Vuga!

Okmalumkoolkat’s EP Holy Oxygen has been on replay since I discovered his music via Okay Africa a few weeks ago. I keep trying to tell people that some of the most exciting things sonically, are coming out of the continent, and Okmalumkoolkat is one of the artists I point to for evidence.

His new video for the song “Holy Oxygen” looks postapocalyptic, but the biohazard suits that feature prominently are very much part of the present. For the thousands in West Africa for whom Ebola has turned daily life into a dystopic scifi nightmare. In the video, characters are shrouded in torn plastic, recalling the makeshift protective suits that for many facing the epidemic, are all that stand between them and the virus.

Watch the video for yourself and check out the rest of the Holy Oxygen EP here:

As a regular user of Kampala’s chaotic public transport system, I get to watch up close as Kampala undergoes desperately necessary construction to expand a few of our major roadways. As a regular user of twitter I watch as the official KCCA account self-congratulatorily retweets messages.

Yes, it is heartening to see a city authority actually function, after many years of primarily serving as a site for power wrangles. It is good to see roads being widened for the enormous amount of traffic that passes over them, and rowdy public commuter taxis being made to respect designated stages. Still, I have had plenty of time to ponder this on a rainy Friday evening, sitting in an unmoving taxi in the worst of Kampala’s rush hour traffic. Is this “development” enough, and who does it serve?

It does not serve me, and I am markedly more privileged than the average Ugandan, nor anyone else who spends ten productive hours a week commuting  a couple of kilometres to and from work. It does not serve those our fearless leader has labelled “backward” and “foolish” for remaining in their villages. It does not serve the majority of Kampalan’s; the city’s poor, caught up in tides of urbanisation despite a formal sector that cannot support them all. Those who come to Kampala seeking a better fortune will likely not find it in our dismal job market, and when they turn to the informal sector to make ends meet, their ends will be met by KCCA enforcement whose mandate is to destroy property and livelihoods in the name of progress and development. The most poignant and egregious case of this being the death of Baby Ryan, crushed by a KCCA vehicle last month while his mother was taken into custody.

Big orange city buses sit idle in the parking lot at Namboole stadium. Approval for Pioneer Easy Bus Company was rushed through parliament because the need was obvious and at the time, brought into sharp relief at the time by the 2012 Taxi Strike. The buses served our narrow roads for less than 6 months when the company was served a massive tax bill by URA and had its assets seized. Now the buses sit idle. Who did this piece of public theatre serve? The taxi drivers who were told that they would just have to deal with the new reality? The passengers who briefly enjoyed cheaper fares while waiting in long lines for space on the extremely overcrowded buses? Did it benefit the revolving door of Pioneer Easy Bus shareholders that included relatives of ruling party insiders? Which of the many government agencies did this drama benefit; those that weighed in to put their weight behind the bus company, or weighed in to say that government should not guarantee Pioneer’s loans, or those that chose not to weigh in but then did in order to save the buses from being auctioned? Who did this circus serve? Anyone?

If you can afford to, choose to check out of the worst of Kampala’s chaotic traffic. Get out of the taxi and take a boda to your next destination, or park your car and jump on one to get to that meeting. Like the taxis, boda bodas arose unregulated out of a need and now are ubiquitous, employing tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of men in the city. They are also the leading cause of accidents and road injures, but more importantly, they are a significant voting bloc. This is why, despite encouraging statements from KCCA, boda bodas will continue to remain unregulated in the foreseeable future; a future in which the 2016 elections loom large.

KCCA pays plenty of lip service to the idea of pro-people development. For a better city, they say. A city better for whom?

My current auditory obsession is this remake of Fela Kuti’s 1974 song Lady, by tUnE-yArDs, featuring ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo and Akua Naru. It is the first single from the second Red Hot compilation, (RED) Hot + Fela, which will raise funds for HIV/AIDS research.

My love for this version is so strong it is almost sexual. Angelique Kidjo is a goddess as always, her lead vocals are full of grunts and gymnastics that call to mind Fela’s energetic stage presence. ?uestlove, the biggest proponent of Fela in mainstream Western music is as ever, the cool backbone of the track. tUnE-yArDs quirky harmonies are just left-of-centre enough to stand on top of the amazing things the brass section, represented by Rubblebucket, are doing. This version manages to inject even more energy into the song, which if you know anything about Fela Kuti and his long musical reign at The Shrine, is quite an achievement. The climax of the vocal harmonies and brass at the end, will make your arm hair stand up and take notice.

Fela’s music was always political, and Merrill Garbus’ (of tUnE-yArDs) choice to populate this song with female vocalists is a political one. The original song was a criticism of what Fela saw of African women’s embrace of Western values.

If you call am woman
African woman no go ‘gree
She go say, she go say, “I be Lady o”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on: April 25, 2012

Originally posted on Africa is a Country:


“It’s a self-portrait. It’s not meant to represent anything, except me.” Makode Linde seems more bemused than irritated when we discuss the huge, worldwide storm that his cake has stirred. “People are talking about this in Africa, in South America,” he says, “there are so many different interpretations of what it means, and I don’t want to take away any of that. But it also really seems to have driven all the trolls out of the woodwork.” Strange to think that before last weekend, it was just another Afromantic.

View original 2,538 more words

Everyone has been talking about this post, so aptly entitled “You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum”

I love to see African issues talked about and dissected, but it was a disappointment for me to see so many agreeing with the sentiments expressed, and reblogging and retweeting their agreement without discussion, like victims of the nodding disease currently killing kids in Northern Uganda.

And so here, without blemish or edit, is a rebuttal by Ernest Bazanye who is awesome all over the internet. Hopefully it will add something to the current discussion:

Here in bufunze and bullet points is what bugged me about the Lazy Intellectual post.

First the things on the surface of it. Casual assumptions made that seem to bolster his main argument, even though they themselves are disputable.

Like:

Crumbs:

The white man talks about coming in to Africa and taking all the wealth and leaving crumbs.

A rich person coming to your market is a good thing. Yes, when he leaves he will still be rich and you will still be poor, but he leaves his money behind. Would it be better if we kept our minerals and never made any money off them?

Wamma white man come to my country and look at my giraffes and pay me. If somebody thinks you are exploiting me, well, it works both ways.

It was when Africans entered the world of free markets as traders, when we let customers come in to buy and sell, the continent began to register records in economic growth. Foreign investment has been better for Africa than all the protectionism and nationalism and gung-ho Africa pride white elephant industries of the eighties.

Muzungu, muzungu

He mentions a “nincompoop from the New York streets” of whom he says, he “bring him to Lusaka and (Africans will) all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff.” He wants to be told why this is so.

Africans may chant muzungu muzungu for many reasons, among them these two:

One is that children find it entertaining to see a white person. If it was a donkey in shoes they would chant “Punda yenye viatu! punda yenye viatu!” That guy should be offended instead of taking it as a sign of supposed superiority.

The second reason is because when a smart person sees money, he goes to get some. If I have a bucket and I see a rich man with a car, I go and tell him he is very handsome and he has a smart car and he should let me wash it for him at a cost.

Homeless junkie:

If a homeless white drug addict thinks he’s superior to me he can screw himself superiorily. He’s homeless and on drugs. And I’m on a plane.

Barflies:

“Do you know where I found your intellectuals?” he asks. “They were in bars quaffing.”

From the movies I have watched and books I have read, that is kind of what intellectuals do even in the US and Britain. They is always a group of self-obsessed blowhards who congregate around alcohol loving the sounds of their own voices. But it would be a mistake of me to assume that these form the entirety of western intellectual culture. And a mistake to think that the pompous drunks in African bars are the sum of Africa’s intellectual culture.

AIDS cure:

And why should Africa come up with her own AIDS cure? Since when was THAT the way it worked? Did Spain come up with its own cure for Smallpox? Did Japan find its own cure for polio? When someone finds a cure, it’s a cure for everyone. And are you assuming that there are no Africans contributing to the global pool of knowledge that is eventually going to yield a cure?

White Man’s Plane

Also, African passengers are not dependent on white people’s planes. Airline companies are dependent on the money paid for ticket fares. So the plane is the one dependent on the African passenger.

But the main problem with this argument isn’t the examples used to present it, it is the argument itself. The fundamental premise of the thing. He says “In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations.” And then goes to argue that it is because African Intellectuals are lazy.

This is bull. Africans discover and invent and innovate all the time. Farmers create new ways of beating the change of seasons, cooks create new meals, mechanics fabricate makeshift fixes for trucks and matatus, businesspeople make new patterns of distribution, thieves and pickpockets innovate new scams, kisekka market inventors make Japanese imports obsolete at a stroke, … musicians manufacture new styles… It’s just not something as massive and world-shaking as the television or the computer, but then again, when was the last time you heard of a world-shaking technological invention coming out of Romania, or Syria, or Trinidad, or Paraguay, or Andorra?

The major technological leaps of our current global civilization have not been sprouting out of every every single place except Africa. They have actually come from a relatively small part of the global community. Just specific parts of Western Europe. Mostly Britain and America.

The truth is that innovation happens naturally wherever you have societies. And it happens in the same way. Necessity breeds invention. And then invention builds on itself. And so when the computer is invented it will breed computer-based inventions in the societies that have computers and the snowball will grow. The reason you the bulk of internet-based innovation is not taking place in Africa is the same reason it is not taking place in the Emirates. Because the hub is in the US.

And the assumption that there is no internet innovation in Africa is as false as the assumption that there is none in Dubai.

What we forget here is that no matter what the slogans say, Africa is not unique in history. Africans are no different from anyone else. This means that everything that happens in Africa is happening or has happened somewhere else.

From the book I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom In Image and Proverb, by photojournalist Betty Press

Quick Question: If media articles on maternal health in Africa began with a photo like this, would donor funding dry up?

 

 

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