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Akon Answers 'The Questions' For Okayafrica TV

Akon answers 'The Questions' on Senegalese Mbalax, "lighting Africa" and Nigerian pop music in an interview with Okayafrica TV.


When we found out Akon would be in DC during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit we knew we'd have plenty to discuss. The son of Senegalese drummer legend Mor Thiam and raised for part of his childhood in the "home of Gorée Island," Akon is undoubtedly a key player in the West African pop music market as both an industry head honcho (his Konvict Muzik imprint represents Naija pop stars P-Square, Wizkid, and 2face Idibia) and a featured artist on some of the biggest Lagos club remixes in recent years, including "Chop My Money" and "Dami Duro." More recently he's launched the Akon Lighting Africa Project with the goal of bringing electricity to one million homes in Africa by the end of 2014. In addition to meeting with leaders in Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Côte d'Ivoire this year, Akon brought his solar-powered initiative to DC for the White House's first ever African leaders summit. It was there that Okayafrica TV had the chance to pick his brain about his Senegalese upbringing and his recent endeavors in West Africa. Like, what music did he grow up on? Who's Senegal's all-time greatest musician? How exactly is he "lighting Africa?" What sparked his interest in Naija pop? Who else from the continent is he looking to sign, and is there even space for Nigerian pop in the American market? Watch Akon answer "The Questions" to these and more in the latest episode of Okayafrica TV.

Videographer: Thomas Mobley

Editor: Imani Lindsey

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.