By 11am this morning Pharrell Williams’ pop friendly and infectious “Happy” had racked up 138,948,968 views on Youtube and obviously making him and his record company a lot of money. If it’s not enough that it is playing on every commercial radio station (or in every department) store and is “the world’s first 24 hour music video” (who watches a music video that long?), it is also now the subject of homage videos in which people lip-synch the lyrics to “Happy.” And, like everyone else, Africans want in on the game. The videos are city-themed. Enjoy.
The Sahara is changing fast. Still a beautiful desert but not just that. Most populated cities such as Tamanrasset or Timbuktu are microcosms that reveal all the problems of those former touristic regions: threats of terrorism, trafficking, illegal migration and pressures on cultural and natural heritages. The only ways to escape this harsh reality for Saharan and Tuareg youth are cybercafés, mobile phone culture, festivals and soirées guitare (“guitar evenings”) celebrating their guitar heroes, the “Ishumar”, such as Tinariwen, Terakaft, Tamikrest, Bombino and many other bands. In their songs they celebrate the link between desert nature, old poetry, and of course women, whose role is essential in their society. Some texts may seem like calls for rebellion, but mainly those are calls for a self-consciousness as a people, of their identities.
Hamadal Issoufou Moumine (also known as Almeida), the leader of the Nigerien band, Tal National, begins his concert at Artisphere, a venue outside of Washington D.C., by asking the audience if they know where Niger is. There’s a cacophonous mess of unintelligible shouts, to which he listens patiently, before telling the crowd that the country is in West Africa. He continues educating the audience throughout the evening. Between two energetic songs, the dance floor is packed and sweaty, and he asks if anyone knows how many ethnic groups are based in Niger. No one does.
On a recent trip to Johannesburg (which is in Gauteng Province), a couple of friends decided to invade a Congolese restaurant in Yeoville; Kin Malebo on 31 Raleigh Street in Yeoville. The game was between DR Congo and Niger; I had access to a camera and decided to tag along. Good times were had by all.