Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Le Musique Afrique

My taste in music has diversified at an alarming pace this past year. While I still get melodramatic to the likes of Sigur Ros and Alexi Murdoch, warmer weather has me craving faster, more up-beat-beats. Happy stuff. Something that makes me as happy as I am when I'm all dusty on the back of a boda-boda. Or floating upside down with my head in the Nile. Love for music, I'd like to introduce you to Africa. Check out my two favorites.

Issa Bagayogo (Mali) - a good friend burned this CD for me when she first heard I was traveling to Uganda. Even though it's West African, it provided a memorable soundtrack for the visit. Historically, Mali is the source of much of the world's pop music (blues, R&B, hip hop, funk, etc.). Unlike other new artists that blend traditional African beats with Western pop, Techno Isso (as he's called in Mali), records his tracks at home - in Bamako. He's doing a great deal to continue the Malian music tradition into the 21st century.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars (Sierra Leone, photo above left) - when I first heard this band at my friend Carrie's house last fall, I immediately liked the music. It wasn't until last night that I learned the story behind the band's beginnings - through a documentary (see it on PBS June 26th!) of the same name at the DC Filmfest. In short, six Sierra Leonean musicians, all refugees of their country's brutal civil war, came together to form the band while living in a camp in Guinea. Facing deep physical and emotional scars, they found healing in the creation of their music, and used it to give a voice to the masses of Sierra Leoneans living outside the borders of their homeland. The reggae beats definitely have a universal appeal (what initially attracted my attention), but the lasting impression is in the honesty of lyrics expressing the difficulties of the refugee experience.

you left your country to seek refuge in another man's land
you left your country to seek refuge in another man's land
you will be comforted by strange dialects, you will be fed with unusual diets
you've got to sleep in a tarpaulin house, which is so hot
you've got to sleep on a tarpaulin mat, which is so cold
living like a refugee is not easy
living like a refugee is not easy

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