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How Burkina Faso’s Political Turmoil Shaped Rapper Art Melody’s New Album

Ouagadougou-based rapper Art Melody is readying the release of Moogho, an experimental hip-hop album largely inspired by the current political turmoil in Burkina Faso. Moogho (which translates to “World” in the Mossi language Mooré) is a sharp criticism of the nation’s political situation and an educational tool for the Burkinabé people, especially the youth, in the face of ousted rulers like Blaise Compaoré and the attempted coup d’états that followed. Below, Art Melody explains the Burkinabé politics behind his new album and shares “Micro Makré,” a song about remaining vocal through struggle.

“When the water comes back up to the mountain, it’s the end” (Mossi proverb)

I started composing Moogho at the end of 2013, one year before the events of October 2014. The writing process for Moogho was a continuation of my previous albums, reflecting current events, still – as always, it seemed – under the rule of Blaise Compaoré.

The lyrics changed as events came, in particular when the national focus shifted to article 37 of the Constitution: it limits the presidency to two five year terms, and Compaoré wanted to modify it yet again, even after 26 years in power!

Throughout 2013, everybody talked about article 37, the president insisted, artists started speaking up, journalists and representatives of the civil society also started speaking up. Moogho was forged during this entire process.

There is a very high rate of illiteracy in Burkina, so as an artist I felt the necessity to educate people about this article, and more generally about the entire political system in Burkina Faso, as did many artists in the country. In Moogho I call out the gigantic hole Compaoré has been digging for 27 years, I call out how Compaoré buys voters with t-shirts and 2000CFA bills (about USD3), I call out how the photo-ops may fool foreign media, but shouldn’t fool our own people.

If we accept to sell our country for shirts and small bills, if we accept to keep feeding the corruption system, if we keep bribing police, we’ll keep having corrupt, useless leaders. If we continue to seek quick gains, if the youth continues to drink and live on the fringes, if we accept to see our leaders driving huge cars, we will continue to live the same way, many children will never go to school, many young people will not contribute to building up the nation.

These same ideas fueled the insurrection, and as I saw people standing up, it gave me more inspiration, and more strength to fine tune my songs. I kept writing without knowing when I might record, so I continuously adjusted my songs. “Micro Makré” for instance, was recorded three times, first in France, then in Ghana, then later on in Burkina, each time with different lyrics, adapted to the evolving situation.

After the insurrection, I added these words to “Micro Makré”: “If you say nothing, you agree. If you disagree, you speak up.” This is what happened on October 30 and 31, 2014, and this is what will happen again and again, in countries where leaders continue to hold their people by the balls.

I continued to write Moogho after the events, so the album also educates people about the next steps, in particular who to vote for, we can’t vote for someone because they give us a t-shirt or a bill, we should vote for someone with a plan, a strategy, and the will and energy to change the country.

All of my albums talk about the system and the situation in Burkina Faso. Now that Compaoré is out, we as a people must ask ourselves how to move forward. This is something Moogho addresses, so in that sense, it continues the previous albums, and reflects the evolution of the situation in Burkina Faso.

Art Melody’s Moogho is available now on iTunes and Amazon from Tentacule Records / Akwaaba Music.