The word “podcast” might currently make you automatically think of hugely popular true-crime series Serial. But while it might be the most famous, it’s certainly not the only one.
There are thousands of others out there, and podcasting is becoming ever more popular in the UAE. One of the first to launch here was Kerning Cultures, which looks at stories on economics, history, technology and everything in between. “Essentially, we’re producing long-form narratives that communicate what’s really happening, beyond the news headlines,” says Razan Alzayani, co-founder and executive producer of Kerning Cultures. To give you a better idea of the concept, it’s not unlike BBC World Service offerings.
The first episode, about start-up businesses in Lebanon, was launched in September last year by Kerning Cultures’ founder, Hebah Fisher, while Alzayani came on board in February this year. Although Fisher had no background in podcasting, she simply fell in love with the idea. “Fisher just said, ‘There’s nothing like this here, and we have such a deep history of oral storytelling in the Middle East. Why don’t we just do it?’,” Alzayani recalls.
The rest of the Kerning Cultures team is spread around the world and made up of seven people in total, including interns in the US and a sound designer living in Amsterdam. All of them are drawn to working together on this project, Alzayani says, “just through their interest in telling stories about the region”.
Many of their stories come to the team from people pitching ideas. But they also evolve from conversations and asking themselves questions such as, “Why do so many people leave Egypt to find jobs?” Once they have a story idea, though, that’s just the beginning. “The interview process doesn’t take very long. Recording an interview will only take as long as the interview takes. But post-production takes much longer. I think the minimum we’ve spent has been a month, the maximum around six,” Alzayani explains. “But there are so many hands at play – the editors, the producers, someone giving editorial support and feedback, someone on mastering and sound engineering.” It’s a real team effort and the slick, polished end result is testament to this.
The number of other podcasts popping up in the region doesn’t faze the Kerning Cultures team, either. Alzayani says the competition is a good thing, as it has allowed them to form a support network. “We’ll just be like, ‘Hey, we need contacts in Saudi for a story, does anyone know someone?’ It’s been great, because I feel like together, we can raise more awareness of podcasting here.”
To listen to Kerning Cultures, head to www.kerningcultures.com.