Music

You Need to Hear This Live Show From Les Amazones D'Afrique

A concert dedicated to all women across the world suffering from violence.

Last year we premiered the "Dombolo" music video by Les Amazones D'Afrique—the first-ever all-female West African supergroup—and wrote about their stunning debut effort, République Amazone. The record's fourteen tracks featured twelve incredibly talented musicians and displayed an ambitious depth of substance and style.

Although sung primarily in Bambara, its politicized message of female empowerment resonates in a profound way. Since the album's critically acclaimed release on Real World Records, the music has made its way to elite global spaces like The Philharmonie de Paris and Barack Obama's iPhone.


Les Amazones D'Afrique performed at Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands last November, and now we're excited to premiere a full recording of the set, provided by Le Guess Who, courtesy of Marc Broer. The nine-person band assembled for the Netherlands gig did not include some of Les Amazones' more legendary members like Angelique Kidjo and Mariam Doumbia, but their set still replicated the dynamic female energy of the group's recorded debut.

The eight-track set contains extended renditions of album highlights "Nebao," "Dansa Soyari," and "Doona" alongside beautiful unreleased tracks "Kanakasi" and "Ani Sogoma" and a stunning cover of the 400 year-old Sudanese folk song "Garaba Mama." This is an ecstatic, high-octane live album that opts for a more analogue, blues rock sound over the electronic beats and high fidelity studio production of République Amazone.

The Guess Who Festival set included Mamani Keita, Rokia Koné, and Kandia Kouyate on lead vocals, with Pamela Badjogo and Aminata Dante on backing vocals. The band also featured Llorens Barcelo on keys, Liam Farell on bass and guitar, Mamadou Diakite on guitar and Joseph Palmer on drums.

Before opening the set, Rokia took a moment to dedicate the performance to all the women of the world. Her presence onstage is magnetic and inspiring; she speaks to the audience throughout, giving them life and love with encouraging words and enthralling vocals. When Rokia's solo verse finally arrives during set opener "Desert Storm," her voice soars unmatched and cascades down with dazzling riffs of brilliant, bluesy soul.

The set's most exhilarating track comes later, though, as a group vocal effort during the sauntering blues-funk jubilee of "Nebao." It's got an irresistible hook, accentuated by frenetic desert rock riffs, and a joyous call-and-response chorus between the vocalists. Between the rough-edged blues arrangements and the powerful, expertly recorded vocals of our leading ladies, "Nabao" captures a special kind of magic not yet summoned by Les Amazones D'Afrique's studio material.

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The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

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The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

News

J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

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