Busara music festival, part 2

February 13, 2007

With a twisted ankle, my hastily arranged dance class had to be postponed. So instead I hobbled straight to the Old Fort to catch the last day of the festival.


I arrived just in time to get my annual dose of rasta. As far as I can work out, the greatest thing ever to happen to rasta music was Bob Marley dying.


It’s now a genre unparalleled in its ability to attract hordes of wealthy western hippies who choose to wear clothes even African street kids would turn down, who then jump around like one legged kangaroos caught in a string bag all the while talking about how much they loved the Lion King. Or I may have misunderstood something.


But the music was otherwise great, even better than last night – one highlight of which was walking outside to see some event organisers forcing a drunk to use his own t-shirt to wipe his vomit off a car he had just thrown up on.


 After more hobbling around, this time on the dance area (which was everywhere), I was tempted to go home, but decided on one last group. I’m glad I witnessed what I did…


It was Senegalese Bongo Fleva – Didier Awadi and the Phat 4. There was actually far more than 5 people on stage, but it was only one man’s presence that mattered: Didier Awadi, dressed head to toe in a white tracksuit and enormous snowy beanie, he looked like a black version of Ali G, which has to be ironic somehow. This giant of a man waved  his hands around with such ferocity, that Don and I wondered whether he didn’t have Parkinsons…and then we both agreed that it was probably the least of his problems anyway.


His uptempo beats chugged along with intensity courtesy of the Phat 4, while he distinguished his music from American or European hip hop variants by incorporating African instruments and rhythms. One of these, the Koro, is like a tubular guitar, and, like it’s American counterpart, can, it became apparent, also be played behind the head.


Meanwhile his messages touched on the bigger issues facing many African countries, such as poverty, AIDS, and violence, but also on fairly trivial issues. Such as one song, which had the refrain ‘The mic is not a toy’. I’m not sure what this means, but it was a good excuse for the three MCs to involve themselves in a bit of stage theatrics – whereby Didier played the role of the parent scolding the other two for using the microphone and ultimately confiscating it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if in six months time there is an NGO, probably German, established for the cause.


But it was refreshing seeing African MCs using music to push African agendas. And I was completely onside by the time he sung “George Bush is an Asshole, Tony Blair is an Asshole,” even if he forget to mention John Howard.


And Dider was not even the headline act! How good could it get? I went to the bar and was accosted by another prostitute. “Ever fucked an African?”

“Not one that I’ve paid for, thanks.”


Yes, I hoped the headline act would be better than hoping into bed with Tasha and co and swapping STDs.


Jose Chameleone was his name, Uganda his origin. A somewhat renown Bongo Fleva star, who remained off stage the entire first song. I assumed he’d made the foolish mistake of relying on the slow ferry only taking 5 hours from Dar Es Salaam. Either that or he was lying down behind a speaker stack and just couldn’t see him.


I was about to write him off as lame, but, again, I was too early to criticise! Suddenly, a puff of smoke, a Jose arrives dressed in a crown and a long gown over the mandatory Rasta-colours t-shirt. 50 Shillings lives!


I have found that it is quite common for MCs here to appropriate Americanisms into their speech when talking to crowds. Hence, when introducing any group, it inevitably “comes all the way from…”, which sounds odd when the last word is Zanzibar, which is host of the music festival, and therefore wouldn’t be all that far away to come from.


But Jose, he was different…Where every MC before him had said ‘put your hands in the air’, Jose said “Put your hankies in the air”. I’m not sure what the purpose was, but the sight of a thousand hankies blowing in the wind will certainly be enduring.