“But it brought the noise”

The team behind Okayplayer (including eternally-cooler-than-thou ?uestlove), recently launched Okayafrica, a website exploring Africa’s contemporary music scene. I’m already a fan.

With content on African artists, from internet darlings BLK JKS and Just a Band, to those you may not have heard of like Siji and Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew, I have high hopes that Okayafrica (bringing you true notes since 247,000 BC) is here to stay. They also feature blogs and writing, like this piece wrapping up the 2010 World Cup by Siddhartha Mitter.

In “the Month of Vuvuzelas” Mitter takes on the good, the ugly and the obnoxious of Africa’s first world cup.

Beyond football, the Cup’s effect on the rest of Africa will be incidental – another of those global Africa moments with benefits that are mostly symbolic. If anything, the World Cup may leave Africa more vulnerable, not less, to the simplifying gaze of well-meaning outsiders, such as Belgian photographer Jessica Hilltout, whose images of men and boys in various African countries playing soccer with improvised balls were being shown in a Johannesburg gallery. The photographs are artful, technically strong. Yet Hilltout’s artistic statement – “Africa is a world like no other. Unstructured, disorganised, carefree, monotonous. African people have simple needs and huge hearts. They accept their lot in life with a supreme calmness” – conveys the lazy condescension that afflicts so much of the continent’s treatment by its would-be foreign advocates.

(Aside: as anyone who made their own balls to play with as a kid, I love the idea of this exhibition, but did she really say “African people have simple needs”??? WTF? )

I am not the biggest soccer fan… OK, I am not a soccer fan at all, but even I was caught up by the hopeful narrative of the first world cup on home soil. I even watched whole matches. The whole 90 minutes plus half-time commentary! I know!

I cheered Ghana and heard the whole of Kampala roar at the match’s end when they defeated USA, and I am still salty about Suarez stealing Africa’s semi-final hopes. I argued for African teams to invest in homegrown talent so  that we can have African coaches stalking the sidelines like crazy Maradona. I blew a vuvuzela (and felt my lips tingle afterwards)

While the omnipresent buzz of the vuvuzela charmed some, and made others want to burst their own eardrums in a fit of rage, Mitter posits that the vuvuzela will remain the enduring sound and image of Africa’s World Cup:

almost entirely liberated, in material and context, from any existing positive or negative stereotype of Africa, the vuvuzela might just do more to promote a healthier relationship to Africa in the West than the funkiest new band, the most stirring Nick Kristof or Bono appeal, or the most earnest art project.

Unfortunately for us Ugandans, the 2010 World Cup will forever be associated with the bombings in Kampala that killed more than 70 people. The memories will always be bittersweet at best. Africa’s world cup may not have been perfect, but, as Mitter ends his piece “it brought the noise”

Do yourself a favour and check out the rest of the Okayafrica site, go on, Vuga will be here when you get back.

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The Afro-pop movement is good but still needs to be a bit more bold

eh eh eh eh!

The cocacola-isation of “Waving Flag”

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