Friday, September 02, 2005

Songs of summer

I'm not normally one to get all nostalgic about songs, but...I "acquired" (read: illegaly downloaded) three songs by Akon (Mr. Lonely, Locked Up and Ghetto) which make me hopelessly nostalgic for Dakar; you couldn't go a day in Dakar this summer without hearing all three songs.

The popularity of Akon in Senegal is an odd sort of thing: he was born in the U.S. and he raps in English in the American tradition on American subjects, thus, we can read his popularity as a simple expression of American cultural imperialism, or whatever. But he was raised in the U.S. and Senegal by his Senegalese parents (his dad was a percussionist for such artists as the Jackson 5 and James Brown). And he performs in Senegal: this summer he played two shows (why didn't I go to them? I'm stupid) and he had an audience with the President of the Republic Abdoulaye Wade, age about 76, at which he gave Wade an enormous piece of "bling."

He's an interesting intermediate figure: recognizably Senegalese (full name: Aliaune Akon Thiam), and recognized as such (see audience with Wade), but also legitimately American (he shows up briefly on one of 50 Cent's cds as just another American rapper). Thus he can be widely embraced both because he's a local (and thus acceptable) but also because he's a foreigner (and thus young'uns like his music).

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