What is the best Kenyan podcast right now? You type on Google Search. Or ChatGPT. In a matter of seconds, you get a whole list of the most popular Kenyan podcasts in 2023.
But are they really the best?
You’re find yourself in a dilemma. You can decide to jump on the bandwagon and listen to what every Tom, Dick and Kimani is listening to. But something inside you says no. You want something deep. Something unique. An undiscovered gem.
That’s why you’re here.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been bingeing on podcasts ever since I “discovered” them in 2020. As you can imagine, I’ve gone through the good, the fad and the ugali (thanks DJ Raph for this tasty phrase).
After sifting through the maize, the wheat, and the internet, I’ve finally found my few favourite Kenyan podcasts to listen to every week.
Now, you won’t find these on the top podcasts in Kenya list. They don’t rely on trending topics, stunning celebrities or boyish banter to get on people’s tongues. They don’t have 1000 subscribers on YouTube (yet) or a million streams on Spotify like Legally Clueless by Adele Onyango.
Neither did they get picked for Spotify’s Africa Podcast Fund in 2022 alongside ManTalk Ke, Nipe Story or The Sandwich Podcast (yes, that’s a podcast name).
Instead, these are Kenyan podcasts that are niche and specific. They transport you into the forgotten past, remind you where we’ve come from, and where we’re going to. They dip you into a deep well of wisdom and leave you thirsting for more.
Curious to know which podcasts these are? Wonder no more. Here are my top 5 underrated Kenyan podcasts you’ll want to add to your weekly playlist.
1. Until everyone is free
Start date: Dec 2020
Theme: Kenyan history
Hand up if you’ve heard of a guy called Pio Gama Pinto. If you haven’t, welcome to this Kenyan podcast about independent Kenya’s first martyr. A man who was not Kenyan by blood yet he understood what freedom for our country meant. A man who went out of his way to help Mau Mau freedom fighters get military weapons and independent vernacular newspapers spread revolutionary messages. A man who paid for it with his life.
His name is etched in Kenyan history as the first political assassination in 1965 – even before Tom Mboya.
In 2021, two people discovered him through the book Pio Gama Pinto: Kenya’s Unsung Martyr by Shiraz Durrani at Ukombozi Library. After visiting Pio’s grave at City Park, Mathare artist Stoneface Bombaa and freelance journalist April Zhu decided to tell the story of this forgotten freedom fighter. And thus Until Everyone is Free was born.
The best part about this podcast, Stoneface hosts it purely in sheng. Even April speaks the language. And she’s American!
It was Felix Omondi, freelance filmmaker and my former Digital Media Incubator classmate, who introduced me to this Kenyan podcast in 2022. Other than being a guest host, he also translates the entire English script into sheng. No easy task my friends.
Listening to this Kenyan history podcast is an immersive experience thanks to the impressive sound design by Djae Aroni. Aka the guitarist of Kenyan rock band Crystal Axis. Original songs are also featured to accompany the real-life stories that happened in Kenya over 70 years ago.
In 7 episodes, you will meet the Mau Mau ally, journalist and political activist. And learn how Pio and others fought for Kenya’s freedom. But did he succeed? Are we really free?
Decolonize your mind with this Kenyan podcast, even if you don’t understand sheng completely (I learnt so many new words I started my own online dictionary). You can listen to this Until Everyone is Free on Spotify or other your favourite podcast platform. And you can always read the English transcript on the website.
P.S. Due to popular demand, the Pio Gama Pinto exhibition is back. The first one was held at The Nairobi Gallery from March to June 2023. If you missed it, come honour the Kenyan shujaa from 30th July till 15th September at The Nairobi National Museum.
2. A Palace for The People
Start date: Dec 2020
Theme: Society and culture
Here’s another revolutionary Kenyan podcast for your eager ears. A Palace for the People is hosted by Book Bunk founders Angela Wachuka and Wanjiru Koinange. Yes, the one and only Book Bunk that has in the last 2 years renovated Kaloleni and Makadara libraries in Nairobi from old boring buildings to vibrant centres of art and expression.
Now they’re working on restoring the McMillan Memorial Library, which is at the centre of CBD – and this podcast. These two bold and beautiful ladies unearth untold Kenyan history through forgotten photographs and articles. And discover everything from the first death sentence in Kenya to the disruption of conservation by colonization.
It’s like Night at The Museum, but the library edition, where ancient stories come alive.
This underrated Kenyan podcast will also make you think about historical buildings like McMillan in a brand new way. Like Until Everyone is Free, you’ll also enjoy the excellent sound design – and expert interviews. I recently started listening to A Palace for The People on Spotify and I love it!
I suggest starting with the episode titled Mau Mau and Memory.
3. Matirî Ngemi
Start date: July 2020
Theme: African culture
Talk about a Ngai-sent podcast! I once mentioned Matiri Ngemi as one of the resources that’s helping me learn Kikuyu. And not only the beautiful language but also our rich culture, history and heritage.
Njeri wa Ndiho, Waiyaki wa Gichanga and King’ori wa Kanyi host this Kikuyu podcast in English so that anyone can understand the content. Although knowing the language helps.
In each fun episode, they dissect the different traditions the Gikuyu people practised in the pre-colonial era. You will learn how our civilized ancestors conducted uthoni (marriage) to how they handled single mothers to the significance of ngemi (ululations) – which inspired the podcast’s name. Even though it’s about the distant past, this ancient knowledge is still relevant today. You can tell by the listeners’ questions which they answer in several episodes.
With 3 seasons so far, the latest one is all about Kikuyu heroes and heroines. Including the controversial Wangu wa Makeri. Do you know her full story? Listen to Matiri Ngemi to find out.
Fun fact: This podcast is edited by Kenyan sound engineer Giggz. The same guy who mixes and masters Waithaka’s music. And even though they are rooted in Gikuyu culture, the whole podcast crew is in America!
4. Let’s try this again
Start date: December 2022
Theme: Life and society
Cecilia has been through life. When I met her at ADMI during the Digital Media Incubator (alongside Felix), she was hosting the MBL My Basic Life podcast where she shared her entrepreneurship journey. After the 6-month podcasting training, she kicked off Kwenda Majuu podcast with her friend Wairimũ. And together, they demystified travelling to Canada as a Kenyan.
She started her third podcast in December 2022 after her 8-year long business failed. And she had to start all over again. Hence the name of this podcast.
Now Cecilia’s getting real about the harsh realities of being unemployed, her money mistakes and even customer service tips for small business owners. As a young African who’s learning how to adult (aren’t we all), she is honest, vulnerable and relatable. The heavy stuff is interspersed with unexpected fits of laughter, to remind us it’s never that serious.
To complement the podcast, Cecilia also publishes a monthly newsletter called LTTA. There she highlights her favourite podcasts, Kenyan brands and even creative writers (including me!) You can listen to her read some of the featured stories and poems on her vibrant TikTok page. And enjoy Let’s Try This Again podcast on Spotify.
P.S. As a podcast junkie, you will discover LOTS through her.
5. The Top 5 with LaMusicJunkie
Start date: May 2021
Theme: Music and entertainment
If you’re a regular here, you might have heard of this Kenyan podcast. Once a month, LaMusicJunkie interviews an alternative Kenyan musician and highlights their top 5 songs. Unique Kenyan musicians such as Liboi, Luka, and Nafsi Huru (ndani ya Ikulu).
This Kenyan music podcast is a fantastic way to discover the background stories behind their best music, their artistic journeys as well as their profound thoughts about life. The interviews are fun, informative, and laugh-worthy. For the Kenyan music lover and discoverer, this is for you.
And yes, it’s hosted by me!
Because I like to be extra sometimes, here’s a bonus for you: Fellow Kenyan music journalist afrikan kodo of Sanaa kwa Sana also started a podcast. Contrary to popular belief, it's not about music. But random yet clever conversations with his friends about life, politics, and even chicken.Its name: Tunado?The first episodes are out and they’re hilarious. Listen to this Kenyan podcast on YouTube or Spotify and drop a comment to encourage the king of consistency to release more episodes. Donge?
That’s it. Those are my Top 5 underrated Kenyan podcasts of 2023. They might not feature on Google’s list, but they sure top mine.
How about you? Which Kenyan podcast do you hold close like your favourite sweater? Which one do you wish more people knew about?
Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to hear from you 🙂