Blick Bassy, The Modern Cameroonian Griot Singing About Exodus & Migration

Cameroonian-born, French-based songwriter Blick Bassy tells simultaneously personal and global stories in his new album ‘Akö.’

Blick Bassy. Photo via the artist's website.

The Cameroonian-born, French-based banjo player, guitarist & songwriter Blick Bassy is a thorough man. By his own confession he assiduously works on his songs for at least 6 hours a day. A self-taught guitarist, Blick Bassy also doubles on the banjo since, he mentions, the instrument evokes childhood memories of the sound of a train approaching his village in Cameroon.

Bassy’s compositions astutely relate stories that touch on themes of education, exodus & migration from rural villages to African cities. Most of these stories stem from his personal experience and journey, as he was fortunate to split his time between Yaoundé & the village where he spent his childhood. It wasn't until his ultimate move from Cameroon to Paris in the early 2000s that he became aware of the privilege to have been exposed to one of the 262 languages co-existing in Cameroon.

This spirited, modern griot is fraught with simultaneously personal and global stories. He knows how to engage with any audience despite singing songs in the Bassa language, which neither the majority of his fans, or his bandmates, can understand. However, Bassy insists, "It's for the artist to find a way to speak to people's emotions and feelings, even when using an alien language".

Bassy is a versatile musician. His musical journeys overlap both South America, mainly the Brazilian percussion and rhythmic gems featured in his second album Léman, and Africa—Mali was also a large influence on his debut album Hongo Calling.

For his third offering, Akö, Bassy sought for new ways to express issues close to his heart.

The setting this time around is intimate and stipped-down to the bare minimum; a trombone, cello and Blick Bassy playing both the guitar and banjo. This unusual lineup fittingly emphasizes the quality of the human voice.

"Melodies—let's say in French or English—change because of intonation,” Bassy points out. “However, if we use other languages smartly—in this instance Bassa—it’ll bring something new to our ears. it's also a warning to our government, that if we carry on that way, we’ll lose our languages, hence the connection to our histories and cultural legacies."

The Blick Bassy Trio live at Maroquinnerie.

It wasn't until his move to Paris that Bassy became increasingly aware of the function of language and the centrality of culture in every nation & civilization. “France has its own history, this is Africa’s time."

Bassy’s unapologetic about the fact that he doesn't read music. His musical inspiration came from wanting to pay tribute to his hero blues man Skip James, while at the same time attempting to conjure up a richly diverse sonic tableau evocative of childhood memories and other personal journeys.

"Listen, I don't read music, so for the first day of a series of intensive rehearsals, I record all the melodies and give them to both the trombonist & cellist, insisting that I want them to play them their own way," he explains.

It’s against the backdrop of the layered minimalist interaction between trombonist Fidel Fourneyron’s hauntingly warm sound and the controlled lyricism of cellist Clement Petit that Bassy unravels a dozen short narratives about migration and education.

Passionate but never assertive, Blassy observes, "Give education to our kids about change and racism, because environment and context makes who we are! Why are we different? This is what makes the world interesting."

Visit Blick Bassy’s website to grab a copy of ‘Akö’ and see his full tour schedule.

(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage via Getty)

Listen to Wizkid's Surprise New EP 'Soundman Vol. 1'

Wizkid treats fans to new songs featuring Chronixx, DJ Tunez and more—just ahead of 2020.

Wizkid is back. The Nigerian pop star surprised listeners early this morning with the unannounced release of a new EP, Soundman Vol. 1.

Though Wizkid has released a couple of singles this year, fans had been awaiting a new drop and more extensive project from the artist. With it being so close to the end of the year, it didn't look like we'd get a new body of work from the artist till 2020, but he proved otherwise when he took to Twitter at the wee hours of the morning to quietly share streaming links for the new project.

He also announced that a second EP, Soundman Vol. 2, would drop sometime before his highly-anticipated upcoming album Made In Lagos (MIL).

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Nudes cover artwork.

You Need to Listen to Moonchild Sanelly's New EP, 'Nüdes'

The buzzing South African singer breaks down her provocative & empowering new 4-song EP.

South Africa's Moonchild Sanelly returns with the Nüdes EP.

The highly-buzzing SA artist's latest project sees her expanding on her own brand of 'electro-pop-ghetto-funk' as she runs through four standout tracks that revolve around her outspoken stance on female sexual empowerment and more.

Nüdes features two previously heard hits from Moonchild Sanelly—the anti-fuck boy synth anthem "F-Boyz" and gqom-laced banger "Weh Mameh." It also includes two previously unreleased tracks in "Come Correct" and "Boys & Girls."

This year saw Moonchild Sanelly break charts and dance floors in South Africa and across the globe with her own sounds, as well as her big collaborations with Damon Albarn for Africa Express and Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift album.

We talked to Moonchild below about the new EP, during which she broke down all of the songs and even told us how she ended up on the Beyoncé album.

Read our conversation below.

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14 Cultural Events You Can't Miss this December in South Africa

OkayAfrica's guide to must-see events during South Africa's festive season.

South Africans will tell you that December is not just a month, it's an entire lifestyle. From beginning to end, it's about being immersed in a ton of activity with friends and family as well as any new folk you meet along the way. Whether you're looking to turn up to some good music or watch some provocative theater, our guide to just 14 cultural events happening in South Africa this December, has something for everyone.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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