Our women became the men they wished to marry.
Out in the land of desperation where the promise had been so bright,
Where the sun rose every day without ceasing, and our skin glistened a dark, luminous color in the sun,
There where Idi forced men to do things unspeakable, there where women saw untold horrors!
And there was great weeping in that land.
Twenty seven guns later
I went to Zambia recently, meaning about six months ago and was amazed at how African music has exploded. All kinds of African musicians are getting play all over the continent and like youngafrican pointed out
music is crossing cultural barriers and that Zambians are listening to Ugandan music and Ugandans are listening to Naija music and Nigerians are playing Zambian music as their ringtones!
I have a problem with it which is based on the fact that Afro-pop is kind of stagnant and lacks a genuine artistic identity.
I first saw Paul Sika’s work on CNN’s Inside Africa and was immediately drawn to it.
This is the face of Iyoba Idia, the queen mother of one of Benin empire’s most powerful kings Oba Esigie who ruled from 1504-1550. It is said that without her political wisdom, Esigie would never have become king and Benin kingdom would not have gained imperial advantage over a great part of the Niger River.
The spirit of Idia so looms over Nigeria’s contemporary culture that replicas of this mask are still worn at annual rededication festivals.
The original four masks of Idia, however, were looted – along with over 3000 other artefacts – when the British ransacked the Benin empire in 1897, subsequently burning the empire to the ground and deposing its Oba [the usual story, really].
Half a century after Nigeria (including the former Benin empire) won its independence, over 600 of these bronze, copper, terracotta and ivory works are languishing at the British National Museum; an ocean away from the only original context that gives them their true meaning.
I think we have really fantastic pop music coming out of Africa these days.
I love that this music is crossing cultural barriers and that Zambians are listening to Ugandan music and Ugandans are listening to Naija music and Nigerians are playing Zambian music as their ringtones!
African culture has always been a musical culture. While our music was early on misinterpreted by Western ears to be largely rhythmic, a closer listen reveals the African love of word play, put to great use as a pedagogical device to convey African moral values.
The griots and praise singers of old have become Africa’s modern musicians; Papa Wemba, Youssou N’dour, Rokia Traore, to name a very small percentage. As chroniclers they have recorded the tragedies of the people, they have inspired our struggle, celebrated our victories and mourned our fallen heroes. A specific category of musicians have dedicated their careers and often their lives to raising critical questions about the way Africans are being manipulated by powers both foreign and local. These artists often make use of and are inspired by Black Nationalist thought which they apply to African problems. A much larger body of work would be required to do justice to all the talented and dedicated musicians, well known and unknown that Africa produces. Instead, in this series, I will attempt to discuss a few, who I believe add much to the discourse on African protest music.
Amandla! Music of the Anti-Apartheid struggle
I would argue that any discussion of protest music must begin, not in the slave plantations of the Southern States of America as chronological and Western-centered thinking would place it, but in the Bantustans of South Africa. These “homelands” as they were euphemistically called by the Apartheid government, were more like Native American reservations in terms of the economic despondency they fostered. It was to these homelands, thirteen percent of South African land, that eighty percent of the population were confined. Anywhere else in South Africa, blacks had to carry a passport or passbook in order to prove their legitimate presence in the country’s urban centers. Many of South Africa’s tribes have a cultural tradition that is inseparable from music. As an unnamed schoolteacher in Helen Kivnick’s book Where is the Way: Song and Struggle in South Africa put it,
“Singing is what we do. We don’t think about why. We don’t sit down and learn how. We just do it, from when we are small, small, until we are dead. If we wouldn’t sing how would we be ourselves?”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten into a fight with a taxi conductor…
Ok, wait, wait, that’s not going to work. Raise your hand if you’ve never gotten into a fight with a taxi conductor.
I liked this article in Uganda’s Monitor paper about a female conductor who works on the Naalya -Old Park route. Much as they have the power to ruin my day, I think it has to be one of the tougher jobs, though Esther Naluhuka of the article says
“Do you think I’m the first woman to do this? Life is about what you make it whether you are seated in a fancy office like yours or in an “office” like mine.
Read the rest of the article here
When I was growing up, chapatti were a special treat. With a full-time job, 3 children and lots of hobbies, my mom did not usually have the 2 -3 hours it took to knead, knead, knead, let rest and then fry to golden, flaky perfection those floury disks of goodness. So we would have them on an occasionally Saturday, with chicken or beans, or whatever other accompaniment was on hand.
One of the goals of this online project is to enable Africans to tell their own, different stories about ourselves. We are tired of hearing the same old one.
In her TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains it more elegantly and beautifully than I can
“If all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind white foreigner. “
See it for yourself here, it’s worth the twenty minutes (and however long it takes you to load the thing on our slow African internet):
Also, if you have not yet read her books, shame on you!
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How to write about Africa
A dear friend spent some time in Western Kenya last year and sends in these gorgeous pictures that she took during her time there;