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Dear K'naan, Africa Is Not The Only Place Where 'Politics Happens'

Dissecting the notion of a "true voice" in K'naan's recent New York Times op-ed


The sentiments in K'naan's recent op-ed for the New York Times will come as little surprise to fans that saw him perform at the Highline Ballroom last month. Somewhere between his rendition of Neil Young’s "Heart of Gold" and official World Cup song "Wave Your Flag," K’naan described the music industry as a "tapeworm" and cited disillusionment as his reason for cancelling "99% of the US tour."

On Sunday, the dusty foot philosopher told the Times readership that he was washing his hands of Country, God, or the Girl, an album which was the product of pressure to write for his US audience. He has taken the wrong path, but vows to return to his "old walk," in other words, the less commercially-viable route. Fans have taken to his facebook page in thousands to celebrate his prodigal return to true artistry.

The whole thing is a bit weird: if K'naan's accusing himself of 'selling out' then he might have done so back in 2010. But it’s not often that artists are candid about the commercialisation of their music, and some important questions are smuggled between the cloying fable that bookends the piece. Can we do away with the idea you have to be able to "relate to" other people's stories? Is there space for artists whose stories are rooted in non-Western places and experiences? How long will African artists enter the mainstream as novelties whose difference is hungrily consumed and then discarded?

But the stark choice between the unsullied integrity of his first two albums and the commercial hollowness of his third is troubling. Why should K’naan’s voice only ring true in songs about Somalia? O' Canada has it's fair share of oppressions (Stephen Harper, anyone?). If an artist's politics travel with him then shouldn’t K'naan be willing and able to engage with North American issues beyond mundane treatises against drug use? Africa is not the only place where politics happens.

Diaspora identities are messy and difficult, but with this romantic notion of a "true voice" K'naan threatens to box himself into the role of "refugee rapper", a role which is its own sort of commodity (mainstream media - including the NYT - love it). If he finds a way to engage with North America (beyond telling us that Somalia and Nigeria are worse), then maybe he’ll get closer to the creative integrity he's looking for.

 

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Image courtesy of ARRAY.

What to Watch at Home During Coronavirus Shutdown: ARRAY's New Digital African Film Series

The film platform, from director Ava DuVernay, is hosting a weekly movie-viewing experience for the "global online community of cinephiles."

If you're looking for African films to dive into while at home during the coronavirus outbreak, a new digital series from award-winning director Ava DuVernay's film collective ARRAY is a great place to start. The multi-media platform and arts collective is launching its #ARRAYMatinee series, and each film will be available for viewing here.

#ARRAYMatinee is a virtual movie-viewing experience that will screen a string of the collective's previously released independent films from Africa and the diaspora. The weekly series begins on Wednesday, April 1 with a viewing of the 2015 South African coming-of-age film Ayanda. "Viewers will take a cinematic journey to the international destinations and cultures featured in five films that were released via the ARRAY Releasing independent film distribution collective that amplifies that work of emerging filmmakers of color and women of all kinds," says the platform in a press release. To promote a communal viewing experience, viewers are also encouraged to have discussions on Twitter, using the hashtag #ARRAYMatinee.

The five-part series will run weekly until May 13, and also includes films from Liberia, Ghana, and Grenada. See the full viewing schedule below with descriptions from ARRAY, and visit ARRAY's site at the allotted times to watch.

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"Mafa Mafa" cover art.

Davido, Peruzzi, Dremo and The Flowolf Team Up for New Track 'Mafa Mafa'

Check out a new one from Davido's label DMW.

Now is a better time than ever to take in new music, and thankfully, some of our favorite artists have been delivering.

Nigerian stars Davido, Peruzzi, Dremo and The Flowolf inked up for the new collaborative track "Mafa Mafa," under Davido's record label DMW, which launched back in 2018. The song features mostly rapping as the artists trade verses back and forth in Yoruba. "Mafa" is a Yoruba saying that loosely translates to "don't pull it."

Davido originally teased the song with a short dance video shared last week.

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C Natty/emPawa

You Need to Watch C Natty's New Music Video For 'Ojah'

Video Premiere: Check out the striking first release from Mr Eazi's #emPawa30.

C Natty arrives in style with his new single "Ojah."

The track, which is the first release from Mr Eazi's new group of #emPawa30 artists, sees the Nigerian artist delivering a highly-infectious and grooving concoction over jazz-leaning afrobeats produced by Killertunes.

The new music video for "Ojah," which we're premiering here today, is equally as stunning and follows the story of someone who doesn't take others' advice. C Natty told us the following about the DK of Priorgold Pictures-directed video:

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News Brief

South African Hip-Hop Producers Tweezy and Gemini Major Set for Instagram Live Beat Battle

Two of South Africa's hip-hop super producers Tweezy and Gemini Major will face-off in upcoming Instagram live beat battle.

After Instagram live beat battles such as Swizz Beatz versus Timbaland and Mannie Fresh versus Scott Storch amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it was only a matter of time until the hip-hop community across the world followed suit.

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