Africa in the news

Or rather, Africa not in the news. I have to admit, I haven’t been in news-junkie mode recently, but how did I miss this?

This week we bring you music from the Democratic Republic of Congo to recognize the incredible moment in history we are witnessing. In the largest UN overseen election in history, 58 million Congolese citizens will choose their elected leaders for the first time in 46 years! With over 33 candidates for president and 9,500 people running for 500 legislative seats the ballots are sure to be long, just finding your candidate will be a challenge.

The reason it’s a big deal is not just that a previously undemocratic country is going to try to become a democracy. It’s that between 1996 and 2003, the DRC was the scene of a brutal and long-running war, triggered by the Rwandan genocide, in which about 4 million people are estimated to have died. Nine nations were directly involved.

I’ve read a few people recently try to make some kind of rhetorical point by comparing the amount of media attention that the Middle East gets with the coverage of Darfur. But the truth is that if anything, before the West got bored with it, Darfur got an unusually large amount of attention for an African conflict. After all, Sudan has been in a state of civil war for most of the time since independence in 1956, but that hasn’t spent much time in the papers.

I’m not claiming any personal virtue here – if you’d asked me, I probably would have said that Congo was still at war, even though the war formally ended in 2003. I only learned differently via the quote above, which is from Calabash. And I had to get all my information about the war from Wikipedia. Anyway. Fingers crossed that Central Africa is on an upward path.

And a plug for Calabash. They describe themselves as ‘The World’s First Fair Trade Music Company’, and they’re a great source for world music. Calabash offers regular free singles for download.

To mark the election we give you ‘Ba Kristo’, from Kekele’s hot new album “Kinavana”. By paying homage to the Cuban composer Guillermo Portabales, the album brings the two countries together across the black atlantic in the most joyous and musical of ways. ‘Ba Kristo’ is based on the music of Portabales’ song “El Carretero”, but instead of telling a wagoner’s tale it denounces the efforts of evangelical churches in Africa to ban all music that is not Christian.

I’ve got some great music from them, and I can definitely recommend the latest free single. I think I’ll buy the album. Songs are 99¢ each, but note that you can save money by buying 20 song credits for $14.99 – i.e. 75¢ each.

’70s Tanzanian music

I know absolutely nothing about ’70s Tanzanian music. But Matsuli Music has three tracks by Mbaraka Mwinshehe. So far I’ve only listened to the first, Expo ’70, but that alone would justify giving the link.

“the happiest band in the world”

About a week ago I suggested you go over to Aduna to get the three mp3s of Orchestra Super Mazembe [they’re still there!]. Well, at no condition is permanent, a whole album – nine tracks – of OSM has been posted. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m really excited. And, as ever, if you like the music, you can do the decent thing and buy some – possibly from Calabash, who specialise in fairly traded world music.

BTW, if you skip over my occasional posts about mp3 blogs because you don’t have an mp3 player and don’t normally listen to music on your computer, bear in mind that you can always write mp3s onto an audio CD and listen to it on your CD player. Believe me, your life will be better if it has some Orchestra Super Mazembe in it.

Orchestra Super Mazembe

Aduna has three MP3s up at the moment from one of my favourite CDs, which is an Orchestra Super Mazembe compilation called ‘Giants of East Africa’. So go and download them, enjoy them, and then buy the album.

music on the net

I’ve only just started getting into music blogs, but they’re fabulous. Of the ones I visit at the moment, the ones which I’ve taken most music from are PopText and Funky16Corners, but I’m currently listening to a 70 minute mix of ‘dancehall/bashment, reggaeton, R’n’B/hip hop/crunk, soca, reggae and ragga jungle’ from Heatwave which I learned about via Mudd Up!. And my award for best design goes to Cocaine Blunts and Hip-Hop Tapes, though it would be even better without frames, imho.

And in answer to the obvious question – yes, I’ve already been persuaded to buy music (with actual money) which I wouldn’t have otherwise, so I’m not completely being a parasite.

[EDIT: having done some internet research, I now actually know what reggaeton is: Puerto Rican reggae-influenced hip hop – the booty-shaking face of globalisation, basically. ‘Bashment’ is still a mystery. Sounds good, though; I’d recommend that mix I mentioned and I’m now listening to a reggaeton mix from the same people.]