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Manu Dibango, Cameroonian saxophonist, composer, and one of Africa’s greatest musical icons, passed away at the age of 86 in Paris after contracting the COVID-19 virus. His family made the announcement in a short social media post on Tuesday, March 24. Because of restrictions on large public gatherings, only close family and friends will attend the artist’s funeral, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to send their condolences to a dedicated e-mail address: manu@manudibango.net

In this file photo taken on June 30, 2018 (FILES) In this file photo taken on June 30, 2018, Emmanuel N'Djoke Dibango, known as Manu Dibango, saxophonist and Franco-Cameroonian singer of world jazz, performs during his concert at the Ivory Hotel Abidjan. Veteran Afro jazz star Manu Dibango died of the COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) said relatives on March 24, 2020.
In this photo, Emmanuel N'Djoke Dibango, known as Manu Dibango, saxophonist and Franco-Cameroonian singer of world jazz, performs during his concert at the Ivory Hotel Abidjan.

Why It Matters

Over more than six decades, Dibango collaborated with some of the biggest musical acts in the realm of jazz fusion, reggae, and Afrobeat, including Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, American trumpeter and jazz fusion innovator Don Cherry, the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. He was an original member of African Jazz, the hugely influential rumba act formed in 1953 in modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. His influence on jazz, pop, and hip-hop is undeniable. In a recent interview, Dibango said he intended to work on many more musical projects. His death is a great loss for Cameroon, Africa, and the worldwide music community.

 

https://www.jeuneafrique.com/915141/culture/le-saxophoniste-camerounais-manu-dibango-sest-eteint-victime-du-coronavirus/?utm_source=newsletter-ja-actu-abonnes&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter-ja-actu-abonnes-24-03-20

Catherine Hamlin, an Australian obstetrician and gynecologist who spent most of her life treating Ethiopian women suffering from a unique childbirth injury, died at the age of 96 at her Addis Ababa home. Her death was announced by the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, a charity based in Sydney, Australia, that she co-founded. In 1959, Dr. Hamlin moved to Ethiopia with her husband, also a doctor, to work as a gynecologist at a hospital in Addis Ababa. Their planned three-year stint turned into a sixty-year-long mission to treat and prevent a childbirth injury known as an obstetric fistula.

This is a condition occurring in women due to prolonged labor, when blood flow to the vaginal tissue is obstructed, the tissue dies, and a hole forms in the vaginal wall into the bladder or rectum. This leaves the woman incontinent and, in some cases, their husbands leave them or they’re shunned by their communities. When the Hamlins first arrived in Ethiopia, there was virtually no treatment for such an injury in the country. She and her husband, who died in 1993, pioneered innovative surgical techniques to treat obstetric fistulas, techniques that are still used in hospitals today. 

 

Why It Matters

During Women’s History Month, stories like this shed light on the contributions to medical science and health by women such as Dr. Hamlin. Her surgical innovations have helped many thousands of women in Ethiopia and the rest of the continent. The World Health Organization estimated in 2018 that more than two million women lived with obstetric fistula injuries across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, meaning the work Dr. Hamlin started six decades ago is still needed.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/health/catherine-hamlin-dead.html

3MA
Ballaké Sissoko, Driss El Maloumi, and Rajery (source: https://www.sixdegreesrecords.com/six-degrees-traveler-radio-show/)

 

In February, one of Mali’s most widely recognized musicians made headlines when his iconic and one-of-a-kind stringed kora instrument was found destroyed after being transported from New York to Paris. The musician, Ballaké Sissoko, accused the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of taking apart the instrument, which the TSA has denied. The incident has focused attention on Sissoko, his traditional instrument, and his music.

The kora is a twenty-one-string instrument played through plucking. Sissoko explained to NPR that the strings hold a symbolic message: seven represent the past, seven the present, and seven the future. Sissoko has added an extra string in honor of the craftsmen who made his kora, and adapted his instrument slightly to play chromatic scales and harmonize better with the other two indigenous African instruments played by his fellow members of the 3MA trio: Driss El Maloumi plays the eleven-string oud, and Rajery plays the eighteen-string valiha.

3MA stands for Mali, Maroc (or Morocco), and Madagascar, the home countries of the three musicians: Sissoko is from Mali, El Maloumi is from Morocco, and Rajery is from Madagascar. They have brought together three instruments, their respective cultures, and their unique musical traditions to make music that transcends the boundaries and presents a new image of Africa.

 

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/14/812840818/3-musicians-51-strings-3ma-on-redefining-african-musical-traditions

The first original African-helmed production on Netflix, the six-part series Queen Sono, features a South African female lead, Pearl Thusi, and two South African directors, Kagiso Lediga and Tebogo Malope. It’s a spy thriller that follows the story of secret agent Queen Sono, played by Thusi, as she tackles criminal operations and terrorism while also trying to uncover the truth behind the assassination of her mother, a heroine of the anti-apartheid struggle. 

 

Why It Matters

The creative freedom that Netflix offers compared with traditional film and television studios has opened up new avenues for non-Western writers, actors, and directors to break into lucrative markets. Netflix has helped to spread African cinema to viewers around the world, streaming a number of African television shows and films, such as Ghanaian director Sam Blitz Bazawule’s The Burial of Kojo and the Nigerian film Lionheart, directed by Genevieve Nnaji. 

Queen Sono is one of the few shows set in modern-day Africa that avoids typical Hollywood tropes, such as portraying the continent as a single entity beset by violence, corruption, and poverty. The series also incorporates several African languages, which helps to celebrate minority tongues.

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51675703

 

Joseph Shabalala was the affable leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a men’s group that sang isicathamiya, a traditional Zulu genre of South African a cappella.

Even with heavy hearts at his passing, a lot of South Africans know they are much richer for his time in the world. For the group he formed, for making music true to himself and his group while enduring the harsh conditions of apartheid, for the hits they made, for the narratives they wove about the lives of South Africans and for surpassing the social and economic limitations set out by apartheid public policy and its systems of oppression.

It doesn’t matter whether they knew him personally or not. With Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he told their story.

The group had a number of hits and was showered with endless accolades for its oeuvre over its 60-year career.

But the impact of one song in particular stands out for me because of its personal layers of meaning as a black South African of a particular generation, as an occasional music performer and music researcher.

Homeless was one of the group’s first slew of hits on both South African shores and abroad. It was a song on Paul Simon’s collaborative, politically controversial but successful 1986 Graceland album.

On the surface, Homeless is a song that laments the strife that comes with a broken home, being homeless and sleeping rough on cliffs while looking onto a lake with the moon shining on it. Fundamentally, however, it is a song about the excesses of apartheid and the flourishing of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Homeless

I heard Homeless countless times. On the radio in the house where I lived, in taxis and just about anywhere outside on the streets of Northcrest, Mthatha, a small town in the eastern part of South Africa. I was a six-year-old, far away from my mother, separated from her by almost 1,000 kilometers, constantly longing for her and the feeling of home she simply was. I only saw her a handful of times a year because she worked in Johannesburg and each time I heard the song I too felt homeless.

This was at the height of political unrest in the late 1980s. The government had imposed a state of emergency. But none of that mattered to me. I couldn’t be with my mother.

Even with my weak command of the English language at the time, I understood the idea of homelessness and so the song easily spoke to me. Its Zulu phrases highlighting “inhliziyo yam” (my heart) also spoke to my experience of a heavy heart and separation in potent ways, ways my little mind couldn’t communicate or fully process.

The song expressed a depth of emotion and meaning about unique political strong winds as the group belts out “strong wind destroy our homes”. The kinds of strong winds that shatter some of what makes us whole and lead us to not realise our potential. The kinds of strong winds that have charted the fragile social and economic path South Africa is on today, a path shaped by generational exclusion from development, education and wealth.

About so much more

Later in my life, in a democratic South Africa, I took courses in ethnomusicology and had the opportunity to analyse and contextualise the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Listening to Homeless again took me right back to that state of childhood longing.

But with more knowledge about the brutal political history during which genres like isicathamiya were birthed, the hostile conditions in which Ladysmith Black Mambazo operated at night and on weekends over years, the dire social and economic conditions of black people, I realised that these were the realities of the majority of South Africans.

I realised that this song did not just tell my story or was about an experience unique to me. It was about our collective history. It was about the history of black South Africa and those from surrounding countries trapped by a migrancy-mining complex which would institutionalise family separation and consciously ignore its bleak aftermath.

Even though credited to both Joseph Shabalala and Paul Simon, Homeless, like other Ladysmith Black Mambazo songs before and after the Graceland album, involved the harsh reality of migrant labour, the cycle of poverty it created, family separation, politically-sown dysfunction, heavy hearts, broken dreams, cultural heritage, disempowerment, dispossession, seeds of generational and social decay, resignation to this fate, adapting to it to find simple pleasures, and life in contemporary South Africa.

As part of this Ladysmith Black Mambazo tradition of social commentary, Homeless is a tale of so much more. For instance, the song is also about winning over the hearts and minds of people in foreign lands for the sake of validation and legitimacy.

On one level in the song, Ladysmith Black Mambazo seems to boast, with incredulity, about what it has achieved: “Yith’omanqoba, esanqoba lonk’ilizwe… Esanqoba phakathi eNgilan”. This phrase means, “We’re the winners, we won all over the world, we won right inside England.”

Winning hearts in England also makes the case that Ladysmith Black Mambazo “has arrived”. This ‘arrival’ relates to the success of managing to escape apartheid’s government-prescribed limitations around the social and economic conditions for them as black people. Ladysmith Black Mambazo as such exceeded the black man’s relegation to the status of labourer. Performing abroad removed them from industrial labour. Having a performance career in countries like England was at that time in history rare for black people.

In spite of that, from that point on, Ladysmith Black Mambazo existed on an international plane. Through this lens, England validated them as legitimate music performers outside of competing only at isicathamiya competitions.

Conquerors

With his widely reported genial nature, Shabalala led his group to conquer hearts and minds in many countries with their performances. They nurtured networks abroad to their own benefit and managed to sustain a career outside South Africa.

Participating in Graceland had a large hand in dealing this opportunity. It introduced Ladysmith Black Mambazo to systems, gatekeepers, powerbrokers and performance circuits they would not have had while performing only in their home country. Shabalala thus managed to pull off what many South African contemporary music artists are struggling with in the absence of a convincing music circuit, sufficient government and corporate sector programmes to promote South African music abroad and penetrate global markets, as well as a culture of consuming South African products to advance the South African story.

He told the South African story at home, and away from home.

Dr Akhona Ndzuta is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Eastern Cape Audio Visual Center, University of Fort Hare. She completed her PhD at The Ohio State University. Her research is on the intersection of South African music, public policy and cultural management.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article at https://theconversation.com/of-strong-winds-heavy-hearts-and-joseph-shabalala-telling-the-south-african-story-131848

 

Malawi’s Rastafarian population celebrated as a High Court ruling decreed that Rastafarian children are allowed to go to school with dreadlocks. Rastafarianism is a recognized religion and the court confirmed that banning dreadlocks, considered a religious symbol, is unconstitutional. 

Rastafarianism took root in Jamaica in the 1930s, but it has its origins in the 18th century, when Ethiopianism and other movements that emphasized an idealized Africa began to take hold among black slaves in the Americas. It combines elements of Old Testament Christianity and Judaism with Pan-African nationalism. The late emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is viewed by Rastafarians as a prophet descended from the biblical lineage of King Solomon, sent by God—or “Jah” in Rastafarian parlance—to liberate Africans from colonialism.

Malawi’s schools are modeled after the British state school system, which imposes a strict dress code. Rastafarians like Ali Mcroy Nansolo spent the past decade petitioning the Malawian government to recognize Rastafarian practices, or at least grant an exemption for the school dress code. In 2017, he managed to find lawyers to take his case and secured a victory for his son to attend school with his dreadlocks intact. 

The victory emboldened Nansolo to seek a general ruling for all Rastafarian children in Malawi, culminating in the court ruling on January 14, 2020. 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/01/24/world/africa/24reuters-malawi-rastafarians.html

Watchdog groups and environmentalists were disappointed following the conclusion of the inaugural UK–Africa Investment Summit, as more than 90 percent of US$2.6 billion in energy deals signed between the United Kingdom and various African partners were for the oil and gas industries, despite a pledge by Boris Johnson’s government to help African countries transition to renewable energy sources. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas decried the “breathtaking” hypocrisy of the government’s position.

Five oil and gas companies secured the bulk of planned energy investments emerging out of the summit, led by Tullow Oil, which is set to invest US$1.57 billion for continued oil exploration in Kenya. Other fossil fuel contracts were signed with Tunisia, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire. Only US$211 million in deals, just 8 percent of the total, were related to clean energy projects.

A report by Greenpeace and Newsnight show that even prior to the summit, the UK has been supporting fossil fuel plants around the world worth billions of pounds, emitting up to sixty-nine million tons of carbon each year. A UN climate summit is slated to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2020, where participants will have to demonstrate significant effort to prevent a global temperature increase of 3–4 degrees Celsius (37–39 degrees Fahrenheit), which will lock the Earth into a cycle of perpetual warming that cannot be undone by reduced emissions and green energy planning.

A spokesperson for the UK Department for International Trade said to The Guardian that the fixation on the energy deals is exaggerated and that the United Kingdom remains committed to tackling climate change, noting that only one-third of the total US$8.5 billion in deals struck at the summit were for oil and gas companies. Other deals include US$293 million for a new Kenyan goldmine, US$223 million for aircraft and airport infrastructure, and US$4.2 billion for a consortium led by Bombardier to construct two monorail lines in Egypt.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/24/90-pe-cent-uk-africa-energy-deals-fossil-fuels

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