POTUS Gets Some Birthday Love in Song at Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall

The fellows at Wednesday's YALI Town Hall broke into song wishing President Barack Obama a happy birthday.

President Barack Obama started receiving birthday wishes early when the movers and shakers of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) broke out singing “Happy Birthday” just before POTUS began his address at Wednesday’s town hall.

A thousand participants came to the three-day YALI summit in Washington Monday, where in its sixth year, is an initiative to support young African entrepreneurs, activists and public officials who are on the come up.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, YALI’s flagship program, started two years ago lifting young Africans up via academic courses, leadership training and networking.

In yesterday’s address, Obama told the crowd of his four trips to the continent—which is more than any other U.S. president.

“Today’s Africa is a place of unprecedented prosperity and opportunities," he tells the crowd.

He also notes how imperative it is for First Lady Michelle Obama and himself to instill and teach their diverse cultural heritage to their daughters Malia and Sasha, including POTUS’ Kenyan heritage.

Last year, Okayafrica had Mandela Washington Fellow, Brian ‘B Flow’ Bwembya, join the editorial team, where he brought great content from Zambia to our site. Obama also took some time during the 2015 town hall to give him a shout-out.

Watch below for the full address, where Obama touches on his work to transform America’s relationship with the continent, how America’s learned from the YALI fellows as much as they learn from their own experiences in the States and more.


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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