Reclaiming Lady

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”

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This is Kampala

“At the heart of the country is Kampala. An urban planner’s nightmare, its fabled seven-hilled pulse spawns a sprawl of arterial slums pumping with people carving out a living. Its pot-holed roads are home to its three million inhabitants: a thrumming hive of informal trade where street vendors flog sunglasses, single cigarettes and Fong Kong clothing, and telecoms shanties scattered along the sidewalks sell sim cards under single neon light bulbs. There are no street lights. It’s left to the swarm of boda-boda motorcycles and matatu mini-bus taxis to light your way.”

Possibly one of the best descriptions of Kampala that I have ever read in this Red Bulletin preview; the bad, the ugly and the beautiful; the frenetic, the kinetic and the chaotic.

The article is on the amazing Breakdance Project Uganda. If you find yourself anywhere near a screening of the documentary Bouncing Cats, drop everything and go and see it, send me a thank you email later. It is fantastic. Featuring Crazy-Legs, K’naan and Mos Def, narrated by Common

Do we need to be called Afropolitan via @Afropopmag

As Anne says: “Our parents [and, in some cases, grandparents] were the pioneers of the global African, most having left their homes to pursue higher education. We are beneficiaries of their struggle to ensure our access to education and opportunity and, as such, I  feel as though we have the obligation to be bolder, more creative, more innovative in how we express ourselves and in how we represent the continent.  I will always consider myself an Afropolitan. It’s not a geographic construct, but a state of mind.”

Found Objects: Street Art Kampala

We have short memories here. Part of it is self-preservation and desensitization, how else do you explain reading about our money being misappropriated and stolen every single day in the newspaper and feeling nothing?

We have had a long and bloody time in our short history as an independent nation and therefore it is necessary to re-forget every day that our President is a war criminal, that our cabinet is full of thieves. That way we don’t have to consider our own role in creating, nurturing and enabling these leaders we choose every election cycle.

Because there are levels of war criminals and degrees of genocide and there is distance between me and you and Kampala and Gulu and Kigali and Darfur and Port au Prince and the Bronx and time does not heal all wounds but we keep going anyway.

Chimamanda Adichie, who reminds us that when it comes to Africa Many Stories Matter, has a short story collection called The Thing Around Your Neck, my favourite of which is The Headstrong Historian. It tells the story of Nwambga, a widow who protects herself from her in-laws by giving her son to be educated in the ways of white missionaries, and her granddaughter who grows up to write a reclamationist history of Nigeria.  I love this story because how many African stories are blessed with the continuity of both pre and post-colonial history. How many of us know the multigenerational epic that is our own family history?

If the damage that colonialism did to our history can be compared to complete retrograde amnesia , then not only must we go back and relearn our past, we have to keep reminding ourselves of the present. We must force ourselves to see the malnourished kids on Jinja road as if seeing them for the first time. Art has a role to play in making us see and feel the same images again, differently.

Remember this image?

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How we see ourselves

From a Wall Street Journal article on a Beijing exhibit called “Africa: See You, See Me!”.

The exhibition, currently showing at Li-Space in Beijing’s Caochangdi district is described by the curator Awem Amkpa as

an illustration of “how Africans want to be seen rather than how they are forced to be seen.”

You can read more here

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