The Kugali podcast is a show where we talk about comics, games, sci-fi, fantasy, TV shows and movies, novels and all that good stuff from the perspective of African geeks. The podcast is hosted by 3 Nigerian men, but from inception till the day of this writing, every episode has been recorded while the hosts were all in different continents. We’ve had a few people ask how we managed to pull this off, so we decided to write this little expose for y’all.
Simple answer: we have a group call on Skype and record the call. That’s all there is to it! There’s a lot of little things that go into making that come out right though, and it took us months of learning on the job and tweaking our techniques to get it right. So let’s talk about each of these little things one by one.
The first obvious problem is the different time zones. Tolu is in Nigeria, Demi is in America and Ziki is in England, which is either an hour behind Nigeria or is at the exact same time as Nigeria depending on daylight savings time. This means that if Tolu and Ziki are free after work in the evening, it may still be the middle of the afternoon for Demi. Or Demi may be asleep while the guys are actively planning stuff on the group chat. Taking one for the team is part of his job descriptionWhat do you think?
Then there’s Tobi, a.k.a Obito. He’s a part of this small group of friends, but when the time came to commit to moving our geeky banter from our group chats to an actual podcast, he was always too busy to join in. Except in episode 4. He’s in Canada anyway, and happens to be in the same timezone as Demi.
Then there’s the Nigerian internet problem. Tolu lives in Nigeria, so his internet connection can get really bad. The quality of the recorded audio is only a good as the weakest link in the group call, so if Tolu’s connection is bad and his audio is terrible, you’re going to hear static in the recording. We have a few solutions to this.
Sometimes, Tolu has to mute his microphone and wait for his connection to get better before joining in the conversation. Sometimes, he has to Skype from his phone using his cellular data because at that time, it’s faster than his home WiFi. In fact, most of our recordings start at 8pm Nigerian time, because it’s after work and there will be less traffic on Nigerian internet. We’ve actually started recording some episodes and had to postpone the recording to another day because the connection was terrible.
The actual recording is done on Ziki’s computer using Ecamm recorder for Skype, while Tolu records a back up on his computer using Amolto call recorder. Both are free software, unless you want to record video as well, but we only need the audio. Most of the time, we just use Ziki’s recording, but there have been times when an unforeseen problem caused Ziki to lose what he had recorded, and then we’ll use Tolu’s own, which may or may not sound worse depending on the network strength that day.
For example, in this episode with Radi Lewis, Ziki lost the first 15 minutes of his recording, and we used Tolu’s back up. Can you tell where the handover point is? We also had to get external microphones, because the mics that come built into most laptops are good enough for casual calls with friends, but not for any form of professional recording. Granted, our external microphones aren’t studio mics, but they get the job done.
There were other financial investments. In our first two seasons, we regularly had to hire a sound engineer online to remove background noise, whitespace and excess “emm”s and “umm”s from our recordings. We didn’t need him every episode, but the cost piles up anyway. We have gotten better at not saying “emm” and “umm” between sentences while recording, and Tolu has learnt how to remove background noise with Audacity, a free audio editing software, so we no longer incur that extra cost.+
Obviously, we needed a domain name. We started with taoofotaku.com. The Tao of Otaku means “The way of the Geek” (yes, we combined 2 Asian languages with English to arrive at that). Demi is our art director and does most of our graphics, but whenever he has an idea that requires a little extra skill, he hires an artist from sites like Fiverr. That was how we got our Tao of Otaku logo.
We posted our show notes to tumblr weekly, because tumblr let us host our domain on a tumblr blog for free. The show notes are where you get pictures, videos, links and more info on everything we talked about on each episode of the podcast.
When we eventually decided to expand our offerings, so that the podcast was just one of the things we did as a company, we rebranded and had to buy a new domain, kugali.com. “Kugali” was formed from the Swahili phrase “a kujali” which means “something that can’t be ignored”. We had to move past the limitations of a free tumblr blog, and buy proper web-hosting for podcast.kugali.com, so that we could do better quality show notes. We didn’t just buy web-hosting, we also had to buy a WordPress theme. So you see, if you’re planning on starting a podcast and taking it seriously, it’s not too costly, but it ain’t cheap either.
Finally, there’s the most important part: The content of the podcast. How do we have enough to talk about for 30 – 60 minutes every week, while staying within our niche? How do we interview people from all over Africa and the diaspora? And how do we do all this on time for our weekly release? Well, we’re not gonna tell you all our secrets! Seriously though, it’s really just hard work and persistence. Luckily, before we became business partners, we had all been friends for about 15 years, like we told Guy Hasson when he interviewed us.
Since we’re not making money from the podcast (yet), what keeps us going each week is the feeling of not wanting to disappoint your close friends, and not wanting to disappoint your fans. All the feedback we get on social media keeps us charged up. You should listen to our interview with Guy, it answers some of the questions asked in this post.
Every week, we all have to decide what we’re talking about and that implies screening out stuff we may be interested in that is just not relevant to our audience. We may have to book a recording time with a guest who might be in a different time zone from all 3 of us. After the recording, Ziki will have to do some audio editing, which usually takes thrice as much time as it takes to record.
Demi will have to listen to the final cut to point out places that need to be improved, and to pull out all the points that should be on the show notes. He may sometimes have to design a promotional image for that episode. Tolu will have to stick all the content unto the show notes, and may have to do some further audio editing.
And at the time of this writing, Tobi has finally sorted out the things that kept him from joining us, and has been in every episode from episode 48. We’re closing up the third season of the podcast in December 2016, and if Tobi’s back now, the 4th season is going to be very interesting. The prodigal son has returned!