By Victor Dlamini
It is the age we live in that gives one that rush of blood to the head – and you suddenly feel as if you were a David of sorts, ready to slay your Goliath. I mean only in this new millennium would one be so foolhardy as to dare to dream of starting a new show on a completely new media platform. But then there is all around us a keenness to try out new ideas, and the young generation, the ‘digital natives’ have shown us just how big the ‘information age’ is destined to become. It is nearly a year now since I left traditional broadcasting and embarked on what may have seemed at first like a perilous plunge into the unknown, and in this piece I would like to share some of my own thoughts that led me, perhaps even compelled me to start the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast
Much is made of what is called ‘New Media’ but since we all know that nothing stays new forever, and that certainly ‘New Media’ is no longer new, this convenient term seems destined for the dustbin. Whatever the term that will come to define this shift from the ‘traditional’ media such as Radio, Television and Print to a web based digital platform, it seems clear that it presents new and exciting possibilities to democratize mass communication without recourse to expensive financing of ‘broadcasting’ infrastructure.
The rise of ‘citizen journalism’ has been one of the most fascinating effects of new technology on our society, and I believe that in a few years some of the old-school broadcasters will be totally out of touch, chasing a dwindling and ageing audience. Once I’d grasped this idea that one no longer needed to be tethered to the inflexible edifice of the corporate media to reach readers and listeners, I knew that I had to break free, become independent and start the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast.
Citizen journalism is a symptom: a deeper social reality is reflected by the phenomenal rise of Podcasting and Blogging, probably two of the most important developments in our recent history as social beings. Podcasting and Blogging bring with them a promise of democratizing speech in an age when ‘big media’ wields more power than most countries. All around us we can see that the interests of the powerful, be they vested in big corporations, big countries, big individuals, or big institutions, are stifling the voice of the independently minded.
One of the things that I found quite frustrating about South Africa’s public broadcaster was that there one had to try and deliver a high-quality programme whilst working with so many ill prepared, inexperienced individuals that had been given jobs that are well beyond their means. It is not just a question of training, but also of simple common sense, and if you have members of the team who think it is their birth-right to pitch up at the last minute, without any preparation, then the institution is doomed to deliver content of substandard quality. If there ever was a recipe for failure this is it, and I weep for this potentially World Class institution. It is of course heartening to see that many of the so-called big players have since followed my lead, right down to emulating or copying my technical solution to deliver high-quality Podcasts. That is one of the joys of possessing a pioneering spirit, but the benefit is for the larger community that loves the arts and now has more choice.
The poet, publisher and activist, James Matthews
It is one of the great ironies of our age that at a time when newspapers and magazines are getting bigger by the day there is actually less to read. Radio and television are much the same – with the possible exception of a few hours here and there on talk radio. This is because publishers and media owners, with the tacit agreement of editors, reserve more and more space to satisfy the demands of commerce. Little wonder that in so many parts of South Africa the consumer culture has become the primary impulse of most workers, who spend what little time they ‘have to themselves’ rushing to the nearest shopping mall.
One of the truly outstanding features of Podcasting is that it offers ‘content on demand’. Those who wish to tune in can do so at any time and no longer do they have to sit around waiting for their favourite programme to go on air. After my first ten shows I was struck by how quickly the Podcast had established a truly international audience. Clearly, the availability of the content 24/7 is one of the features that suits such an audience: time differences and geographical or even political barriers that still plague traditional media do not affect it in the same way.
Independence is one of the most cherished words in any language, and there was once a time when freedom and independence were used almost interchangeably. But nowadays the terms seem on the verge of divorce, and there has been a sense of the retreat of the latter – especially when it comes to individual freedom in public spaces. Since it was founded, The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast has given writers, social critics, cultural activists and other creative voices a unique platform to express their ideas freely on this independent show.
I have always been attracted by the purity of ideas, not their popularity: that is why I love the deep conversations that I have with those who come on to the show. It is a truly great delight to listen to someone who has the gift of language and imagination express his or her ideas without any limitation. So far, since starting the podcast, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down to have at least two such conversations each week with remarkable individuals.
The writer and language activist Ngugi wa Thiong’o
I suppose, finally, that on a personal level I have also always loved the notion of turning what at first seems like an impossibly small or remote idea into something substantial. I think that Podcasting is still in its infancy today, but the success of the iPod shows that its growth as a legitimate medium is assured. No longer do individuals care to have someone else choose for them the things they listen to and watch. Part of what is truly exciting about working in this field, using these tools is that power and choice are returning to listener. To me Podcasting is a fascinating confluence of content, technology and freedom – the freedom to create choice on an untold scale for audiences across the globe, and the corresponding freedom to decide when you want to tune in.
I have no doubt that through my conversations with so many outstanding writers, thinkers and other creative individuals on The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast, I have an opportunity to add to our ability to imagine beyond the confines of our circumstances. In these conversations those I speak to have never ceased to surprise me by how much they are prepared to open up to me, and I think that all of us can glean something from their answers. In the final analysis I do believe that the import of all this is that through the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast we may once again realize that an untethered, unfettered imagination, as found in our various literatures, fictions and other narratives, may provide us the greatest freedom of all.
It has been a pleasure to post my conversations with artists such as Andre Brink, Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, Dennis Brutus, Kgebetli Moele, Emmanuel Dongala, Gabeba Baderoon,Shailja Patel, Maestro, Ben Zander Breyten Breytenbach, Lewis Nkosi, Vusi Mchunu,Eben Venter, Sandile Ngidi, Mbulelo Mzamane, Nawal El Saadawi, Anne Landsman, Njabulo Ndebele, Gcina Mhlophe, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Napo Masheane, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Ben Williams, Antjie Krog, Kevin Bloom, Rosamund Zander, Zapiro, Sindiwe Magona, Ravi Naidoo and many others
A view of city Johannesburg, one of the world’s greatest cities
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