Arts & Culture Podcasts

AwokenWord is a long-form, conversation style podcast hosted by writer, poet, and music composer, Anuj Rastogi. Through nuanced and thoughtful dialogue with an incredible array of guests, Anuj explores the worlds of society, culture, art, music, science, current events and all things that comprise the human experience. "I want to challenge and evolve ideas, intuitions and convictions. This world, is quite simply, nuts, and often terrifying. Yet, this same world is incredibly beautiful, inspiring and mesmerizing. I want to get to know people who are interesting, who hold varied opinions and have life experiences different than my own. This podcast is my humble attempt to bring a grain of sand of goodness, conversation and inspiration to the beach of human experience. This podcast is my love letter to the world, and to what it means to be human." ~ Anuj Rastogi


United States


AwokenWord is a long-form, conversation style podcast hosted by writer, poet, and music composer, Anuj Rastogi. Through nuanced and thoughtful dialogue with an incredible array of guests, Anuj explores the worlds of society, culture, art, music, science, current events and all things that comprise the human experience. "I want to challenge and evolve ideas, intuitions and convictions. This world, is quite simply, nuts, and often terrifying. Yet, this same world is incredibly beautiful, inspiring and mesmerizing. I want to get to know people who are interesting, who hold varied opinions and have life experiences different than my own. This podcast is my humble attempt to bring a grain of sand of goodness, conversation and inspiration to the beach of human experience. This podcast is my love letter to the world, and to what it means to be human." ~ Anuj Rastogi






#023: Martin Ryan - "Artificial Intelligence. Real Ethics"

Anuj sits down with Martin Ryan to discuss the moment in time we find ourselves in on the rapidly evolving landscape of AI. Nearly one year since the public launch of Chat GPT, AI has seen an unprecedented level of attention in the public conscience, along with unparalleled growth. Martin is innovation strategy and human-centered design leader with 15+ years of cross-sector and cross-domain experience. Leading from a place of sincere concern and regard for the interaction between humanity and technology, Martin helps organizations navigate through the ambiguous but disciplined process of designing what's next for the people, markets and societies they serve; while keeping the moral, ethical and social implications at the forefront. Anuj and Martin discuss the recent advancements in AI, and the sheer challenge of trying to regulate and govern a technology that is scaling in complexity beyond the pace we can handle. They explore the questions of shared values, the impact of break-neck paced technological advancement, the interplay with capitalism, and the coming shift of society as we give more and more of our intimate selves to technology. Special Guest: Martin Ryan.


#022: My Son - "No War"

A very special & humbling episode. This morning, Anuj cuddled in bed with his 9-year old son, and had the most human, humbling and honest conversation about the situation in that has broken out in Gaza & Israel since October 7, 2023, and what he wants for the world of tomorrow.


#021: Mugabi Byenka - "Beyond Skin"

Anuj sat down with poet & author, Mugabi Byenkya. Audio of this conversation was thought lost, however resurrected in the end to share this wide sweeping dialogue. Mugabi shares key experiences from his life living around the world, how his parents gave him a foundation for strength, and what it's been like to move through life's challenges, adversities and triumphs. Anuj & Mugabi explore biases, assumptions and reflect on the role poetry and art have played in their lives. Mugabi's positivity (and laugh) are infectious, and his travels, both internally and in the world continue. Special Guest: Mugabi Byenkya.


#020: Shree Paradkar - "Casting Light"

Anuj and Shree Paradkar sit down for an unflinching conversation about race and self refection. Shree is a Toronto Star race and gender columnist, and the 2018-2019 recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. Shree's writing takes on charged issues with a critical and unwaivering approach. Shree shares the role of Black feminism in her own journey, and the debt that we all owe to indigenous and black communities. Shree also raises the question of who defines the "norm" in society, and sheds light on how these challenging forces come into her world as a mother. Special Guest: Shree Paradkar.


#019: G Yamazawa - "Way of The Shogun"

Anuj is joined by G Yamazawa, in this conversation deep into the COVID19 pandemic. G Yamazawa is an innovative rapper, spoken word poet and hip hop artist. Originally out of Durham, North Carolina, G is now based in Los Angeles. G shares a lot about his life growing up, how hip hop entered his life, and the path that spoken word poetry opened up for him to find his own voice in the world of hip hop. Anuj and G unpack life in the US at the early stages of the COVID19 pandemic, as well as the worlds of artistry, social media, creativity and evolving as an artist. This is a fresh glimpse into the mind of a prolific artist. Special Guest: G Yamazawa.


#018: Jeff Teravainen - "Acting Human"

In this episode, Anuj sits down with Jeff Teravainen. Jeff is a well-loved actor, voiceover artist, and musician. He's played the role of Lieutenant Anders on SYFY's hit "Dark Matter", as well as roles in SYFY's "12 Monkeys" in Season 2 along with movies such as the 2019 Netflix hit, "Christmas Chronicles". Jeff has also given his likeness and voice to characters in popular animation and video games such as "Far Cry", "Splinter Cell" and "Resident Evil". Most recently, you can find Jeff as the recurring character Gerald on the new HULU / CBC series "Utopia Falls" which debuted in 2020. Jeff shares a lot about what inspires him, what influences his work and what the actual life of an actor and creative is like today. Anuj and Jeff also explore fatherhood and family, as well as what it means to be a man today, the value of boredom, and our hopes for the future. This is an honest, intimate and inspiring glimpse into Jeff''s world, and a conversation that will resonate with his fans and all aspiring actors and creatives around the world. Source: Special Guest: Jeff Teravainen.


#017: Sammy Chand - "Genesis Man"

Live from DASH Radio studio in Los Angeles, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Sammy Chand. Sammy is the founder of Rukus Avenue Radio, a rapper, producer, record label exec, entrepreneur and man of the people. In this conversation, Anuj and Sammy explore the impact of Hip Hop, the genesis of Indian Hip Hop and its ties back to Sammy's group KARMACY. The two discuss identity, the evolution of music, fatherhood, the current political climate in the US and what we can do to shape the world for better. Special Guest: Sammy Chand.


#016: Barkha Madan - "Lights, Camera, Introspection!"

Anuj Rastogi is joined by Barkha Madan at the AwokenWord studio. Barkha Madan is a former Indian model, film actress and film producer who has also appeared in television serials and hosted TV shows in India. Barkha had risen to prominence through major film and fashion projects, while undergoing her own inner exploration and journey. In November 2012, Barkha finally made the leap into her self-described "calling" and underwent ordination to become a Buddhist nun and changed her name to Ven. Gyalten Samten. Barkha shares her incredible journey from the runway and silverscreen, and the experience of immersing herself in new characters, before eventually following through on her true spiritual calling. Anuj and Barkha discuss the challenges of a modern life in a modern, materialistic and social media driven world, as well as the joys of travel, meeting people, looking back across her experiences, and the ways in which her path has impacted countless others. Special Guest: Barkha Madan.


#015: Shantanu Pujari - "Hip Hop India"

Anuj Rastogi reconnects with Shantanu Pujari, a multi-talented artist and fighter. Shantanu is a professional competitive mixed martial arts fighter, yoga instructor, action director for film, activist, b-boy, beatboxer and hip hop label artist manager. Shantanu is also the host of the "Shakahari Show" on Rukus Avenue Radio. Shantanu shares his incredible personal journey, and a deep respect and knowledge of the history of Hip Hop as well as India. This conversation is an inspiring and exciting journey through the eyes of India's youth which is on course to transform the country and the world in positive ways. Here, quite literally is how Shantanu and Anuj met... And here's Shantanu in action... Special Guest: Shantanu Pujari.


#014: Sangita Patel - "Leading Rainbow"

Live in Los Angeles, California (well, Orange County actually) Anuj Rastogi sits down with Sangita Patel, entrepreneur, tech leader and the CEO of LeVar Burton Kids. Sangita shares her jouney in America, finding a place in a world that was only black or white, and what she's learned in her remarkable life and career. Sangita also shares her journey working with one of the most inspiring men in the world, LeVar Burton, and the journey from Reading Rainbow to LeVar Burton Kids. The conversation wanders through race, society, the American dream, and what we can learn from our kids, as well as what we can do to shape the world through dialogue, books, literature and sharing the human experience through art that reflects the world. Special Guest: Sangita Patel.


#013: Ashwin Srinivasan - "The Airbender"

Live in Mumbai, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Ashwin Srinivasan, one of the most highly sought-after musicians in India. Ashwin is an acclaimed Indian Classical flautist and vocalist, and long-time collaborator with internationally renowned composer Nitin Sawhney, as well as core member of Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman's band. Ashwin's vocal and instrumental brilliance is well known, and in this conversation, Anuj and Ashwin explore the worlds of music, Ashwin's journey as an artist, and his unique approach to his art. Anuj and Ashwin also discuss the incredible beauty of India, and the experience of exploring the country and its people by road. Special Guest: Ashwin Srinivasan.


#012: Ali A. Rizvi - "Of Myth & Legends"

Anuj sits down with Ali Rizvi back in the AwokenWord studio. Ali is an author, speaker, and musician who grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan before moving to the US, and eventually Canada at the age of 24. Rizvi has been writing extensively about secularism in the Muslim world for several years, contributing to The Huffington Post, Quillette and major media outlets like CNN. Rizvi is also a medical communications professional and a trained physician and oncologic pathologist. Ali's book The Athiest Muslim has been widely read, translated and acclaimed as an important book in a world increasingly wrestling with religion and secularism, including high profile reviews such as that by Karim Abdul Jabbar. Ali is also the co-founder and co-host of the popular podcast, Secular Jihadists, which tackles issues, events and stories through conversation with people from all over the world. Anuj and Ali discuss his background, life experiences growing up, the insights Ali gleaned in working with the dead, science, and religion. They dive deep into the challenges and questions unanswered by religion, the history and impact of religion on human cultural evolution, and the role that spirituality may or may not play in our lives, as well as the beauty of wonder and fatherhood and everyday life. The conversation turns to the current US Democratic primaries and the role of politics, identity, populism and social forces shaping the world today. The Athiest Muslim Secular Jihadists Podcast Special Guest: Ali A. Rizvi.


#011: Lisa Fitzpatrick - "Open Your Door"

Live from SXSW EDU, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Lisa Fitzpatrick, co-founder of the APEX Youth Center based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lisa shared the stage as the opening keynote in SXSW EDU 2019. Lisa is a past CNN Hero, and her story is a rare glimpse into the mind of someone who overcomes incredible trauma and builds a life of humanity and compassion. Lisa shares her personal journey from tragically falling victim in a random act of violence to devoting her life and efforts to welcoming the community quite literally into her home. Lisa shares the story behind founding a community organization that has changed the lives for over 1,200 youth to date, and how her experience as a pastor, a business executive, and mother has shaped her incredible contributions to the world. Learn more about Lisa, and the incredible work of her team are doing at Special Guest: Lisa Fitzpatrick.


#010: Darius Baxter - "Be The Change"

Live from SXSW EDU, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Darius Baxter, co-founder of GOODProjects based in Washington DC. Darius shared the stage as the opening keynote in SXSW EDU 2019. He is an incredibly inspiring leader, and shares his personal journey from tragically losing his father at age 9, to being raised by a strong mother, and the choices he made between pursuing a Wall Street career and serving the community, modern political life in America, inspiring new generations, and being the change in action. Learn more about Darius, and the incredible work of his co-founders Troye and Danny and team at Video Excerpt Special Guest: Darius Baxter.


#009: Nicki Wells - "The World is Sound"

In this episode, Anuj connects with London-based singer, songwriter, composer, producer and multi-genre musical prodigy, Nicki Wells (aka TURYA). Nicki is an internationally acclaimed vocalist, and capable of astonishing fluency across Western classical, pop, and Indian Classical styles of music. A long-time collaborator with leading global artists, Nicki has worked with acclaimed film, theatre and studio music composer Nitin Sawhney, vocalists Tina Grace, and Joss Stone among many others. Nicki has performed across many of the globe's most esteemed venues from Australia, the Middle East, East and South Asia, through Europe, Canada and the US. Nicki has also performed for, and composed original music for acclaimed film, theatre and dance productions, and her voice is found on soundtracks including the 2018 feature film "Mowgli" directed by Andy Serkis, and streaming on Netflix. Anuj and Nicki share their unique and common experiences in the worlds of music and art, and explore Nicki's incredibly unique journey both as an artist, and as a human being whose life journey has spanned living in India, the UK and Australia, and touring much of the world as a working composer and vocalist. Nicki also shares her unique perspectives on Indian music, and its relationship to her own life and music in general. Nicki and Anuj also discuss the experience of an artist in today's challenging world, how music and art bridges human divides, and what makes the human experience so dynamic. Nicki's debut album "OCEAN" is available worldwide on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other platforms, and she's regularly performing and touring around the world. Special Guest: Nicki Wells (aka TURYA).


#008: Pardeep Nagra - "The Tiger"

In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi sits down in studio with Pardeep Singh Nagra, championship boxer, athlete, historian, educator, public speaker and human rights advocate. Pardeep is the Executive Director of the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada, and a champion of equity within the public school system. In the 1990s Mr. Nagra was barred from competing in a Canadian boxing championship because of his beard, which is a mandatory article of his Sikh faith. These real-life events would go on to become the basis for the Hollywood movie about Pardeep's life entitled "TIGER", starring Mickey Rourke, Prem Singh and Janel Parrish Anuj and Pardeep discuss in depth some critical points in 20th century Sikh history, recurrently overlooked contributions made globally by Sikhs, racism, driving actual change in human systems, being an example for our children and making the world a more aware place. Special Guest: Pardeep Singh Nagra.


#007: Jeff Perera - "Mankind. Kind Men"

Anuj Rastogi is sits down with Jeff Perera, public speaker, motivator and leading voice in the evolution of our perceptions of manhood, masculinity and empathy. A well-respected voice, TEDx speaker and writer, Jeff has been devoted to the cause long before the #metoo movement, and polarizing ads such as that from Gillette, were in the public consciousness. Anuj and Jeff explore both very personal and collective experiences on issues of self reflection as men, self-love, as well as the related conversations on race, and our current political climate. Special Guest: Jeff Perera.


#006: Dwayne Morgan - "The Race To Pay It Forward"

In today's AwokenWord episode, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Dwayne Morgan, one of the country's most prolific event producers, as well as a talented author, speaker and poet. Anuj and Dwayne dive deep into many important territories, from race, the experience of being black in this world, creating spaces and platforms for others to shine, to being a man, fatherhood, sociopolitical polarization, the importance of self love, and paying it forward. Special Guest: Dwayne Morgan.


#005: IF The Poet - "Renaissance Reincarnated"

In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi talks to Ian French, popularly known as "IF The Poet" and finalist in the 2015 World Slam Poetry championship in Paris. Ian has been the subject of a CBC documentary, and is a respected performer whose work spans the breadth of our collective, and individual human experiences. Anuj and Ian talk at length about the state of the world today, poetry, the journey of creativity, masculinity in today's world, being honest, the nuances of identity politics and political correctness, self-love and the importance of knowing your own story. [*NOTE: Though planned at the time of this recording, Ian ultimately pulled out of present at the 2018 "Men and Masculinity Summit" in Toronto, for specific concerns of his own regarding a decision for this year's sumit. He's continued to be a supporter of the summit, and the cause.] Special Guest: Ian French.


#004: Roger Christian - "Star Wars & The Alchemy of Cinema"

In today's episode, AwokenWord host Anuj Rastogi speaks with legendary, Academy award-winning Art Director and Filmmaker, Roger Christian. Roger walks through his incredible life's journey from childhood in the UK, to learning the craft of set direction to the day he was hired personally by George Lucas to lead set design on "Star Wars: A New Hope". Roger explains the process he went through in inventing and designing the light-saber, R2D2, and the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, among many elements in the enduring look of the Star Wars universe. Anuj and Roger discuss the evolution of cinema, Roger's inspirations and experiences with some of the greats of Hollywood, today's changing political and social landscape, what it means to be a man today, and the future of his newly resurrected feature film project, "Black Angel". Buy Roger's book, "Cinema Alchemist" > [] Special Guest: Roger Christian.