UKRAINE: Podcasts

There’s a LOT of podcasts on Ukraine available right now, mainly focused on the the Russian invasion and analysis about Ukraine’s future. As always, I’m trying to prioritize podcasts that by Ukrainians or feature Ukrainian voices, though there’s plenty of good material out there otherwise – understandably, Ukraine has been on everyone’s mind lately. Here’s what I’ve been listening to over the last few weeks:

BBC: Ukrainecast – A daily podcast that the BBC started when the Russian invasion happened, focusing just on stories, interviews, news, and analysis on Ukraine and the war.

Highlights from Ukraine – To bolster the previous podcast, Highlights from Ukraine is a short summary in English of what’s in Ukraine’s media that day. It’s run by Ukrainians, and gives even better coverage of internal politics that may not make it into foreign reporting.

UkrainianSpaces: Queer Pride – UkrainianSpaces is an English language podcast that gets into discussions on Ukrainian life, culture, and reality that may be missing from foreign narratives. This episode is both on and by Ukraine’s LGBTQ community. The hosts speak with one of the organizers of Kyiv Pride, who has been getting requests from foreign media to comment on how the war has affected them and the community. However, the media has been asking for stories of suffering, and ignoring the stories of Queer Ukrainians fighting the invasion, or how Ukraine had been making significant strides for the community before the war. Really interesting and introspective podcast.

Fighting For Ukraine – Short daily updates from Yuriy Matsarsky, an Ukrainian journalist who is actively fighting in a civilian militia. Warzone updates, what he’s seeing on the ground, and what he’s feeling as a Ukrainian fighting for his homeland. He also has a GoFundMe up to help support him and his family – they’ve left the country and like all fighting-age men, he is staying.

The Conversation: The history and evolution of Ukrainian national identity – A really interesting podcast with discussion on the creation of Ukrainian identity out of both the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, and how it waned during the Soviet years, and is now being recreated – pushed by opposition to Russia.

Deconstructed: The War Over Ukrainian History and Identity – An interview from the Intercept with an Ukrainian sociologist that takes a bit of a different spin from the above podcast. It’s a more non-nationalist interpretation of Ukrainian identity looking at how the Ukrainian government is structuring identity, and the problem of corruption and oligarchs in Ukraine that has rarely been spoken about since the invasion started.

ECUADOR: Podcasts

Cotopaxi, seen from Quito – Source: Malcolm Surgenor

Like the month I covered Chile, I struggled to find a lot of Ecuadorian podcasts in English, and I unfortunately don’t speak Spanish. Mainly these are podcasts about Ecuador, but there’s some really interesting interviews (and music!) in here. Another good one that I included in my post about the Galapagos is Radiolab’s report on the islands.

The Voyages of Tim Vetter: Ecuadorian Food and Culture with Abel Castro – A good interview with Ecuadorian restaurateur Abel Castro – they go over Ecuadorian cuisine in all its regional glory, plus unique Ecuadorian ingredients like naranjillas. Castro is based in New York and also touches on how to provide real authentic Ecuadorian food to a North American audience without compromising it – Americans turn out to have a weird aversion to eating corn on the cob in a sit-down restaurant.

The New Yorker: A Pandemic Tragedy in Guayaquil – Ecuador was hit hard and hit early by the pandemic, with the news picking up stories of bodies in the street in Guayaquil. This reporting (in podcast and article form) by Peruvian-American journalist Daniel Alarcón covers the awful start of the pandemic in Ecuador, the bureaucratic and systemic breakdown, and the human toll. Thankfully, Ecuador has been able to mobilize an impressive vaccination campaign, but the disruption and increase in violence and crime has created new challenges.

NPR: The Lost Tapes Of Caife: A Vintage Ecuadorian Record Label Revived – An interview with Daniel Lofredo Rota, a musician and producer in Quito about his discovery of long-lost recordings from the 50s and 60s from his grandfather’s record studio, how he has become a musical archivist through this, and how this valuable look into Ecuador’s musical past influences his own music now. A playlist of some of the records is available on Soundcloud.

BBC: 1995 Peru-Ecuador Border War – A look back at the 1995 war, including old media excerpts and recollections from officers who fought in the final Peru-Ecuador war.

Feel the Night Podcast – A US-based Latin music DJ podcast, with specials focusing on Ecuadorian chicha. Chicha is the Andean name for cumbia: upbeat folk tunes and rhythms, mixed into dance music (it’s also a local corn beer). These are incredible workout playlists, it’s hard to run on the treadmill without wanting to dance. Check out Episodes 396, 272, 261, 191, and 134 for some great Ecuadorian jams.

GABON: More podcasts

Boulevard Triomphal, Libreville – Source

Some more podcasts from and about Gabon – language as marked!

The Talking Point: African Perspectives – Gabon (En) – If you’re looking to get your head around just the basics of Gabon, this South African podcast has a good interview with the head of a Gabonese ex-pat organization in the country. The interviewee wants to get more into the meat of the political struggles, but also wants to show Gabon well and promote the lovely things about it.

France Culture: Gabon, comment sortir de l’impasse? (Fr) – French analysis from 2016 during the contested election between Ali Bongo and Jean Ping – it covers the vote rigging, the violence, and the media blackout, but also covers the political history that lead up this, including France’s involvement in Gabon’s politics – all in 7 minutes.

Sky News ClimateCast: How do you put a price on nature? (En) – Gabon is one of the most forested countries and has some of the lowest levels of deforestation, making it not just a home for incredible biodiversity, but as a vital carbon sink. This makes Gabon is one of the few carbon-negative countries, taking in through its forests more carbon than it emits – even with an oil industry. However the podcast looks into Gabon’s economic choice over its forests as its oil reserves begin to run low – it could log the forests, or it could solicit investments from other countries to keep its forests intact. The question is if other countries will pay to stop Gabon from logging, and would this model work elsewhere?

RFI Couleurs tropicales – Sémaine Speciale Gabon Ep 1 (Fr) – The first episode of a multi-part series on RFI’s African music show focusing exclusively on music from Gabon and its diaspora. It’s more of a DJ set with a bit of interview clips and artist details mixed in (all the artist names are listed in the description). Really high energy and fun, with a host with a lot of national pride about Gabon’s music scene.

Urban FM: Mystères Urbains (Fr) – This is so much fun if you like spooky campy stuff, this Gabonese podcast covers urban legends, occult, and monsters from across the country. I listened to one on an urban legend of the “Devil’s Cat” – a lesson in kindness to animals that builds off superstitions around black cats.

GABON: Podcasts

Kongou Falls, one of the fastest flowing waterfalls in the world – Source

A good mix of podcasts from and about Gabon, both in English and French.

WNYC Studios Radiolab: Breaking Bongo (En) – Probably one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in a while, because it really got me thinking about a serious ethical grey area in politics and media. New York-based journalists interview democracy activists and political opponents of the Bongo regime in the Gabonese diaspora. The podcast gives a great background to the contested 2016 election, where Bongo almost lost to opponent Jean Ping were it not for one province’s rigged vote, the violence and crackdown following the election, Bongo’s health crisis in 2019 and the New Year’s greeting video, the attempted coup, and how the activists try to oppose the government from afar. However, where it gets very very interesting, is that the activists are increasingly turning to dubious methods – starting unfounded rumours of Bongo’s death, doctoring reports, creating “Fake News” – in order to create further confusion and undermine Bongo’s rule. The journalists ask some of the really hard questions here – this was a movement that started out providing truthful reporting and pushing for openness and democracy; is it not threatening its own reliability and legitimacy by resorting to these methods? But at the same time, when the regime is willing to use the same tools, as well as violence, wrongful detention, and censorship to crush you, do you not do everything in your power to fight them?

Institut Français Gabon: Le podcast du Mardi (Fr) – Short podcasts by the local Institut Français (a French organization that supports French culture and language study around the world) interviewing Gabonese personalities and thinkers. I listened to Toutes les opinions sont-elles tolérables? (Are all opinions tolerable?) about Spinoza, and the limits of opinions, facts, and the truth. I also listened to an interview with Chérine from Chey Libreville, a Gabonese influencer (I shared her post about traditional weddings here). Chey speaks about social media, sharing Gabon with the wider world, developing online shopping in Gabon, and the challenges she’s faced with being a full-time blogger, especially since she is a one-woman operation.

Africa in my Kitchen: Gabon – Odika (En) – I probably should have listened to this podcast before my disastrous attempt at odika chicken. The podcast covers Gabonese cuisine, and gets into cooking with odika. The hosts, Ijeoma and Yemi (who are both of Nigerian origin) are split on cooking with odika/ogbono – it’s apparently a very “acquired taste” and texture, even when fresh.

Le Grand RDV: Gabon: Et de trois pour Ali Bongo? Que peut l’opposition? (Fr) – A recent episode from Africa Radio’s podcast series on current events on the continent. Gabonese civil society leaders from various sides of the political spectrum debate if Ali Bongo could or should run for a third time in the upcoming 2023 presidential election. There’s a mix of supporters and critics, and they touch on his capacity after his stroke, why his ministers are trial ballooning him running right now, who would run instead if he could not, and the (weak) state of Gabonese democracy.

Ckilsenpensent : les réactions à la future adhésion du Gabon au Commonwealth (Fr) – Gabon announced that it plans to join the Commonwealth this year. It wouldn’t be the first country with no connections to the British Empire to join – I looked at why Mozambique joined, and Rwanda and Cameroon have also come on board (former Portuguese, Belgian, and French colonies, respectively). However, there’s been debate on if this is just a way to gain distance from France, and if this is just switching one former-colonial relationship for another. This podcast from Info241 is vox-pops from the Gabonese public, with many people framing this as a language question – does this signal a larger turn to the Anglosphere and will it involve dropping French in favour of English to take advantage of business opportunities?

NEW ZEALAND: More podcasts

The kakapo – Source

Here’s also more podcasts – I had shared a bunch of good RNZ ones previously, the following are a mix of RNZ and independently produced shows:

History of Aotearoa New Zealand – An independently produced podcast that goes into good depth about Aotearoa’s history (for a briefer overview on the topic, check out RNZ’s history podcast). Episodes are roughly chronological and about 20 minutes, and cover a huge variety of topics – you can just dip in to any one that catches your fancy. They have a particularly good focus on Maori topics, especially pre-European contact. I caught a really interesting episode on how Maori adapted their horticulture to New Zealand’s cold climate when they first arrived from more tropical parts of Polynesia.

Kakapo Files – A series looking at conservation efforts of the endangered kakapo. The kakapo is a large, flightless parrot – probably best known for humping a cameraman’s head in a Stephen Fry nature documentary. The podcast follows the ups and downs of the 2019 breeding season, with plenty of high drama as scientists try to give the wild birds the best chance at raising a new generation.

When the Facts Change – From independent journalism site The Spinoff, When the Facts Change is a journalistic look at the intersection of business, economics, and politics. I listened to “The impossible dream of home ownership“, which interviews several different experts on the cause and damaging effects of New Zealand’s insanely overpriced housing. I was expecting to draw some parallels to Canada’s similarly overheated market, but interestingly the perceived causes are different in Aotearoa: limited supply, limited zoning, and widespread poor quality housing. (As opposed to speculation, both domestic and foreign, which is one of our banes here.) Regardless, the result is the same – younger generations are left out of the housing market, and both housing and rental prices are rising many times faster than wages.

Dietary Requirements – Another Spinoff podcast, this is a lighthearted look at food and culture. There’s a big selection of local cuisine spotlights, looks at the restaurant scene, and interviews on international food cultures. I couldn’t resist listening to Politics, poutine and quarantine (plus an earthquake), which features a Canadian journalist who had just relocated to New Zealand at the start of the pandemic. They go into quarantine food, and touch on the increasing spread of poutine globally.

Red Line – A four-part investigation by RNZ into New Zealand’s relationship with China. Many countries have to walk to line between the massive economic importance of China, versus human rights violations inside China and China’s pressure on politics and dissidents in their own country. New Zealand is in a particularly challenging spot, as it is more economically dependant on China than other Western countries. I used to spend a lot of time in China about a decade ago, and the first podcast really touches on how a lot of us back then thought that China’s rising power and wealth would also mean liberalization. We, of course, were quite wrong.

Remember When… – For some lighter fare, short little podcasts with reminiscing on millennial nostalgia from a Kiwi perspective. It was pretty fun to walk down memory lane on tamagotchis, nu-metal, and old school blogging – which I’ve never really let go of!


Aoraki / Mt Cook – Source

There’s a huge number of New Zealand podcasts to choose from – I’m overwhelmed just by the offerings from RNZ, Aotearoa’s public broadcaster. Much like the CBC here in Canada, they’ve really dedicated themselves to supporting podcasts, and there’s everything from standard radio shows and news to mini-series to really experimental stuff. The following are all RNZ podcasts, I’ll see if I can get to other podcasts as well this month!

The Aotearoa History Show – A 14-part podcast (with a video version on Youtube) covering the entire history of New Zealand – Maori settlement of the islands, the arrival of Europeans, the Musket Wars, the Treaty of Waitangi (and how it was subsequently ignored), the New Zealand Wars, the arrival of refrigeration and how it saved the New Zealand economy, how land and sovereignty was taken from the Maori, the World Wars, the post-war period, and a drunken Prime Minister calling a snap election. Just a generally excellent overview of the whole sweep in 20 minute bites; I really recommend listening to the whole thing.

Great Ideas – A series of podcasts that brings in experts from universities across New Zealand to talk about “big ideas”. I listened to “Every Language is a World” about linguistics, translation, and linguistic determinism – what does it mean when you have a specific word in your language for a concept?

This Way Up: seismic stories – The final episode of a long-running RNZ show, this podcast stitches together archival audio from three different post-earthquake bike trips by the presenter. The first was through Christchurch shortly after the 2011 earthquake, the second from a year later, and the third through a town called Kaikoura after a 2016 earthquake. The presenter also lives in the region and has been affected by the quakes, and gives the people he meets a chance to speak as they try to put their lives and livelihoods back together.

Fight for the Wild – A four-part series looking at the Predator Free 2050 plan and the losses to biodiversity New Zealand has faced since the introduction of rats, possums, and stoats to the islands. The first episode looks at the unique biology of New Zealand wildlife, which evolved without land predators or mammals (apart from some bats), and how it was devastated by the arrival of humans and their animals. The following episodes look at attempts at pest control, Maori perspectives, and the economic effects of the plan. It would be interesting to compare with my home province of Alberta: the only place in the world to successfully eradicate rats completely.

Widows of Shuhada – A short series following four women, all of whom were widowed in the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk about the grieving process, their lives before and after, how the Muslim community in Christchurch responded to the murders, and how they continue with their lives and their faith. The host of the podcast is also a Muslim woman from Christchurch – she herself had grown up attending the mosque, and knew many of the victims. It’s a deeply personal and sensitive series.

SAN MARINO: Sammarinese Radio, Podcasts, and TV

Heritage Unbounded – San Marino: A Small Republic with a Big History – A podcast from Johns Hopkins University’s Museum and Heritage Studies department, interviewing Dr. Paolo Rondelli, who served as San Marino’s ambassador to the US and is now the country’s ambassador to UNESCO. Rondelli was part of the team that got San Marino’s historic centre and Mount Titano onto the UNESCO World Heritage list, and he talks about changing ideas of historical preservation – especially as many of the buildings in the centre have been continuously used by the same institutions for centuries. He also touches on how San Marino hopes to balance massive tourism with protection for historical and environmental sites.

Futureproof with Sergio Mottola – A podcast focusing on the tech industry, with a focus on big picture questions of ethics, industry, and technological trends. It’s hosted by Sergio Mottola, a tech venture capitalist who formerly served as CEO of the San Marino Innovation Institute, a state-owned private company that supports tech ventures in the country. I listened to the episode “Our future with tech: interfering or augmenting?“, which had some good nuanced debate on how paradigm shifts are more often forced than accepted and how to tackle the ethics of tech companies.

USMARADIO Pocasts – San Marino’s university has a major department, USMARADIO, dedicated to research and innovation into radio and radiophonic studies. They have a wealth of podcasts, with some in English, that really work on showcasing and developing new artistic expressions of sound and communication. They have a lot of experimental music and soundscapes – I put on Cave I – Halfcastle for a walk on a cold, snowy evening and it set the mood perfectly. USMARADIO showcases artists and collectives not just from San Marino and Italy, but around the world. An interesting one is female:pressure_ROJAVA. It’s a collaboration by artists and poets about the Rojava conflict and Kurdish attempts to create autonomy in Syria, as well as women’s attempts to create autonomy in the movement – past just the female fighters that are usually seen in Western media.

Mount Titano and its Three Towers – Source

USMARADIO live – The live radio feed from USMARADIO also has some really interesting stuff. It varies dramatically what you get – due to the time difference, I initially started listening to overnight radio, which is mainly the very very experimental music and soundscapes that they also have in their podcasts. Then I started tuning in at different times and picked up other playlists – one morning it was relaxing African folk music, followed directly by an European medieval choral ensemble. Later, I picked up from free jazz, then some slam poetry in English set to experimental sounds. It’s really fun to get a complete surprise every time I click play. Listen live here.

Radio San Marino 102.7 FM – The main radio channel from San Marino RTV, the country’s public broadcaster. There’s a really big variety here – I’ve heard English and Italian-language classic rock, dance, jazz, hip hop, Top 40 hits, and classical music, interspersed with talk programming and news in Italian. Listen live here.

Radio San Marino Classic 103.2 FM – San Marino RTV’s music-focused secondary channel. It’s also a mix of English and Italian-language music, mainly classic rock, 90s hits, and pop, with special shows focusing on 60s music, love songs, and soul throughout the week. Minimal talk, it’s almost entirely music. Listen live here.

And if you speak Italian, San Marino RTV also has two tv channels streaming online – RTV and RTV Sport. The former is general national broadcaster formatting- news, weather, Italian tv shows. RTV Sport is live games, interviews, and analysis – I’ve caught Italian soccer and kickboxing matches streamed on it.

UZBEKISTAN: More podcasts / Googoosha

Amir Timur Museum, Tashkent – Source

CSIS: Of Mirziyoyev’s Uzbekistan – A recent podcast from an American think tank, looking at Mirziyoyev’s reforms since he came to power in 2016. They focus that while the reforms have not transformed the country overnight, they have been significant – especially economic and politically. They look at how Mirziyoyev’s reforms are being balanced with the need to keep the country and existing power structure stable, how these reforms are seen in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, and how Uzbekistan fits in the current situation with neighbouring countries, especially Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera – Uzbekistan reforms: Activists demand more changes – A bit more colour on reforms in Uzbekistan, reporting by Al Jazeera on both the recent progress (foreign journalists were rarely allowed in before 2016) and on places where reform has stalled or has only been incremental – especially for dissidents. Recent elections have not had genuine opposition parties, and the pandemic has set back much economic growth – so it will be seen in future years if the reforms continue.

Deep Fried: Uzbek Kimchi – A Dubai-based food podcast that goes into the culinary connections between Uzbek and Korean cuisine. They go to local restaurants and compare the Korean and Uzbek versions of kimchi and kuksi (a summertime noodle soup served chilled), and also touch a bit on why there is so much Korean influence on Uzbek cuisine. There is a surprisingly large Korean population in Uzbekistan – many Koreans who fled the Japanese occupation into Russia were resettled by the government to Uzbekistan.

A rare snowy day in Tashkent – Source

BBC – Uzbekistan: Searching for Googoosha – A slightly breathless BBC investigation from 2014 about Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of then-President Islam Karimov. Karimova has been a fascinating figure – immensely powerful, she controlled huge assets and state companies during her father’s life, was very public on the international NGO scene, but also acquired great wealth through graft and was connected to violent repression of critics. She also had a career as a pop star in Uzbekistan, under the stage name Googoosha. Her star began to dim as international corruption investigations started circling, and as of 2014, she was falling from grace as part of an internal power struggle within her own family and others positioning themselves to succeed the ailing Karimov.

BBC – Unravelling an Uzbek Mystery – If you listen to the above podcast, you’ll want this as a part 2. This episode is from 2016, shortly after Karimov’s death and Mirziyoyev coming into power. Karimova made global headlines at that time – she had disappeared, and rumours circled that she had been killed. The BBC’s Uzbek journalists had made contact with her son, and got the scoop that she was alive, but being held under house arrest. It’s clear that she had lost the succession struggle and the new government needed her out of the public eye.

This was all only five years ago – so where is Gulnara Karimova now? In 2017, Uzbek courts convicted her of corruption, extortion, and money laundering – both due to genuine crimes but also likely as a convenient scapegoat for corruption in the Karimov era. She was sentenced to jail, commuted to house arrest, but in 2019 she was returned to jail – where is where she currently is.

Much was made over her pop career – I’m reasonably sure that this was the music video mentioned in the 2014 podcast.


The Fergana Valley – Source

Matters of State: Uzbekistan at a Crossroads – A short American foreign policy podcast from 2016, right after the death of longtime president Islam Karimov. They take a brief look at Uzbekistan’s political history under Karimov, where the country may go from there (we now know the new president has made some steps towards reform and improving human rights), and a look at where Uzbekistan sits geopolitically with its neighbours and with larger powers like Russia and China.

BBC – Uzbekistan: The Country of a Hundred Shrines – Uzbek journalist Rustam Qobil, who reports for the BBC across Central Asia, returns to Uzbekistan for the first time in many years to report on religious revival as part of the country’s larger reforms since 2016. He speaks with Islamic students about the Uzbek tradition of shrines, which has both pre-Islamic and Sufi roots, visits the tomb of Daniel (one of several, this one connected with Timur/Tamerlane) and comments on the increased openness and freedom to participate in religion compared to the Soviet and Karimov eras. He also briefly connects how the Mirziyoyev government is supporting a return to religion, specifically moderate Islam and syncretic Uzbek traditions, as a way to head off the growth of religious extremism. An article based off the podcast with pictures is here.

RNZ Kitchen Stories: Hanifa and Nilufar cook Uzbek food – From New Zealand’s public broadcaster, an interview with Nilufar Allayarova and her daughter Hanifa Kodirova, on emigrating from Uzbekistan to New Zealand and Uzbek cuisine. Also included are their family recipes for Uzbek plov, manti, and samsa. If you’re interested in plov, check out my my attempt!

BBC: Lost Stories From Uzbekistan – Another BBC Uzbek journalist, Ibrat Safo, covers how Stalin’s purges in the 1930s affected Uzbekistan, and how a chance meeting with a professor in Tashkent helped Safo find out his own family history – including about family members that had disappeared in the purges.

SRB Podcast: Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan – A discussion from 2015 with an expert on Uzbekistan about the then-current political situation in Karimov’s declining years (he would die the next year), the political history of Uzbekistan post-USSR and the power struggles happening around who would succeed Karimov. A lot of the episode’s predictions have come true in the last six years, including Uzbekistan’s careful balance between the US, China, and Russia – a position not always in its control – and its role as an Islamic country fighting against Islamic fundamentalism.


The Bamboo Cathedral – Source

Nerd World Politics: Under the Gunn – From 2018, the first podcast from Nerd World Politics – two self-described “Black nerd activists” from Trinidad and Tobago who discuss political and social justice elements of modern nerd culture. They’re absolutely fantastic and extremely thoughtful. This first episode covered the James Gunn controversy, including how calling out and forgiveness works in both nerd and activist circles, better ways to deal with inappropriate behaviour, the weaponization of cancelling, and the corporate and cultural responses to situations like Gunn’s.

The House Lime: Jemel the Entertainer – The House Lime is a fun, casual interview show (liming being slang for chatting or shooting the shit). This episode they interview Jemel the Entertainer, a prominent Trinidadian comedian on social media. It’s an intriguing interview, covering how to be successful through new media, the comedy scene in Trinidad and Tobago, the nature of local fame, and acting with professionalism and building back your reputation after a scandal (and hoo boy, he’s had some scandal in the past).

Jus’ Ole Talk: Jus’ Fix It Pt. 1Jus’ Ole Talk is a really good quality discussion podcast about everyday life in Trinidad. I listened to the first “Jus’ Fix It” episode, that looked at ways to potentially fix problems in society. The first half mainly focused on Trinidad and Tobago in international sports, and how to properly nurture young athletes with either state or private support. They particularly look at the Olympics and Jamaica, which is similar in size, wealth, and history, but is far more competitive internationally than Trinidad is. This episode also starts into a discussion about customer service in Trinidad, and I’ve never heard a funnier use of dead air in my life. I’m going to tune into the second half to hear the rest, they were starting into an interesting discussion on the colonial hangover in customer service. A quick note though, there’s at least another podcast from Trinidad with the same name, so look for the “Showtime Trinidad” one.