Nigerian literature is going from strength to strength

Winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African writing and four nominees all hail from Nigeria.

Nigerian writer Tope Folarin has been awarded the 2013 Caine Prize for his short story Miracle published in Transition Magazine. He was awarded £10,000 for what judges described as a “delightful and beautifully paced narrative” set in a Nigerian evangelical church in Texas. Miracle tells the tale of a congregation that have gathered to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor and prophet on a tour across America.

The prize, considered one of the most prestigious for African literature, is now fourteen years old. It was named after the late Sir Michael Caine who worked on establishing it shortly before he died and was also instrumental in the foundation of the Booker Prize.

Folarin was awarded his prize last night at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He has been awarded two Master’s degrees at the University, where he has previously studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

His win is reflective of the increasing critical acclaim for Nigerian literature. Last year’s winner was Nigerian as were four out of five writers shortlisted for the 2013 prize. To read more about the nominated authors, head over to the Caine Prize's website.

Winner of the 2013 Caine Prize, Tope Forlarin. Photo: David Fleming.

James is a freelance journalist with a particular interest in UK politics and social commentary. His blog can be found hereYou can follow him on Twitter @jamesevans42.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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