Showing posts with label Benin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Benin. Show all posts

Monday, March 28, 2011

Benin/Nigeria: The Revolution will be Embedded

Vintage West African funk...

Strut Records' preview for volume 3 compilation of more high life, juju and funk for another addition to its Nigeria 70s series + preview for Benin's Orchestre Poly-Rythmo new album, Cotonou Club. Both out this spring 2011:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sudan/ Benin: "Bernie Madoffs" of Africa

One thing that jumps out from Dan Morrison's recent piece in Slate about the Berni Madoff of Sudan, former policeman Adam Ismael, whose ponzi scheme fleeced an estimated 50,000 victims of $180 million, is its similarity to the Berni Madoffs of Benin. Here's NYT's Adam Nossiter writing last year about the Investment Consultancy and Computering Services (ICC), whose ponzi scheme fleeced between 50,000 and 70,000 Beninios from all tiers of society also of an estimated $180 million. Apart from the numbers, what we drew from both is that for a ponzi scheme in an African country to be successful, it needs to reach into pockets across all the social spectrum, and to that it must either have goverment backing or fake it:
[In Sudan] The fund had just a few thousand bold investors until February 2010, when campaign season began for Sudan's April general election. Ismael and one of his partners, a police officer named Musa Siddig, became candidates for the North Darfur state assembly on the ticket of the ruling National Congress Party. Their faces appeared on giant banners alongside those of the governor and of President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. This implied presidential endorsement set off a frenzy. People across Darfur, in Khartoum, and from as far away as the United Kingdom began liquidating their assets and investing the proceeds in Mawasir. By March 2010, the fund's capital reached 500 billion Sudanese pounds, about $180 million, the vast majority of it from new investors—this in a country with a yearly per-capita income of $2,200. Everyone wanted a piece. Rebels from a leading faction of the Sudan Liberation Army "neglected the struggle and came to make money," as one Darfuri put it. These dozens of Zaghawa fighters became agents for the fund, working off commission to collect cars, cows, camels, sheep, and even chickens in lieu of cash from would-be investors. "Even women were selling their dishes."
In Benin...
They pressed up against the fence, anxious, angry and insistent that because they had seen pictures of President Thomas Yayi Boni, himself a former banker, alongside officials of the company, called Investment Consultancy and Computering Services, they assumed that it must be legitimate. Officials estimate that there are between 50,000 and 70,000 victims, with losses of perhaps $180 million — a big sum in a place where most subsist on less than $2 a day and breadwinners have extended families counting on them. “No family has been left untouched by this,” said Gustave Anani Cassa, a lawyer and former justice minister. More than 4,000 complaints have been brought to his law office alone, he said. “I’ve lost everything,” said Christian Benhoungbedi, an auto painter waiting outside the prefecture. He said he had invested hundreds of dollars. “I just wanted to help my family.” Some had waited days outside the yellowing government structure, spending the night under a huge mango tree. Others in the crowd spoke of suicides and deaths from hypertension because of the losses. They brandished official-looking “I.C.C.” contracts with the Statue of Liberty and the stamps and seals that are a staple of West African officialdom. They said they had been enticed by seeing members of the government on television with I.C.C. officials.
Also read in the Slate piece how Ismael's ponzi scheme indirectly helped North Sudan president Omar Bashir but read here how the ICC Benin ponzi has dogged president Boni Yayi into a tough reelection race.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Africa/ Japan: "Nous Prions Pour le Japon"

A twitpic from Benin posted by @Tokuboshi, a Japan overseas cooperation volunteer. The photo depicts a young man in Benin holding a homemade flag scribed in both his native language and Japanese: "Nous prions pour le Japon"(we pray for Japan) - more here.

Balkisu Saidu, a Nigerian studying at a university in Central Tokyo, tells BBC Focus on Africa's Sophie Ikenye what she had witnessed.

Eskom reassures South Africans about the nation's nuclear power stations even as the country dispatches a team to help in Japan.

For a handle on the devastation, NYT and Australia ABC have posted interactive before and after pictures - here and hereGraphics and video of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi power station + Al Jazeera on the inbound  economic tsunami.

For those who want to help victims of the Sendai Earthquake, The Daily What (poster here H/T: DD) has put together a list of links.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Benin: The Revolution will be Embedded

Les Prince d'Afrique
- Ardiess. Feat. Passi and Ben J. Single. 2010. Dir. Pixel.

Africa: African Cinema and the New Wave

In the lastest issue of Senses of Cinema, Wes Felton clarifies the origins of African cinema to shed light on the pioneering work of Beninois director, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra...
The earliest known film made by an African, was Congolese filmmaker Albert Mongita’s The Cinema Lesson in 1951. The second is Mamadou Touré’s twenty-three minute film from Guinea titled Mouramani, about a man and his dog, produced in 1953. Additionally, in the same year Emmanuel Lubalu released his film Inflated Tires in the Congo. For quite some time most historians falsely believed that a film entitled Africa on the Seine held the honour of being the first film made by an African. Even though this is not so, Africa on the Seine, directed by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, holds a special place in film history for being one of the first films made by an African, and more importantly, one that actively investigates the then present day situation of African immigrants living in Paris, as well as critiquing the French colonialist establishment.
...and like we've argued in past of the special debt French New Wave owes Jean Rouch's Moi Noir ('58), Felton argues the inclusion of Vieyra's film, Africa on the Seine (1955), in the New Wave cannon:
One of the fascinating things about Africa on the Seine is that it almost provides scenes, shots, and sequences that could or should have been placated within the French New Wave films. Figuratively speaking, Africa on the Seine could almost be seen as made of the ‘cut-off’ footage removed from films of the French New Wave. As if white filmmakers in France at the time cut out any evidence of an African presence and whenever there just so happened to be an African captured within the frame of a shot, they were left on the cutting room floor. It is almost like Vieyra somehow stumbled upon the pieces of film in a New Wave garbage can and brought them back as if to say, “See? We are here!”
Below, Frank Schneider (prod. Jadot Sezirahiga) discuss the origins of African and Arab cinema with Tahar Cheria, founder of the Carthage Cinema Days. It includes a profile of Paulin Vieyra and stills from Africa on the Seine:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Africa: The Revolution will be Embedded - Grammy Nominations 2010

53rd Grammy Awards, 2010 nominees:

(Benin) ÕŸÖ - Angelique Kidjo [Razor & Tie Entertainment]: nominee for Best Contemporary World Music Album Vocal or Instrumental.

(Nigeria/ USA) Fela! - Robert Sher, producer (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, composer; Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, lyricist) (Original Broadway Cast With Sahr Ngaujah, Lillias White & Others) [Knitting Factory]: nominee for Best Musical Show Album Award to the Album Producer(s), and to the Lyricist(s) & Composer(s) of 51% or more of a new score.

(Mali) I Speak Fula - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba [Sub Pop / Next Ambiance]: nominee for Best Traditional World Music Album Vocal or Instrumental.

(South Africa) Grace - Soweto Gospel Choir [Shanachie Entertainment]: nominee for Best Traditional World Music Album Vocal or Instrumental.

(Mali) Ali And Toumani - Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté [World Circuit-Nonesuch]: nominee for Best Traditional World Music Album Vocal or Instrumental.

(Nigeria/U.K.) Babyfather - Sade. Track from: Soldier Of Love [Epic]: Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. For established duos or groups, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.

(Nigeria/ U.K.) Soldier Of Love - Sade. Track from: Soldier Of Love [Epic/Sony Music]: Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. For duo, group or collaborative performances, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Africa: Slum Report

UN-Habitat - The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets

Just released UN-Habitat 2010 report paints a breathtaking vista with a multifaceted view of contemporary African city life - and survival. These cities, like other cities in the world, have their slums and according to the UN, "199.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in [them], the highest number in the world." Roving Bandit thinks slums come with urbanization and urbanization remains a good thing whether it looks like an American suburb or not. Aid Thoughts begs to differ slightly. I see possible synergies and hybrids btw planned and unplanned (read: slums) parts of the city . UN-Habitat sees the root of slums in:
Until recently, most Western African govts tolerated informal land markets, as it was assumed that they would eventually give way to modern, formal land markets. It was further assumed that only secure private property could provide adequate incentives for investments in land, and that tenure security could only be achieved through land titling and registration. In the vast majority of Western and Central African cities, the urban poor and large shares of low-and-middle-income groups cannot access public or formal private land markets. Except for Burkina Faso, public provision of urban land and housing is steadily declining throughout the sub region due to lack of resources, lack of political will, widespread corrupt practices, and administrative and technical bottlenecks. The formal private sector does not provide for low-income households, unless heavily subsidized. This situation makes informal land markets more attractive because customary and informal land delivery is more flexible, delivery time is short, transaction costs are low, and tenure is perceived as secure enough to encourage limited investment in land and housing (p. 123).
With Lagos on track, according to UN-Habitat, to become "Africa's largest city in 2015 with 12.4 million inhabitants," here's an old look at how the formal private housing market actually works and how the outdoor advertising agency plays an integral role in the city's efforts to urban-plan and de-slum . UN-Habitat also gives looks at land shortage, urban planning in Coutonou, Benin, plus ongoing housing registration efforts, and rather than bulldozing slums, attempts to make them work in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Benin: Among a Crate Digger's Favorites

African crate digger and Analog Africa label founder, Samy Ben Redjeb, lists his favorite all time joints over at Mondomix. On the list are:

Ou c´est lui ou c´est moi by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Analog Africa

Ziwere - Oliver Mtukudzi by Analog Africa

Samy also features in the brilliant "Scramble for Vinyl" article over at Africa is a Country posted a while back, which takes visiting DJ/crate diggers to task for concentrating "too much on those forms of music that fit nicely into the story that they, the DJs, want to tell about the music to the detriment of  "larger genres in Africa like Soukous, Highlife, or Benga."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Benin: This Revolution Will Be Embedded

Slowly recovering from OD'ing on Lionel Loueke's new album, Mwaliko. The hype is all justified - links to most of it stashed below:

Twins by Lionel Loueke

Lionel Loueke featuring Richard Bona (bass) and Gretchen Parlato (vocals).

... that went all the way back to Koo Nimo. Pronounced mwah-LEE-koh, the rest of the album is indeed an "invitation" as it features collabos with Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spaulding, Richard Bono... WNYC speaks to Loueke - here. NPR's Banning Eyre breaks down the rest - here.

And an even cooler version of 2008's Karibou:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Africa: Some Films Showing at the Helsinki African Film Fest - 7-9 May 2010

Clouds Over Conakry (2008), dir. Cheick Fantamady Camara (Guinea)

Waiting for Men (2007), dir. Katy Lena Ndiaye,  (Senegal, Mauritania, Belgium)

Bab'Aziz - The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul (2005), dir. Nacer Khemir (Tunisia)

Africa Paradis (2006), dir. Sylvestre Amoussou (Benin)

fest prog - here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Benin: Potatoes and Vodka

France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, on the limits of celebrity within the context of aid and development:
Being a celebrity campaigner, she says, is a bit like potatoes and vodka in that the mundane details of her life eventually focus attention on a just cause: "You need 20 potatoes to make this glass of vodka. Maybe [celebrity] distracts but [if] I can bring the attention on something else, I feel like my public life is worth it, for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Benin: This Revolution Will Be YouTubed

Gimme Shelter performed by Angelique Kidjo, featuring Joss Stone. Original song/lyrics by the Rolling Stones. Album Djin Djin. Label: Razor&Tie, 2007.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Benin: The Art of Romuald Hazoumé

Romuald Hazoumé Wax Bandana, 2009. 
(detail) Found objects, 27 x 12 x 27cm

BBC's Bola Mosuro talks to Beninois artist, Romuald Hazoume.

His new exhibition, "Made in Porto Norvo," feels not only like a meditation on the precarious existence of Porto Novo's small time petrol importers/smugglers--who make a living bringing huge jerry-cans of fuel over the Nigerian border into Benin's capital--but it is also a reassemblage of their reality into commentary on a lot of other things.

What he said about George Bush in relation to the phone and the toaster was hilarious. Online exhibition - here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Benin: This Revolution Will Be YouTubed

Tin Man by The Lionel Loueke Trio/ Gilfema: Lionel "Gilles" Loueke - guitar, Massimo Biolcati - bass, Ferenc Nemeth - drums. Album: Gilfema. Label: Obliqsound, 2003.

Loueke’s story begins in Benin, a small country in West Africa, where he was born to parents that he describes as “intellectual,” adding that “music was part of everyday life, but not in the family.” Fortunately an older brother played guitar and was part of a band that played Afro-Pop music in the style of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade. “I remember when I was 11 or 12 I was going to see my brother perform. I would be listening from 10pm to 3am in the morning, just looking at him playing, listening to the music.” 
Finally when Loueke was 17 years old, his brother let him pick up his guitar, and he quickly realized that he had a great facility for the instrument. Besides the Afro-Pop music that he heard his brother performing, Loueke also began to be enamored with the traditional African music of Benin, as well as Nigeria, Congo, Zaire, Mali and Senegal. 
However, it was an encounter with Jazz music that would set Loueke on a different course. A friend of his brother’s came to visit from Paris, bringing with him a CD of guitarist George Benson. “I listened to that and it was unreal for me. I had to transcribe every single line trying to play like him. Then I tried to check out what happened before him, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass.” More... 
Older brothers, God bless them. The beautiful sounds Loueke is able to summon from a guitar defies reason, so he goes about explaining how here.

The clicking sounds he makes immediately reminds me of why, when I was much younger and was discovering George Benson, I hated the fact that someone who could do what he did with a guitar had to spoil it by opening his mouth. It was as though I feared he would go back, re-record El Mar or California Dreaming -- and sing on them!!! But now I'm old enough to entertain the question -- what if he did? As Miles would have blown, "So What?" 

In order to align self expression, skill, and the possibilities within form, an artist can't help playing with the rubik cube of music in order to align and perfect all three aspects above -- the recording is not the goal; it's the by product of the search. If the artist gets to this alignment by adding his or her voice to the mix, going electric, skating or whatever, then so be it. Audiences can't help but be slaves of certain formal interpretations of music but the artist can't help but fiddle with the cube looking for a better alignment. And in commerce the twain shall meet and compromise.


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