If you haven’t listened to an episode of “Have You Heard George’s Podcast?” then, as we Londoners say, “I beg you do.” This Peabody-award-winning podcast is in its third season and has been reviewed by all and sundry for its thoughtfulness and innovation. And the pod, hosted by writer, poet, and MC George Mpanga, aka George the Poet, deserves all of those accolades.
The podcast succeeds in its ability to draw the listener in. Listening to ‘… George’s Podcast?’ is like listening to a friend share their innermost thoughts. George’s musings echo some things my closest friends shared with me during our epic, transatlantic conversations. Listening to George reflect on ideas and issues that impact the Black British community he and I come, feels like validation…no, more than that. It feels like my experience and my observations DO have context. I’m reminded that I’m not alone.
Like me, George the Poet is interested in celebrating the connection between Black Britain and the rest of the Diaspora. As the child of immigrants, it’s impossible NOT to, given the stories people like us grew up hearing. He connects the dots between our collective struggles and our triumphs with tenderness from his unique, Ugandan-British lens.
He also talks about music, personal relationships (including his own), and jobs. But the central theme of his podcast is, how can we, as Black people, empower ourselves? He also advances the conversation by providing solid solutions – including the idea that Black music can create jobs. Because, after all, if Black people all over the world have saved ourselves through our music, why not?
My prime pod listening time is at 8 am, right after I’ve dropped the kids off. It’s the time of the day when I look for something that will relax, focus or inspire me. “Have You Heard George’s Podcast?” does all three. Let’s take episode 19, the first episode of chapter three (what he calls each show season — which is a lovely touch because each episode feels like a scene from a book of his life.) This episode, which was recorded during the global pandemic, referred to the emotional and social changes we had to adapt to on a dime. His words, the sound design, and the performance all yanked me back to when the fear and isolation felt new and all-consuming. Like there would be no way out.
At various points this season, he’s had conversations with ‘Uganda,’ the other character in his life. She’s tender, understanding, and practical all at once. For example, he talked to her when he needed a connection to home (in episode Episode 27. And when he asked for understanding when he had to break the news that he couldn’t get married there. That exchange felt so real that it made my heart ache.
So, to the production: It’s beautiful, which isn’t a shocker. He has the backing of the BBC, and in chapter three, the show’s original compositions are performed by the BBC orchestra. So yeah, this isn’t a shoestring budget situation. But George and his production partner Benbrick don’t rely on all of that to create George’s world. They still use audio from the news, create audio scenes, play tape from personal conversations – and music from the soundtrack of George’s life. All of this creates a beautiful, immersive experience.
As I said, I BEG you listen to this. Then let me know what you think by dropping a comment below.
Check back regularly to find out which podcasts from the African Diaspora have caught my attention. Follow me on Instagram at @theciphernewsletter.
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