This issue of Detox is a treat for your ears; you can think of it as one big Listen section.
First off, and as is our habit on the first weekend of each month, we have our monthly Tafneeta, prepared, as always, by Ahmed el-Sabbagh.
In addition to music, however, it seems to us that podcasts in particular are a medium that really fits this phase. They’ve been keeping us company in this time of isolation, and they work especially well for multitaskers. We end up doing so much work around the house without even realizing it, and it’s a good use of time to listen to some podcasts as we perform our daily chores. You can listen to them while cooking, cleaning, or tidying up your closet. They’re also great while working out, taking a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood, or even grocery shopping. They can also help you fall asleep, like a nice little bedtime story.
So, this weekend, we invite you to take a little break from your screens (no recommendations to read or to watch), and make your headphones your best friend. Let your ears be the window through which you receive the world. Below, we share a selection of podcasts that we’ve found to be insightful, innovative, informative and often very immersive as well.
Let’s start with a couple of English podcasts from the region: Co-hosted by journalist Ursula Lindsey and editor and critic Marcia Lynx Qualey, Bulaq is a podcast about literature from and about the Middle East and North Africa, with occasional commentary on cultural and political happenings in the region, often through a literary lens.
The Kerning Cultures Network publishes podcasts in both Arabic and English, exploring “stories from the Middle East and North Africa, and spaces in between.” These stories usually focus on themes such as identity, migration and politics. Notable episodes include Serious Jolt, Our Women on the Ground and 78 Degrees North. Make sure you also check out the network’s latest show, Al-Empire, which chronicles the exceptional journeys of people from across the Arab world as they chart diverse paths across the world.
In each episode of The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast, a contemporary writer reads one story by another author from the magazine’s archive, and discusses it with the publication’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. Here, Orhan Pamuk reads a 1970 story by Jorge Luis Borges:
(Make sure you also check out The Writer’s Voice, where authors read their newly published fiction in the magazine every week.)
NPR’s Code Switch tackles issues of race and how they intersect with every aspect of contemporary life, moving through history, pop culture and current political events. The podcast’s latest episode, titled “A Decade of Watching Black People Die,” questions the value of images and the different sorts of attention they get, in light of ongoing protests against racial violence in the United States.
Love + Radio is a podcast by Nick van der Kolk that features interviews with a host of diverse figures from all walks of life, who tell their rich, unpredictable stories in their own words. As described in a Guardian review: “It doesn’t try to teach you anything, it just presents you with a story that unfolds as you listen. … The show always feels out of time and space, in and of its own world. A world full of intriguing characters who aren’t quite who you think they are when you first meet them.” Start with this episode, titled “The Living Room,” from 2015, later adapted into an Oscar-winning short film:
An investigative journalism podcast, Serial was first released in 2014 with a gripping 12-episode season investigating a murder that happened in Baltimore in 1999, questioning whether the man convicted was actually guilty. Since then, two more seasons of the show have been produced.
Another incredible feat of investigative journalism is S-Town, one of the highest-rated narrative podcasts of all time. Hosted by Brian Reed, the seven-chapter series (each chapter is one episode) is a great segue into the world of podcasts because you simply won’t be able to stop listening. Reed paints a portrait of a fascinating character living in rural Alabama and all the mysteries that surround him, and the surprising twists and turns that the narrative takes are sure to get you hooked.
In Our Time is a discussion-based program from BBC Radio 4 that’s been running since 1998. Episodes cover a wide range of topics, from history and philosophy to science and religion. Each subject is covered with depth and intellectual prowess, as the host, Melvyn Bragg, is always joined by three experts (academics, more often than not), to whom he directs a series of sharp and insightful questions. While it is straightforward in structure, the wealth of information provided in each thought-provoking episode will definitely keep you interested. For lovers of Russian literature, start with this episode on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
(Also from BBC Radio 4 is The Invisible College, which features a series of “lessons” in creative writing from some of the world’s most celebrated writers of the past — definitely worth checking out by writers seeking to hone their craft.)
You Must Remember This is the ultimate podcast for cinephiles and film history buffs. Researched, produced and hosted by film critic Karina Longworth, the podcast explores forgotten secrets from the Golden Age of Hollywood — the films, the studios, the stars and the people they actually were — providing layers of cultural and political context.
And finally, for Arabic listeners, we put together an extensive list of our favorite podcasts from the region, including two of our own (sorry, we couldn’t help it): Tales of an Amateur Gardener, where, in each episode, a different guest tells a story about their relationship to plants and how they grow them, as well as our music podcast, Katalog, where musicians analyze and reflect on their latest work. You can check out the full list below.