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MacG’s journey from top 40 radio to the top of South Africa’s podcast charts

The past decade has been monumental for the South African podcast scene. Radio stations used to clip snippets of on-air interviews, post them online, and call it podcasting. But with countless recent podcast launches, it’s clear that South Africa is entering a golden era for the medium. In 2019, podcasts were already the fastest growing sector for media consumption, but 2020 marked a watershed moment as podcast creators gained visibility and listeners in droves — not just across the African stage, but globally too.

One of South Africa’s most prominent DJs and podcasters, Macgyver Mukwevho, a.k.a. MacG, knew the audio space intimately. He kicked off his career in 2000 at just 16 as a broadcaster on e-tv’s youth programme Craz-e. He then became a DJ on Gauteng-based station YFM before hosting several shows on 947, a popular Top 40 station in Johannesburg. 

When MacG lost his gig at 947, he decided to fill his time by experimenting with long-form video podcasts which he co-hosted with his YFM contemporary Lenn Moleko. The first episode of Podcast and Chill with MacG was produced in summer 2018, with a simple format — a relaxed chat that entertained, educated, and provided a form of escape for listeners. “We wanted a platform to express our thoughts unfiltered,” he explained to Patreon. As with many early-stage creative concepts, MacG initially only shared it with his close friends. But word spread fast.

As well as unpacking hot topics in South African entertainment news, Podcast and Chill with MacG hosts interviews with creators and artists. “In the beginning, I used to have people I know come through as guests — these were people I had developed relationships with during my time on radio,” he added. But soon personalities were reaching out to MacG directly to appear as guests on the show. “DJ Ankletap [who hosts YFM’s Breakfast show] came through and the concept of celebrity interviews was pretty much born from there.”

He has since interviewed creatives like radio pioneer DJ Sbu, actress and TV host Candice Modiselle, and dancer Zodwa Wabantu. “It has evolved to become a crucial voice in society that celebrities want to be associated with,” said MacG. 

In addition to Moleko, the podcast has a third host, MacG’s partner, who prefers not to be on camera. In early episodes, they jokingly called her “The Ghost Lady,” which, much to their amusement, ended up sticking. But they could never have predicted that their rapidly growing audience would so wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to discovering who she is. To the Ghost Lady’s credit, her true identity has never been revealed. 

But while their viewership was growing and their video podcast format was popular, fans, or what MacG calls ‘Chillers,’ were begging for an all-audio version.

Then the pandemic hit and recording the podcast live in-studio became challenging to say the least. Podcast and Chill entered a new audio-only era which MacG felt played a crucial role in helping people find an escape during a rough year. South Africa’s lockdown restrictions were tough, with the sales of alcohol banned for months on end, so episodes offered listeners much-needed chill time. 

Sporadic electrical power and connectivity issues mean on-the-go listening has always been a challenge for the video-based podcast. But now, thanks to much smaller audio-only files, Chillers based in South Africa can make the most of WiFi hotspots and finally listen to the show wherever they want.

With the South African podcast space expanding so quickly, MacG’s advice to up-and-comers is consistency.

“Supply the product, and the demand will come with that.”

Being on Patreon is a game-changer for Mukwevho, Moleko, and the Ghost Lady. “It’s amazing because the Podcast and Chill community are very invested in the growth of the show, and what better place to give them that than on Patreon,” shared MacG. “We want to give our patrons an exclusive experience they can’t get anywhere else — as a token of appreciation for all their support through these trying times”.