Monday, 29 November 2010

Lhola Amira: The Harlot's Feet

Lhola Amira is one of the most in demand high end call girls in the country. She has a uniquely intimate perspective on the state of the nation given her select client base (including a host of government officials, a Provincial MEC, business leaders, and one or two key players in the tri-partite alliance). She writes exclusively for Mahala. These are her thoughts.

The jury's still out on whether Lhola's real or not, but Mahala swear she is. This is her second piece and I like this better than her first, so I jacked it without permission, coz Mahala's cool like that. 
FotoCred: Lhola Amira/Mahala  

Jesus is my first encounter with a socialist revolutionaire, but his bible troubles me – it rejects me completely. As a woman, a black person. At least he washed the harlot’s feet. He washed her feet. Which kills me. Naturally I inspect history.
The condition of blackness is serious. Post-1994 has changed nothing for most of us.
This is where I am at: lynched. I’m in a dire space, the illusion of the Rainbow Nation has dissolved. The truth is painful. Out of black suffering I’m at black depression.
The burden of womanhood. The intensity of being black. The mirror lies to me and says, “you’re fine, Lhola, everything is fine.” I walk streets and hear them echo, “no need for your volatile blackness here!” My anger mutates. I seek solace in books at home alone about ‘revolutionary men’. Can they free me from the echoes?
I write my own way out. On hotel stationary. When he’s washing up. When he’s done. These after moments in hotel rooms. These songs of myself. His money in my hands.
My body is written by unknown authors
My limbs are parted by faceless men.
My thighs are gutted ghetto streets.
What more can you take from me?
You pollute my insides. Yet you scramble for me still,
Drawing lines like veins.
Can the revolution still-to-come save me? When my own black skin yearns for whiteness. How weird is that? How sad. Would that ease the pain? Was Fanon right? Was Biko? Is our contemporary Black Wash working? Illusions of whiteness. So many traps. But I’ll write my way out. On hotel stationary. When he’s washing up. When he’s done. These songs of myself. His money in my hands.
I’m the dark cannibalistic sister
Of your fever dreams, your Tarzan dreams.
I am the slave, cotton weaving the modern age.
Made from the core of a universe. I’m black.
Even my words are not my own. In your tongue.
I am a coconut. I’m waiting to evolve. Waiting to take on my white self.
But my black body denies me.
Lynched, my feet dangle, swaying, after this beautiful violence.
My womb sings its painful symphony
My womb’s a commodity
And my eyes look upon your whiteness John, trick, stud
And I smile with dry lips dry, cracked lips that say
Am I white yet? Have I suffered enough?
This is it. Tomorrow I stop. No more. I’ll awaken and wash my own feet. But right now I’m in-between spaces where nothing exists. Until he comes back for more.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Coming Soon to a Cinema Near You, The Christmas Tree Bomber

...And this time the leading star is a Huey Freeman (Boondocks) look-alike and he's a cutie! That was my first thought when I saw Mohamed Osman Mohamud's face headlining as the latest casualty of the West's war against terrorist bombers. While this latest production may not be not quite as funny as the Underpants bomber but it does stink.
 The U.S Feds followed this Somali hottie for months and they put him in jail??? They were undecided whether he fit the profile of a would-be terrorist so they baited him by selling him fake explosives. Is that fair, why didn't they just call me? I'd've been happy to stalk him for a year and suss out his terrorist street cred. 
But really tho' is it legitimate to provoke someone into action then arrest them when they act? Isn't this what the Feds used to do to the Black Panthers way back when? And COINTELPRO still does today? Mohamed was charged with attempted use of a 'weapon of mass destruction.' (notice the way Saddam/Iraq war type language slips into domestic security lexicon to create a threat-of-terrorism-is-very-real effect) Surely that bogus bogus bogus charge should read: attempted use of a dummy 'weapon of mass destruction'?
Having been successful in their mission the Feds were close at hand to drum the reality of the fake threat into the public's head as Special FBI agent Arthur Balizan told the press yesterday: 
"The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamed Osman Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale. I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack"
While the Feds pat themselves on the back and the public gets all shook up about this latest Al Qaeda threat and bay for Mohamed's execution on live t.v, I'm still confused as to what opportunity exactly, the Feds were denying this man. Selling ineffective explosives to a wannabe jihadi rapper and fitness guru is a very, very cruel joke, especially when that state-managed joke carries a possible life imprisonment conviction. Do The Feds really get their kicks from playing tircks on youngsters in uneventful Oregon and Dallas, are the ones in Washington or NYC too street-wise to fall for this? 
At least the Times Square and Underpants bombers had intent to carry out workable plans, but they failed - but this dude was possibly unstable and he was tricked. I'm not so sure where trickery rates on the jihadist scale but sending Mohamed to prison may actually radicalise him and turn him against the state even more than he is now as a African immigrant and a Muslim - not exactly the most liked group in American society. But that's a just a small issue right? The important thing is this year the Feds have done a cracking job and arrested almost twenty would-be terrorists in the U.S, now TSA can happily roll out naked scanners at airports, malls, schools and office buildings to catch even more would-be terrorists - real or imagined, catch them in the terror, boys! As with all American cop movies, the Feds win in The Christmas Tree Bomber, and nobody, least of all the lapdog media, seem to mind that federal attempts at terrorist' honeytrapping mean the further curtailment of civil liberties, more mass disruption of public travel, encourages richter-scale levels of Islamophobia and justifies sending more troops to kill or be killed. small step in Oregon, one giant step closer to war on Yemen.

p.s All bets are on for Obama issuing an amended waiver on the use of child soldiers in Somalia to fight terrorism by January.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Scenes From Another Day

Whitehall Mounted Charging

Guardian Video

Well done to all the students who turned out for this! If school children in South Africa were willing to fight for their futures there is no reason why people are outraged that on Wednesday, school children and university students all over the UK, left their classrooms to march for their own futures. The protests in the UK in 2010 are nothing compared to what Black students in South Africa faced in 1976, there were no live rounds being fired, no country exile orders to be issued, but as the videos show, there were pigs on horseback blindly charging through the crowds one knocking over a pregnant woman, another grabbing  a protester's purse and many more pigs on horseback leaving hoof prints on the bodies of students. Personally have no problem with 13 years olds being involved in protest, what I do have a problem with is the disproportionate use of force by the police in response to the protests and that is what people should be talking about, not that children were 'coerced' into marching for their education. 
Up top is the footage that police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson wants to deny stating there was 'no record' of police charging and defended the police's actions saying:"I think our officiers did an extraordinarily good job yesterday... Our job is to facilitate peaceful protests But we have to get the message out that when it does beyond the peaceful that it is criminal. It is quite clear that criminal acts took place." 
Note that 'facilitate peaceful protests' actually means kettle (containment of groups of people using iron barriers) young people for nine and a half hours in the freezing cold without food or water. Also note that the police policy of kettling is meant to be under review after the G20 protests of April 2009 in which Ian Tomlinson was killed by the police.
It couldn't have been more ironic, yet fitting that this march took place the day after Deputy PM, Nick Clegg gave the Hugo Young Lecture in which he said:
"Hugo was a passionate believer that open politics, a politics based on faith in people, rather than institutions, was the generator of real social progress. I agree, and I think that among the many extraordinary changes of 2010, one of the most important will prove to be a watershed in the development of progressive politics."
Progressive politics to Mr Clegg means being deceitful, like in April this year when he signed a pledge not to raise student fees yet in his heart he knew, he and the Lib Dems had long abandoned that promise and it had become a campaign strategy to garner the student vote. Nothing more.
 Thus it comes as no surprise that those who voted for Clegg, turned out in their thousands on Wednesday to express their discontent, burning effigies of the man and chanting against Clegg, Osbourne and Cameron's ideas of cuts for a Fairer Britain. 
The truth is, the UK has a government bent on creating an unFairer Britain. In my view, ConDem have a skewed approach to fairness and a twisted sense of priorities: they are making cuts to education, but they can find £2 million to fund a happiness index, they can find £4.2 million per year to send young people to the killing fields of Afghanistan, they will find £20 billion+ to keep Trident, but they can cut university funding, free school meals and educational allowances, they can do away with the Foods Standards Agency, but they invite Pepsi and McDonalds to sit on the health policy panel - the same companies that sell profit from an unhealthy nation are now the architects of healthy eating. ??? None of these things make sense and the students and trade unions can at least be commended for having the moral and political courage to show people will not sit back any longer. 
Welcome to the Winter of Discontent people of Britain, it's about to get heated up. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Most Beautiful, The Most Moving, The Most Truthful, The Most Relevant Video of All Time for All Young People Everywhere

fisttap africasacountry

This video is truth. Accept no substitutes. It is a truth that applies to every single person out there, not just in Kenya but in every country in the world. The more apathetic and indifferent we are as tenant citizens, waiting for freedom to fall as manna from the heavens, the more leaders will abuse power and steal from the country in any way they can whether it's bad investments (Iceland), overspending (Ireland), cooking the books (Greece), containing people within a small territory (Israel), clan wars (Somalia), imprisoning the most number of young people in the world (America), fighting illegal wars (NATO), interfering with broadcasting services and scrambling messages (Argentina, China) or imperialistically funding military ventures while public health services and education grants are cut (UK). All of these actions impact on us, and this video touches on how how our inaction, as tomorrow's generation of leaders allows evil to continue. Although this video was made by young Kenyans to encourage other young Kenyans to vote, the genius of this message is that it is universal and it is timeless. It is not only about putting or not putting an 'x' on a piece of paper, it's about actively taking responsibility for the future, particularly for apathetic educated, younger generation who see politics as nothing to do with them or are so disillusioned with the state of things that they don't care any more. 

Featuring a random sampling of Kenyans. Directed by Mbithi Masya and Jim Chuchu for Kuweni Serious. Edited by Mbithi Masya. Narration by Bill Sellanga, words and music by Jim Chuchu.
There is a difference between the one who rents a house, and the one who owns a house. The one who rents a house doesn’t care if the walls crack and crumble, they can always move to another house.
The one who owns a house knows that no one else will take care of it, thus they paint the walls and mend the cracks. More than 60% of Kenya’s population consists of young men and women like us.
The problem is that we behave like tenants of Kenya. We have let the older generation tear this country apart. We have let them use us to fight their battles. We have let them loot this country. We have let them fool us into thinking that we’re not fit to run this country ourselves.
So we hide in our alcohol, in our religions and on the Internet as if there is some other Kenya out there that we shall move to when this one crumbles. We sit at home and wait for others to fight for us on the streets.
We want green cards instead of voter’s cards. We are angry, but we are too scared to do anything about it. It is not Obama’s job to save this country. It is not the donors’ job, and the government has shown that it is not their job, either. Responsibility is not shared, it is earned.
Freedom is not given, it is taken. When we decide we want freedom, we will have to get it ourselves.
Because if this country burns, we burn with it.

Limbe, Haiti: The body of a woman who died from cholera lies on the ground next to a man receiving treatment at a local hospital 
Foto Cred: Emilio Morenatti/AP

postcard from gateshead...

Gateshead, UK: Snow covers trees near the Angel of the North statue after the earliest significant snowfall to hit the UK since 1993
Foto Credit: Scott Heppell/AP

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Zuma's Bastard: Encounters With a Desktop Terrorist

Azad Essa is a journalist, columnist and aspiring filmmaker and Zuma's Bastard is his debut novel. Originally from Durban, he is currently based in Doha, Qatar where he works for Al Jazeera as a journalist. Zuma's Bastard is based on the politics of South Africa and the World in the post-Mandela era. 

With chapters like  ‘Was Eugene Terre Blanche a Muslim?’, ‘Blue Julius (and Pink Floyd), ‘Let’s jerk off to Climate Change’ and ‘Nobel Obama Trumps Superman’, no political figure is safe from his satire, even if they dip in their walk. Part of his writing is from the Thought Leader blog run by the Mail and Guardian and his column provides a platform upon which he unrelentingly questions populist rhetoric and asks, at times provocatively, South Africans how bad does it get before we sit up and take notice? As Ferial Haffajee puts it, Essa is of a “generation of South Africans who reached political maturity in the era of Polokwane – the quintessential voice of the Born Frees”

Describing the book, Professor Ari Sitas Head of Sociology at UCT writes:

‘Zuma's Bastard is the new generation's arrogant and self-critical voice about Durban, South Africa and Africa in the world. Azad Essa, a Bollywood-soaked, Indian-battered, black South African-tinged, accidental academic and incidental journalist - who has seen India and Kashmir, India better, in Kashmir, Pakistan, the so-called Middle East and Europe - leaves no holy cows untaunted – nay he even imagines them as beefburgers…His popularity is catching but the moral questions he asks of us cannot be sidestepped. Read this book, buy the T-shirt, be with it and get angry because the author takes his jokes (often us) seriously.’

In an interview with the Daily Maverick he explains his choice of title as thus:

The title is not completely legitimate, but there’s good justification for it. Without giving too much away, the book is made up of two headers: “Zuma’s Bastard” and “Encounters with a desktop terrorist”. They are equally important because they collectively introduce readers to the central theme of the book: a rabid Indian bastard on the loose under Zuma’s watch.

I don’t know what it means to fight for freedom. And in many ways, the title locates me as a child of the Zuma presidency. I was too young during the honeymoon Mandela period to engage in the new democracy and so it doesn’t count. Zuma, touted as the man to lead us away from tendered one-night stands and deliver on promises to the people, capital and who-ever-else he conned, has created a nation of bastards, trying to make sense of it all.

At the same time, I have straight hair, “Indian” skin and go to mosque; I am a desktop terrorist with views of the world that are politically incorrect, sometimes blasphemous and incongruent with the good Indian muslim boy who must open a shop, play the system, marry a virgin and look forward to more in heaven.

If anything, the book is about the coming-of-age of a generation of South Africans who want to finally fight for their freedom.

The book is definitely not anti-Zuma, despite the flattering title. That would be far too easy. The book, like the blog, addresses a variety of themes relevant to South Africans, the usual suspects included, but written from a fresh and humorous perspective. It’s a bludgeoning view of the world from an Indian perspective. And my cousins aren’t going to be thrilled.

Of course the title is meant to create a stir, but we also think it’s the character of the writing (rather than a shocking title for kicks). And about the press material; they probably sent you the polite version.

This book is available in South Africa and will shortly be released in other parts of the world.

Breakdance Uganda

Bouncing Cats is the inspiring story of one man’s attempt to create a better life for the children of Uganda using the unlikely tool of hip-hop with a focus on b-boy culture and breakdance. In 2006, Abraham “Abramz” Tekya, a Ugandan b-boy and A.I.D.S. orphan created Breakdance Project Uganda (B.P.U.). The dream was to establish a free workshop that would empower, rehabilitate and heal the community by teaching youth about b-boy culture. Based in Kampala, Uganda, B.P.U. has recently expanded to include permanent classes in Gulu, Northern Uganda. Abramz teaches classes three times a week to more than 300 kids from all parts of the country. Many of the children are homeless, victims of war and poverty, and few can afford proper schooling yet they walk from miles away to attend the B.P.U. classes. As Abramz says, "This is where many people’s pride is. It’s a skill that no one can take away from us."

Read more at The Liberator
fisttap theliberator

Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) started in February 2006 out of the belief that hip hop can be used as a tool to engage and empower disadvantaged youth in Kampala and other areas of Uganda. Its mission is to engage young people in elements of the hip hop culture to build leadership skills and promote social responsibility. The Project has attracted people from every walk of life and acts as a catalyst for building mutually beneficial relationships between people of different social status across Uganda and the rest of the world. It serves to teach people breakdancing and how to pass on those skills to others, as well as promoting leadership skills, social responsibility and positive change to members and local communities.
Read more at Bouncing Cats.

From Our Kenyan Brother in The White House

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Memorandum--Child Soldiers Prevention Act

Presidential Determination
No.       2011-4
SUBJECT:    Presidential Determination with Respect to Section 404(c) of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, pursuant to section 404(c) of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA), title IV of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110 457), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA.
You are authorized and directed to submit this determination to the Congress, along with the accompanying memorandum of justification, and to publish it in the Federal Register.
                        BARACK OBAMA
The above is waiver issued by President Obama casting a blind eye to four countries that use child soldiers in conflict because it is in America's 'national interest'. Chad, Yemen, Sudan and the Congo will continue to receive military assistance and aid from the U.S because these are allegedly terrorist hotspots where child soldiers might benefit America as snitches and such. LOL. Seriously, my Kenyan brother Barack WTF is this? Because America is fighting some imaginary war against terrorism and has taken it upon itself to 'reform' the armies of these troubled nations, it's now okay to encourage the military conscription of children. Really??? Where is the evidence showing that child soldiers are a neccessary force in fighting 'terrorism' directly linked to the U.S?  If people in the UK are unneccessarily shrieking over children being involved in student protests what makes it okay for children in the Congo to be forcefully drafted as soldiers? Would it be okay if kids from Texas or Ohio or California were drafted into an anti-terrorist army to snuff out Osama bin Laden from his cave - that is if bin Laden actually exists? Would that be alright Mr President?

Whilst I stand firmly against U.S sanctions against any nation and am highly critical of U.S 'military dictatorship assistance' to other nations, the logic for issuing this waiver on child soldiers is downright ridiculous. It is never okay for young boys to be conscripted to fight or for young girls  to be drafted in as fighters, bait or sex pleasures for the older soldiers. Barack Hussein Obama (insert all totemic titles, family lineages and praise names here), adults start wars, not children and it is governments like yours and the dysfunctional, power hungry leaders in conflict countries that create situations like this. Sod national interest, this is a selfish, heartless move that reflects yet again the U.S's two-faced attitude on children's rights. While there are U.S-inititated global policies to help combat child poverty, the U.S has not ratified human rights protocols like the Convention on the Rights of the Child - only Somalia and the U.S have not ratified this treaty. While it can legitimately be said that Somalia has no functioning government, the U.S does have a government and as a state, boldly proclaims itself as 'the home of the free and the brave', so what gives? 
Somalia is one of the countries not on the US waiver list, but both the U.S and Somalia refuse to ratify the same international law. Under the Child Soldier Prevention law Somalia which currently receives help, will no longer get assistance, while the U.S continues to support and fund Ethiopian invasions into Somalia that have left over 300 000 homeless refugees in the past.  Cue Crickets at their loudest. (KMT) OTOH Burma, receives no military aid from the U.S so the law does not make iota of difference, so the Child Soldier Prevention law is ineffective.  A very roundabout laughable way of doing things, isn't it? Obama would rather have just scrapped the whole thing instead of indulging in more lily livered bureaucracy and waste of tax payer funds. It might not be obvious to Obama, but its plain as day clear to me that stopping U.S aid will not stop child soldiers, neither is issuing waivers in the name of national interest effective in fighting 'terrorism', it's just more of the same ol' faffing from the U.S and this latest faff has our Nobel Peace Prize winning, Kenyan Brother in the White House's signature all over it. Change WE can believe in, yeh?

Is This The Best We Can DO?

fisttap sirnige
If someone gave you the chance to a make a movie about young people in Zimbabwe and its Diaspora, what kind of movie would you produce, what story would you want to tell and to whom? How realistic would you want it to be? If I were a film maker tasked with making a a comedy based on a Nollywood/ African bling culture style film, I'd do my best to represent reality through fiction in the funniest, most creative and most humanistic way possible. There are some good Nollywood movies that I'd model my film on and I'd borrow some ideas from some of my favourite directors. But that is my overly ambitious film, not Joe Njagu's. Njagu's film is Lobola and this film offers its own expression of Zimbabwean life and this is a positive thing. A blockbuster type flick is a great change from the 'failed state' type narratives churned out by the documentary industry some of which are good (e.g Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children) and others just plain crap (e.g Mugabe and the White African). 
While this film has its pluses and I know I'm criticising a preview not a whole movie, but since the trailer is the main selling point of the movie I'm entitled to point out the things I find troubling and problematic like: characters shouting 'I'm going to Africaaaa!' or youngsters saying n!99@ to an elder - why? Because it's unrealistic and it is offensive, not for the more obvious reasons of using derogatory language, but it is offensive to the basic intelligence of Zimbabweans; am I really supposed to believe a Shona girl, no matter how urbanized she is - even moreso a girl from the township like this character, Christine - goes to her roora with her breasts out popping out of her dress? Am I meant to just nod in blind agreement that T-Bone has lived long enough in the States to have the street bravado/stupidity (delete as appropriate) to call his uncle 'n!99@' and the uncle overlooks this until the kid pushes it and calls him 'boy'? C'mon now, get real. We are not stupid. This is not how we behave.
These things take away from the quality of the story which looks like a good one. 

Lobola premiers  tonight in Harare at the 7 Arts Theatre, Avondale; Rainbow City Cinemas, R. Mugabe Rd; Easy Ticket, Fife Ave Shops at $5 and $25 for VIP.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Truth That Is Nadine Gordimer

Nobel Laureate and political activist, Nadine Gordimer is one of South Africa's best writers whose work I first encountered in university and have not stopped reading since. If you're looking for insight into the lives of ordinary people during the apartheid days I'd recommend The Conservationist, July's People (my fav'rit!) and The Burger's Daughter. Of course Nadine Gordimer's but one writer in a sea of many fine, accomplished South African writers but since this post is about her, I might as well point you to her good stuff. Below, are the best bits from an interview in which she spits some truth about democracy, Zimbabwe and Mandela :

Of South Africa: "We are still in the morning after. I cannot emphasis strongly enough, we have had 16 years [since democratic elections]. That's all. Sixteen years. It's not even a generation. And here you, in Britain and America, have had hundreds of years of working towards democracy, and it's still not perfect; you've still got poor people, you've still got xenophobia. But we're expected to have done it in 16 years."

...When Gordimer met Robert Mugabe, not long after he came to power, she thought "he really seemed to be a good man. It's the old thing of absolute power corrupts. He seems to have gone a little mad. And I also blame the wives. Very often the wives of these people become the world's biggest shoppers; including his. His first wife was a good influence, but this one comes to one of the biggest hotels in Johannesburg, brings her entourage, she shops like mad. She's also been to Dubai to shop. While all these people are starving." 
What does she think will happen when Mandela dies? "I can only compare it to the 27 years he was in prison; stone walls do not a prison make. Mandela was with us when he was in prison. And in a strange way, Mandela will be with us when he's dead and gone. I don't know how long that will last. But he will become more of an icon, just as Mahatma Gandhi did."
...The fiction might be what matters, says Gordimer, but it is the deeds of her life by which she wants to be judged. "That through the way you lived your life as a human being, rather than what you did as a writer, you could earn your way to being an African. I am an African. I am white. I in my humble way, and others in their much more brave way, have earned that right. Nothing else."

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Global System of Hip Hop Supremacy: Soprano was Number 1 in France

Soprano - Hiro
Uploaded by coco6213. - See the latest featured music videos.
Please note that Soprano was number one for two weeks, three weeks ago and is currently at number 16, in the World Album Charts he reached 30 and made it into Switzerland's Top20.

From This Is Africa:
Besides the US, do you know many countries where a rap single can enter the sales charts at Number 1? Soprano, a Marseille-based rapper from the Comoros Islands, sold almost 30.000 copies of his second album ‘La Colombe’ (The Dove) in the first week of its release! The last time a hip-hop artist entered the charts at number 1 was a year ago with Diam’s(who also happened to be France’s bestselling artist in 2006), also on Hostile Records, sub-label of Capitol/EMI France. 

Of course, the EMI marketing machinery is working well, and Hostile has been the top French rap label for many years. However, Soprano’s success is definitely not only a marketing one; he’s not a big muscles/big voice/big whatever shiny accessory-type guy: he represents a new generation of rappers who don’t take themselves too seriously and laugh at their own caricatures, as you can see in this video ‘Crazy’, in which he raps about his mad generation (the track has taken the dance floor by storm).

Another track, ‘Hiro’, was spontaneously taken up by the mainstream and underground, much to the surprise of his record company who didn't see it as an obvious commercial hit. The huge demand led to its release as the second single. It’s about heroes and historical role models, and it’s deep and political.


Despite the speed and magnitude of his success, Soprano remains humble, conscious and full of humour. ‘La Colombe’, the album title, is a reference to his first song that became a hit on the underground and to his constant search for peace. His motto is “Une colombe dans la plume et un corbeau dans le flow” (A dove in the pen and a raven in the flow).

Soprano first started rapping in 1995 with his original band PSY4 de la rime (‘psychiatrist of the rhyme’), which consisted of two other rappers of Comorian origin and another from Morocco. They released three albums with the support of IAM (the first and still most respected French rap band from Marseille), all went gold, before Soprano took off with his solo album, achieving platinum status (+250,000 units sold). They are all still a really good team, working together and featuring in each other videos (videos that often feature their city of Marseille).

As you probably know, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is one of the biggest Mediterranean metropolis, has a huge North African population and is a very important community from Comoros Islands. Soprano frequently refers to his family struggling in Africa, and though he grew up on an uncomfortable estate he is aware of life’s possibilities uses music to encourage his generation to grab their chance and build a positive life. Not surprisingly, he has recently been elected one of the most respected personalities of Marseille, next to Zidane!  (Related news: Just a few days ago, men armed with AK 47 assault rifles killed a 16-year-old boy and wounded an 11-year-old in two separate drive-by shootings in Marseille - Full story at Reuters)

Soprano is now in the middle of a sold-out tour all through France, and is said to be ‘une bête de scene’ – which translates as ‘stage animal’ - as he has a lot of fun performing live. He’s also been brave enough to try the international market – quite rare for French-speaking rappers who like their messages to be clearly understood and usually want to make a quick buck - by supporting Austrian-German rapper [[Chakuza[[ on his German, Austrian and Swiss tour. The welcome was such that Soprano is now having a German release and his own tour early next year. We hardly need wish him luck as we believe his style and energy will transcend many more language barriers across Europe.

Follow him on Facebook, and check out his MySpace page for some beautiful clips of acoustic live recordings with fellow Comorian musicians.

In DOPE Music WE Trust!

We hit the jackpot with Durban, what more is there to celebrate?

by Pravasin Pillay

It's been 150 years since indentured Indian labourers arrived on the shores of South Africa.

In honour of this occasion, celebrations are being planned, commemorative books are being published, ads pontificating poetically about the essence of South African-Indianness are being placed in newspapers and on radio and, one presumes, huge vats of breyani are being prepared.

I fail to see what all the fuss is about. Black people, if my timeline is correct, have been in the country for at least as long and you don't see them ululating about it. White people have also been here for ages, but do you ever hear them going on about their history in South Africa? They just want to be left alone in their modest gated communities. Now that's class. We would do well to take a leaf out of their book. But I guess the party's already been planned.

The marquee has been hired, the sitars are tuned, the bribes are paid, the samoosas are triangulated and the stereotypes are dusted off, so it's too late to cancel now. Still -- and I don't want to be a stick in the mud -- may I offer just one piece of advice to my peeps?

I know you're excited about the occasion because, let's be honest, we could have ended up indentured in some godforsaken place like Canada, but we hit the jackpot and got Durban, which has, like, the Moses Mabhida Stadium and uShaka Marine World.

'Turn down the cliché'
It's perfectly acceptable to be grateful for this good fortune but, when presented with a platform to express this gratitude, let's try to turn down the cliché dial. For instance, don't say things like, "My heart beats to an African drum and my soul to the rhythm of the tabla" on SAfm. Because that's kind of lame, see.

I don't want to get into a metaphysical discussion, but since when did souls acquire the ability to keep time with an Eastern percussion instrument? It's a metaphor, you say? For me, it's more like Oprah swallowed Deepak Chopra and Hallmark's multicultural division and became a slam poet.

Look, if you have to say something and if you want to be real about it, try emulating the sheer coolness of my favourite South African Indian, Manu Padayachee. A journalist and television presenter, he made history when he became the first black presenter on M-Net. On his presenting debut, he greeted the pay channel viewers with this piece of drollery: "Please do not adjust the colour on your sets, I look this way." That's how you do it.

One thing I find fascinating about the 150th anniversary is the conflict between various Indian lobby groups and organisations over who should spearhead the celebrations. This is what I love about living in a democracy: the freedom. All these unelected groups are free to claim to represent me, my story and my history without any sort of censure. And they're so considerate as well. Not once did I receive a pesky phone call asking me if I wanted to be represented by them.

I also love that they all seem to be run by rich and middle-class Indians, because, to me, nothing says indenture like rich and middle-class Indians. I would be seriously pissed off if some working-class charous from Chatsworth or Phoenix were put in charge of the celebrations. What would they know about it?

The only aspect of the anniversary that grates me is the news that a publication called The Vintage Book of South African Indian Writing will be launched to coincide with it. Looking through the contents it appears that every Indian writer in the country will be represented -- except me. I gotta say, that cuts deep. Is it a caste thing? I thought we'd moved beyond that.

Anyway, magnanimous person that I am, had I been asked this would have been my contribution of Indian punk rock anthems:
  • Gods Save The Queen;
  • Live Fast Reincarnate Young;
  • (White Naan) In Hammersmith Palais;
  • Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Weren't Arranged to Fall In Love With); and
  • Srimadaddankithirumalavaraahavenkatathaa is a Punk Rocker.
What's useful about my contribution is that it can double as a playlist during the anniversary party. It's a two-for-one. See, I'm Indian, I make a good deal for you.
jacked from Mail & Guardian Online
pics jacked from and david krut publishing

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dear Professor Green & Saber, We Are Not 'Apes'


Reflecting on Stereotypes in Professor Green’s ‘Jungle’ music video

*By Sukant Chandan of Sons of Malcolm and Carlos Martinez of Beat Knowledge

To make it clear from the outset, we are not saying that Maverick Sabre and Professor Green are racists; not at all. From what we know about them, they are aware of many social and cultural issues. From reading interviews with Maverick Sabre in particular, it’s clear he is a conscious brother with great talent and intelligence. Professor Green is also an intelligent, talented and well-respected artist who undoubtedly opposes racism. This track and video may even have been conceived as an attempt to address some negative aspects of our lives in order to move positively away from them.

Nevertheless, the most anti-racist and conscious of us will never wholly rid ourselves of white supremacist ideas, as they have been beaten into our consciousness, constantly reinforced by the education system, the media and the music industry, which always seeks to colonise our youth and community’s natural wealth: our culture. So it’s important for us to look out for each other when we might slip up, and discuss in a mutually respectful and calm way in order to build towards freeing our peers in our communities from the mess we are in. Many of us are doing this in many ways, including in such forums such as the recent Hip-Hop History evening, an inspirational event featuring a panel that included highly respected artists such as Lowkey andAkala, at which over a hundred youth took part in a deep debate on issues such as sexism, racism and violence within music.

So although we understand that Maverick and Professor are not racist, we consider that there are a number of very problematic elements to the track ‘Jungle’, which combined with the music video raises some deeply troubling issues.

The video is based in Hackney, in North East London. Hackney is one of the poorest boroughs in England and has a high concentration of working class people, including high concentrations of peoples from backgrounds from the Caribbean and Africa, Turkish and Kurdish peoples, and East European and Asian. The video starts of with Green stating:

“Welcome to Hackney, a place where I think somebody's been playing Jumanji.

A manor where man are like animals, an' they'll yam on you like they yam on food.”

So this video features two white artists telling a story about how life in Hackney is like a “jungle”. To show this, exclusively Black people are used to portray a “jungle” life of back-stabbing, violence and crime - a dog-eat-dog world where the only two white people in the video are simply observing.

Apart from one young man, the video depicts only Black men committing graphic violence against other Black men with the use of various weapons including firearms. Admittedly, this is not the behaviour of upstanding human beings concerned with their fellow humans, but to compare these people to animals in the context of this video whereby those passing comment (Sabre and Green) are white men surrounded by a sea of Black on Black ultra-violence leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Or as one friend put it in relation to the video: “Dehumanised discourse, stereotypical ‘Black behaviour’, while two white boys take an observational stance, worried about getting ‘yammed’”.

We don’t know how much input Green had into the writing and the direction of the music video. Often in the mainstream industry, artists have very little say on the artwork and videos, so it would be interesting to know Green’s level of involvement in the conceptualisation, writing, directing and editing of the video. As it stands, this video is more akin to Daily Mail propaganda: fear culture injected into the underground music scene.

The theme of de-humanising the Black subjects in the video continues with Green stating:

“London ain't cool to cruise through where the hunters pray, Looking lunch today, and your chains looking like fresh fruit to a hungry ape.”

Although several other ‘jungle’ animals are used to talk about Black crime in Hackney, using the term “ape” in a video (when the word is mentioned the video cuts to a young Black man’s face at 1:13secs) is massively insensitive. Is it so difficult to understand that this can be construed as deeply offensive and racist?

Presumably some would argue that it's just a fair representation of reality, where Black people are over-represented in street gangs (an issue that deserves to be dealt with in a serious and considered manner). However:

a) While many gangs might be majority Black, most have white members as well. Given that Professor Green is a white artist making music that has its origins in the Black community, you'd think he would have the cultural sensitivity to paint a more balanced picture. Yes, Professor Green is from the ‘ends’ himself and is perfectly entitled to comment on what life in poor inner-city neighbourhoods is like (indeed this is to be welcomed), but we can’t afford to ignore the issue of race, which still runs deep in the society we live in. As the respected US professor Cornel West points out: “All people with black skin and African phenotype are subject to potential white supremacist abuse.”

b) Any artist trying to communicate a socially relevant idea has a responsibility beyond simply painting a picture of a dystopian reality. In the words of the legendary singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson: “The role of the artist is not simply to show the world as it is, but as it ought to be.” The net result of this video is to promote white supremacist ideas - that's not helpful.

c) No doubt Sabre and Green would claim to be anti-racist. Hence they need to actively take responsibility for countering racist attitudes. Racism is overwhelmingly concentrated in the white community; therefore white cultural figures such as Green (especially where he's making a good living off Black music) need to have a clear, unambiguous, public anti-racist policy and to be an example to others.

Hackney has some of the worst levels of working class crime in the country. The reasons for this are many: for example, high levels of unemployment; poor provision of youth services; gentrification; concentration of poverty; neglect from the state; and many more.

Hackney has a large Black population and high levels of crime but our mainstream media does a very good job to portray non-white people in England as untrustworthy, crime-loving, dangerous savages and all this video seems to do is reinforce and glamorise that, which is a great shame as Sabre and especially Green are actually in a position to challenge that.

Also, there are plenty of white people involved in crime in east London, but to someone who relies on the Daily Mail or the Sun for information, this video would simply confirm their prejudices that violent crime is an exclusively Black affair.

Again it promotes ideas that Black people are condemned to a world of Black on Black violence. When in reality, the main problems for Black people are deep-seated racism that affects every aspect of their lives. From being 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, twice as likely to be unemployed as white people, racism in our schools (which actively deletes Black people’s history in relation to England) which creates racist attitudes in society at large through to the dehumanisation of Black peoples of the Caribbean and Africa.

Instead of just saying ‘this is how it is’, could not have Sabre and Green not done something to show why it is like that? Hackney being the second poorest borough in the country obviously has a lot to do with the fact that for many people being a part of the system is not an option. Surely reinforcing white stereotypes of Black people was not the intention but as Sabre said in a recent interview: “If you've got four minutes in someone's head, in someone's room, a young person - why say bullshit to them? The most important thing to me is that people can say I really connected to your song, whatever the song may be, and I understand something about myself more or something about society more.”

It also has to be said, for fear of sounding clichéd, most of our youth are humble, intelligent young people who want to do well in life even though they are usually aware and spend nearly every day of their lives countering the many obstacles a racist and exploitative system puts before them.

Our youth need a culture that is not scared to address the negatives, but in a way that uplifts them, inspires and informs them, and gives due credit and direction to the potential and actual power that is in the hands of our youth. We are not “apes”! We are beautiful and intelligent human beings who are fighting for our cultural, moral, social and political freedoms. And for those who are falling victim to the society’s traps, our job is to unite with them positively and bring them into our freedom struggles.
*Sukant Chandan runs the Sons of Malcolm website and is a filmmaker, political analyst and works with young people

Carlos Martinez runs the Beat Knowledge website and is a music producer, writer and cultural activist.
jacked with permission from sonsofmalcolm