André Marie Tala

André Marie Tala

Most people have heard of Stevie Wonder, the American blind R&B virtuoso, who was discovered at the tender age of 11. Most people versed in classical music have probably heard of the Italian classical tenor Andrea Bocelli, who was born with poor eyesight, and turned blind by the age of 12. But how many of you have heard of the Cameroonian blind singer André Marie Tala who influenced an entire generation of Cameroonian and African artists? the singer who was even plagiarized by the mighty James Brown

Andre Marie Tala and Sam Fan Thomas (Source: RfI)

Andre Marie Tala and Sam Fan Thomas (Source: Rfi)

To those who visit my blog, you have probably listened to two of his classic songs, which are odes to some of Africa’s beautiful capitals: Yaoundé, and N’Djamena, the capitals of Cameroon and Chad respectively. Only after I wrote about N’Djamena did I realize that André Marie Tala had performed at the Olympia (with Sam Fan Thomas, another giant of Cameroonian music) on May 17th to celebrate his 45 year anniversary in the music industry.

André Marie Tala

André Marie Tala

Unlike all the singers cited earlier, Tala plays the guitar. Born in the mountains of the Western province of Cameroon in 1950, Tala loses his mother at the tender age of 4, and then his father at 16. He totally loses sight at the age of 15, and will be taken in by his grandmother. He builds his very first guitar with threads made out of nylon, and bamboo, and works on reproducing sounds from his favorite musicians. He starts his first group, the Rock Boys, with which he goes on to have immediate success. The Rock Boys later morphed into the Black Tigers in 1967 with his friend, guitar player, Sam Fan Thomas. At the age of 20, he moves to Paris and collaborates with the great Cameroonian saxophone player Manu Dibango; he lands his first big musical contract. Thus were born the titles Sikati, Po tak Si nan (laissez Dieu tranquille ! – leave God in peace), and Namala Ébolo. Big success! Po tak Si nan is a mixture of soul, jazz, and rhythm n’ blues, blend in with a mix of Cameroonian musical styles such as Makossa and Bikutsi. Tala calls his style “Tchamassi”.

The album "Hot Koki" by André Marie Tala

The album “Hot Koki” by André Marie Tala

In 1973, his album “Hot Koki” knows international success, and his single “Hot Koki” is even plagiarized by the great James Brown under the new title “The Hustle”. In 1978, after 4 years of judiciary struggles, Tala is awarded justice, and James Brown is condemned to pay him back all his rights.

The big themes of Tala’s music are peace, love, and harmony. In the 90s, he brings Bend Skin to the forefront of Cameroonian music, a folkloric fusion of styles from the grasslands of Cameroon. It is often associated with the moto-taxis which are called by the same name Bend-Skin.

Album of André Marie Tala

Album of André Marie Tala

By choosing the Olympia (the quintessential stage for music in France), for his musical jubilee, André Marie Tala wants to launch a new beginning for the Cameroonian music which has always been rich and influenced millions, but for the past decade has stagnated. Happy 45th-anniversary to Andre Marie Tala, and to many more albums of great music. I live you here with one of my favorite Tala’s song, Nomtema. Do not forget to check out “HOT KOKI” and check out the similitude with James Brown’s “THE HUSTLE“; it is the same, just in English!

Posted by: Dr. Y. | May 18, 2015

Why the Name: N’Djamena?

Map of Chad (Source: Lonely Planet)

Map of Chad

N’Djamena … Oh Oh Oh Oh N’Djamena… N’Djamena … J’irai un jour à N’Djamena en passant par le Lac Tchad” (I will one day go to N’Djamena, via Lake Chad) says Cameroonian singer Andre Marie Tala with his great song “N’Djamena”. Have you ever wondered what the name of the capital of Chad might mean? Is it a Ngambaye’s name? Daza? Hausa? Arab? Sara? or Kotoko? or does it come from the ancient Kanem-Bornu, or Bornu Empires that flourished in the region centuries ago? or is it simply a mix of Arabic with some local language?

Flag of Chad

Flag of Chad

In reality, N’Djamena means “the city where one rests” (la ville où l’on se repose), or “the city where one finds rest.” Thinking about it, it is somewhat similar in meaning to that of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, whose name means “to spend the night,” or “to lie down,” or “the area where one spends the night.”

Place de la Nation, N'Djamena

Place de la Nation, N’Djamena

The city was not always called N’Djamena. In fact before 1973, it was called Fort Lamy, after a French army officer who had been killed in the Battle of Kousséri on May 29, 1900,  Amédée-François Lamy. It was a major trading city and became the capital of the region and nation. It is located on the Chari River, near the confluence with the Logone River, and directly faces the Cameroonian city of Kousséri, to which it is connected by a bridge, just like Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the capital cities of the two Congos. N’Djamena is a regional market for livestock, salt, dates, and grains. Meat, fish, and cotton processing are the main industries, and the city is the economic capital of the country as well as its political capital. It is Chad’s largest and most populous city.

On April 6, 1973, President François Tombalbaye changed the name of the city from Fort Lamy to N’Djamena. The name N’Djamena was taken from the Arab name of a nearby village, Nijamina or Am Djamena, meaning “place of rest“. Enjoy the great song by André Marie Tala, and like he says “I will one day go to N’Djamena… to discover its beautiful landscape.” Enjoy this great place of rest!

 

 

Posted by: Dr. Y. | May 15, 2015

B.B. King: So long to the King of Blues

B.B. King (Source: Achievement.org)

B.B. King (Source: Achievement.org)

I was first introduced to B.B. King‘s music by my father. As a child, what impressed me was not just my father’s love for good music, but his love for Blues, and in particular for B.B. King’s music. I mean, when you listened to the way the king played that guitar of his, you were instantly projected to another dimension. His voice touched your soul. He created a unique genre mixing country blues to big-city rhythms, recognizable by millions across the globe, and when he touched that stinging guitar of his with a shimmering vibrato, notes just leapt out. His biggest hit, “The Thrill is Gone” was a magnificent poem of love, pain, and perseverance written after his second divorce; and that is true of most of his other hits. His songs deeply connected with human emotions at their core. He influenced some of the world best guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and U2, to name just a few. The NY Times and BBC had a good article about B.B. King, the maestro… don’t forget to check out his Official website. I always dreamed of seeing him on stage… never had the chance. Enjoy “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King, the King of Blues.

Flag of Ethiopia

Flag of Ethiopia

Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie

Ethiopia is known as the cradle of humanity, but also as one of the best stables for long distance runners in the world. Ethiopia has produced a lot of super stars of the long distance running, but one who stands out above all is Haile Gebrselassie, the king of the distance. As a child, I remember being glued to the TV waiting to watch Haile’s performances. It was like watching a maestro at work. I loved seeing him run the whole 9600 m, then sprint through the last 200-400 m like he had just started the race. Gebrselassie has inspired me, and thousands of youths to run. We have all dreamed of running the distance the way he ran.

Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, defeating Paul Tergat of Kenya in the 10000 m run at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, defeating Paul Tergat of Kenya in the 10000 m run at the Sydney 2000 Olympics in a historic finish.

So it is with sadness that I learnt of Gebrselassie’s retirement from competitive running. I am delighted to have had a chance to see him in his prime years, and watch him transition from 10000 m to marathon running, and there still express perfection. Truly, everything he did in his running was done with perfection, striving to be the very best every stride he took, and that is the message to everyone out there: strive for perfection, strive to do the very best you can in everything you do, every single day.  To that effect, Gebrselassie said: “You need three things to win: discipline, hard work, and, before everything commitment. No one will make it without those three, sport teaches you that;” and “When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners, and not against time.” I am leaving you with the article I wrote three years ago about him, and with this great video on some of his accomplishments.

 

 

Posted by: Dr. Y. | May 8, 2015

“Sweet Mother” by Prince Nico Mbarga

Prince Nico Mbarga2To celebrate Mother’s day this Sunday, I just wanted to bring back “Sweet Mother” by Prince Nico Mbarga. “Sweet Mother” is one of the most popular songs on the African continent, ahead of Miriam Makeba‘s “Malaika“, Franco‘s “Mario“, and Fela Kuti‘s “Lady“. What is so special about this song, is that it is an ode to all our precious mothers, it is often called Africa’s anthem sung by a child to his mother. It is a highlife song sung by Prince Nico Mbarga and his group Rocafil Jazz International, a Cameroonian-Nigerian artist, and the song has rocked many on the continent; Sung in Pidgin English, “Sweet Mother” became one of the top sellers in the history of Nigerian music.  It was voted as Africa’s favorite song by BBC in 2004, and many other programs. So, to all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy “Sweet Mother“!!!

 

Sweet Mother by Prince Nico Mbarga

Sweet Mother
Sweet mother I no go forget you
for the suffer wey you suffer for me.

Sweet mother I no go forget you
for the suffer wey you suffer for me.

When I dey cry, my mother go carry me she go say,
my pikin, wetin you dey cry ye, ye,
stop stop, stop stop make you no cry again oh.

When I won sleep, my mother go pet me,
she go lie me well well for bed,
she cover me cloth, sing me to sleep,
sleep sleep my pikin oh.

When I dey hungry, my mother go run up and down.
she go find me something when I go chop oh.

Sweet mother I no go forget you for the suffer wey you suffer for me

When I dey sick, my mother go cry, cry, cry,
she go say instead when I go die make she die.

O, she go beg God,
God help me, God help, my pikin oh.

If I no sleep, my mother no go sleep,
if I no chop, my mother no go chop, she no dey tire oh.

Sweet mother I no go forget you,
for the suffer wey you suffer for me.

You fit get another wife, you fit get another husband,
but you fit get another mother? No!

And if I forget you, therefore I forget my life and the air I breathe.

And then on to you men, forget, verily, forget your mother,
for if you forget your mother you’ve lost your life.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | May 6, 2015

Proverbe sur les Risques / Proverb on Taking Risks

La poule / The hen

La poule / The hen

Egg / Oeuf

Egg / Oeuf

Un oeuf dans la bouche vaut mieux qu’une poule au poulailler (Proverbe Peul). – Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras.

An egg in the mouth is better than a hen in the coop (Fula proverb) . – A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | May 3, 2015

The Conference of Bandung – 60 years later

Nasser, Sukarno, and Nehru celebrating the success of the conference in 1955

Nasser, Sukarno, and Nehru celebrating the success of the conference in 1955

As the world marks the 60-year-anniversary of the Conference of Bandung, the real turning point in the history of decolonization for Asian and African countries, I found this article on Pambazuka particularly relevant. One question still remains: has anything changed 60 years laterDo we need another Bandung ConferenceIs the world a better place for the ‘weaker’ countries? Enjoy! For the full article, go to Pambazuka (pour une lecture en francais, aller sur Voltaire).

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One of the key outcomes from the Bandung Conference [in 1955] was the Afro-Asian hope to open the opportunity for the Global South representing largely Asian, African, Latin American and Oceania to have a voice in world affairs. The creation of a non-alignment space to seek freedom from joining either the USA or the USSR camp was a clear objective. The choice to pursue agency to realize full independence from all forms of colonialism, which much of Africa was still in, and the urgent need to deal with the risk of neo-colonialism by the recognition and appreciation to strengthen the formally independent Asian countries to remain free appeared to have motivated the Bandung gathering. The Bandung spirit and purpose was primarily driven to bring about a total post-colonial condition by removing the penetrability of the African, Asian, Oceania and Latin American peoples by opening the non-alignment route to independence and freedom. The objective was to try to identify and pursue ways and strategies of development along a decolonizing trajectory, free from the dictation of either the USA dominated world order or the attempt by the ex-USSR through the Cold War to create an alternative non-capitalist-driven world order.

Bandung Conference - 1955

Bandung Conference – 1955

Though in many ways the 1955 conference in Bandung, Indonesia was a turning point for attempting to construct a post-colonial international political order; we still live in a world where imperialism, colonialism, war, exploitation, injustice and unfairness continue to complicate the contemporary world political economic space. What was loudly voiced at Bandung was the anti-colonial spirit and the aspiration for building a world order that appreciates rather than ignores the Global South and the newly growing numbers of independent countries from colonialism still remain largely unfulfilled. Instead of decoloniality prevailing we have neo-colonialism penetrating most of the Global South. The state and condition of post-coloniality is still waiting to be realized. We need a new and revitalized Bandung Conference spirit and a strong Global South to put on the agenda a total post-colonial reality to guide the architecture of new global world re-order. Read More…

SpittingNe crachez pas en l’air, sinon la salive retombera sur vous (Proverbe Bakusu – République Démocratique du Congo). – Ne vous exposez pas au danger.

Do not spit up in the air, otherwise, the saliva will fall back on you (Bakusu Proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo). – Do not expose yourself to danger.

Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)

Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)

What is the wish of any mother who has just given birth to a baby, after lengthy hours of labor? To hear that child cry while taking his/her first breath of air. Any parent, and medical staff present, anxiously awaits for that child’s first cry, and sometimes the child needs help with that.  It is said that 10 million babies per year do not breathe immediately, while 6 million babies require basic neonatal resuscitation, and 3 million do not survive past their first day of life, and at least 1 million die each year due to breathing issues. Well, a doctor in Uganda, Dr. Santorino Data, has created the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), an inexpensive add-on device used to improve emergency ventilation, to help newborn babies who are having difficulty taking their first breath. The device monitors manual ventilation to provide real-time feedback on ventilation technique/quality and common errors such as leakage between the face and mask, airway blockage and incorrect pace or volume. This will give instant feedback to the health workers who are helping the child breathe, and will allow them to correct any mistakes instantly.

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) - (AIR Project)

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) – (AIR Project/ MIT D-Lab)

Well, check out this article on BBC which highlights Dr. Data’s work, and his partnership with a team of medical doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital to improve the chances for more newborns around the globe to take their first breath of fresh AIR.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | April 24, 2015

Looted Ancient Egyptian Artifacts are Returning Home

Coffin of Shesepamuntayesher, mummified 2600 years ago (National Geographic)

Coffin of Shesepamuntayesher, mummified 2600 years ago (Source: National Geographic)

It is true: some ancient Egyptian artifacts smuggled into the US are returning home. For many years, people looted the graves of pharaohs in Egypt and smuggled their finds by express shipping to the US (and other countries – particularly in Europe). Excerpt of an article in National Geographic reads:

Some 2,600 years ago, an Egyptian woman named Shesepamuntayesher was mummified and laid to rest in an elaborate three-part coffin to ensure the continuation of her life force and the beginning of an eternal afterlife.

Stylized face of Shesepamuntayesher depicted on her coffin (Source: National Geographic)

Stylized face of Shesepamuntayesher depicted on her coffin (Source: National Geographic)

Shesepamuntayesher’s afterlife has unfortunately included a trip to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and an ignominious stop in a garage in Brooklyn, New York. On Wednesday, thanks to a five-year investigation by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the empty sarcophagus that once cradled her mummy is being returned to Egypt, where it will be housed in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.”

The damages done to Egyptian culture, and many African cultures, by art smugglers and looters cannot be quantified. It is important to fight to preserve these ancient cultures which tell us so much more about some of the world’s greatest civilizations, and about humanity in general. So it feels good to see art going back to their land of origin: like the looted art from Benin Kingdom which was returned to its people, or the great Obelisk of Axum, which was stolen by the Italians in 1935, and later returned after countless demands from the Ethiopian government in 2005. Please do check out the rest of the article on National Geographic.

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