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.

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