can head to YouTube.
Apart from Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, you can find Zia M reading the works of the late and legendary Faiz Ahmed Faiz, available on Patari. For listeners of Urdu stories, there is the platform of Urdu Adab where each podcast features an Urdu story. You can find it on Patari as well as via Apple podcast and android podcast apps.
This piece isn’t complete without Dastaangoi, that recently finished its second edition featuring the likes of Sarmad Khoosat and Meesha Shafi. They, too, have a podcast and one of their recent guests was coveted fashion designer Kamiar Rokni. It would be unjust to give away what ‘Kami’ (known colloquially in the industry) spoke about. Dastaangoi podcast(s) tend to provide a fresh insight into the people it speaks to and therefore makes for a must-listening ritual.
Platform: Patari, SoundCloud
Pakistan is struggling with a monopoly when it comes to music streaming websites. You’ll find a great deal of music on Patari – making it the one place where you can find all kinds of Pakistani music including the big names.
Some artists, however, have opted for platforms like BandCamp and SoundCloud et al but Patari currently enjoys a decent monopoly.
When it comes to podcasts on music, local podcasts such as MadArtCulture – hosted by Omran Shafique and Babar Sheikh - can be found at Patari and SoundCloud. MadArtCulture reflects on what’s happening in the country as well as music/cinema and more. Don’t confuse it for a music-only conversation that is oblivious to the world and the environment around. With Omran Shafique having moved to the USA, it remains to be seen if more episodes will emerge but check out the previous conversations; most of them are riveting.
Another podcast not to be missed is Jamaat ul Mausiqi, hosted by journalists Ahmer Naqvi and Sheheryar Popalzai. JUM is currently defunct but the episodes available online are fantastic. The songs featured are curated with thought and the interviews conducted are well-researched.
At present, Bowled Opinions, co-hosted by Ahmer Naqvi and available on BBC Urdu’s YouTube page is an exciting new podcast that covers cricket, Pakistan’s favourite pastime, among other subjects. And yes, with music thrown in, you have the perfect new show.
Beyond the podcasts hosted by other popular local artists like Taimoor Salahuddin (Mooroo), Sami Shah (SamiSays) and Junaid Akram and many more – the choice between podcasts overall is over-the-top and can cause cognitive dissonance so choose wisely. In fact, it is more feasible to first listen to a handful of podcasts before moving on to the next ‘it’ one.
Weapon of Choice
Song Exploder that literally tells you how a certain song was created from scratch (and is set to make its debut as a Netflix series next month) is ingenious.
Another podcast that we recommend is on health, featuring Dr. Tara Branch. You can find it via apple podcasts and android apps. There is no lecture but it does steer you towards thinking about your behavior, identity, mindfulness and how to improve issues in life.
For both music and global news, look no further than NPR podcasts. All Songs Considered is a personal favourite. However, head to the NPR Podcast website and you’ll find a slew of podcasts on subjects that range from news to comedy to technology and science.
BBC Literature podcast covers global literature and often invites authors such as local names Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie and other names such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to either dissect their own work or that of someone like Albert Camus’ The Stranger. It’ll add to your knowledge or lack thereof about literature from around the world.
In the end, it must be added that while radio stations at home are far from obsolete at the moment, the interest in podcasts has risen; they are special because they provide the listener with a chance to download a favourite show and listen to it later with complete focus rather than catching it on the go.