Video

Video: African Men And Hollywood Stereotypes

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By now the buzz from Mama Hope’s latest video, "African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes" has sufficiently bubbled over. We like the video. It is direct, it is different and, most importantly, it is not a reaction to some media stunt, which is always awesome. Stylistically, too, it has all the makings of a wonderful, viral video.

That said, we find it reductive and a little off. For example, we can't tell if the four men actually wrote the script (the men plus the "Mama Hope Team" are credited) or if their quip about “shirtless Michael McConaughey” was thrown in there to try and connect with the audience. Which leads to questions like: who’s the intended audience? and what will they ultimately take away from the video? That some Africans meet the Western benchmark of middle classness (they're even on Facebook!) and therefor deserve accurate representation in films? It misses the mark a bit. Also, Africa is still presented as an entire entity in this video. The glossiness of it all reinforces the myth of a monolithic Africa, leaving no room for nuance among Kenyan Africans or Ethiopian Africans or Nigerian Africans and so forth.

Africa Is A Country's Elliot Ross sums it up best:

"do we really need this kind of “positive image for Africa” stuff? At best it can be framed as a necessary corrective, but the whole PR “brand Africa” shtick is boring, patronising, and finally insubstantial in its attempt to transform the West’s time-honoured way of imagining the continent, ideas that are thoroughly tangled up with ingrained – and much beloved – supremacist notions of Euro-American culture and identity. This isn’t all going to go away because you pointed out that there’s a bloke in Nairobi called Brian who works in HR."

We expect to see more and more retellings of 21st century Africa in greater frequency after the Kony 2012 debacle. And we hope as they come, they are more and more genuine, accurate and layered as we know they can be.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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