A top evening all round was had at Senegalese crooner Baaba Maal’s concert at the South Bank, London, the other day, followed by a session at this great little naija (Nigerian) shebeen of a bar, ‘Emukay’, on Walworth Road. (A new discovery – love those! Plus khaki – palm wine mixed with guinness – discovery number two).
The boy Baaba, his band, the dancers – smokin’. I came out on a proper high, with new flesh on old thoughts – how, in most all African music, for instance, there’s no anger in the sound unlike, say, rock – but had my fire doused ever so slightly, firstly by a comment from fellow attendee Ben Okri who, I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, having complimented the band for its customarily smooth, slick Francophone offering, opined that the drumming wasn’t as varied and as adventurous as we might have heard from a Naija ensemble. Then my friend ‘Lola, picking up on the dancers – these two women who really killed it, any number of high energy moves, the whole diaspora in there – reckonned that their style bore the scent of African-American dance school; American proteges satisfying western expectations of ‘free and wild’ African dances, rather than a less freaky, authentic thing. Given that the concert was inspired by the ‘Africa Remix’ exhibition, which is itself at least partly about showing, in Baaba’s words, that Africa is not a continent apart, but one closely involved in the world, a moot point at the best of times was mooter still…
If mootness is your bag, come to the Africa ’05 related events I’m putting together for the British Museum this summer (May-September). There’ll be all sorts of goodies – mixed media nights (music, oral storytelling etc) + panel discussions eg ‘Who gets to speak for Africa?’ Great guests – check ‘Forthcoming Attractions’ here, or click on the British Museum’s or The Booktrust’s website in ‘links’ for further details.
In Memoriam: Saul Bellow 1915-2005 (see ‘Writers I seriously rate in ‘Likes’ in ‘about me’) and Yvonne Vera (1964- 2005, just 40!). Damn, what a year it’s been already for writers. That’s four down (Bellow, Vera, Hunter S Thompson, Arthur Miller) who are now never gonna read my shit…
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