Sunday, 27 May 2018

Hometowns and homes

It’s ages since I’ve been to that teashop
and I haven’t gone back down that straight lane
where cobblers used to sit by the bus stop
though I’ve thought often I must go back again,

see myself if the lamppost with the dent
is the same still? wires sagging drunkenly;
if the same old cracks split up the pavement
made wider perhaps by that jamun tree.

We played barefoot, we rarely had shoes on
and had no business with the shoeshine guy.
I wonder if new hopscotch lines get drawn
and if the shop still serves our spiced up chai?

But what if the jamun has been cut down? -
tough that homes don’t always stay in hometowns.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Ordinary trips


All my journeys, even the quick trips
to top up the fridge, to the corner store
were pilgrimages – I just didn’t know it –
sacred without the fuss of unstitched cloth.

Sacred without strong curling incense smoke
without the sound of bells, and sandal paste,
everyday sacred – a flea bitten dog
by the roadside rooting in the vats

raising his head at my scent, to sniff
and drop it back again in the trash,
a sudden war-conch blare in the traffic
inching forward to meet the peak hour rush.

All of them were pilgrimages – each one
on hallowed ground without any milestone.


Each step peels away in moments, yet builds
a spine and shrinks it too, it is deepened
even as it is deeply scooped and stripped.
I walk home with rice and a frozen chicken.

Is the body a cell? It never felt
a prison, the room never like a shrine,
the sacred always outside in a world
of rotting mango peels, feet crumbed with grime

washing at the gobbets of old tube wells.
My heels are cracked with winter, lashes spiked
with discharge, but they can bear witness still
to the small miracles of runway lights

guiding the plane back on land. Every trip
a sacredness – I just didn’t know it.


Yet it knows, deep within its chemical paths
the body knows and responds to sacred -
that’s why it stands barefoot on the earth
turns to the red glow beyond its shut eyelids,

and opens them for dogs on garbage heaps,
thinks the doorsill is its point of conflict. –
There's a degree of sacred in concrete,
if the earth's paved over, nothing's diminished.

And that’s why it walks to the corner store,
onto the four point crossing, and the bus stop
and beyond that, and beyond! goes where it goes
in blind tribute, yanked by its own make up.

That’s why it leaves, the fridge’s just a pretext,
and why it comes back and plans where to go next.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

In my apron

Poppy field by van Gogh, 1890. Image credit

I will not let this snow cover
of violence deaden my world
into breathless radio silence.
I will not let sandpaper words,
the hard, wind-tossed hearts of vandals,
swamp out the daisies and poppies
when and where it’s spring. I’ll let drifts
of leaves fall wherever they want,
weave against this doorsill in autumn.
I’ll pluck huge bouquets of hope,
keep them massed in my apron
like secret talismans. From the red
wildfires of poppies I’ll pick them,
and from the red, dead leaf banks.
I’ll walk miles of cheerful wildflowers
and the sky’ll sew its own linings
overhead in gold and silvershine.
And the sharp-spiralled razor wires
won’t stop a single leaf. Or stop me
from holding the flaming bunches
in the crook of my torn elbows.


In praise of some violence

Sunday, 6 May 2018

A-Z reflections: At the end of something or other - n still Zetetic, though Zonked...

For some vague reason this song has been bzzzzzing in my head…so I might as well share it here.  

As with the other years, intrepid stranger or close friend, you pays no money, but you gets your choice - take your pick -

Monday, 30 April 2018

Z is for Ze End!

is for

Leonard Karikoga Zhakata (1968 - ) - a Zimbabwean musician and singer with his 1994 smash hit Mugove, from the album Maruva Enyika, which propelled him to national stardom. 

Maiko Zulu is a Zambian musician, reggae artist, and human rights activist, well-known for his activism. Listen to his Reggae Zambia.

Also Zone Fam, a hip hop band from Zambia with Life is Good. Lots of choice today for the last letter of the challenge. Drink, sing and be merry for tomorrow we may diet. 

And an album called Zabalasa by Thandiswa Mazwai, one of South Africa’s award winner musicians, singing in Xhosa. 

This track called Hna (Here) from the album Zarabi by Oum el Ghait Benessahraoui from Morocco singing in the local Arabic dialect. I've talked about her and Here before for my previous A-Z too.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Y is for Yen...and...Yesteryears...and...Yankari

is for
Yegna, an all-girl Ethiopian band, which uses music to raise awareness about women’s rights and social issues among young people. Yegna means ‘ours’ in Amharic. Listen to them in the clip below and read more about them here.

Y’akoto – a musician of Ghanaian-German heritage, born in Hamburg, she spent her childhood in various countries in Africa and is now resident in Europe. Listen to her track Come down to the River.

And since this A-Z is ending and I won’t get the opportunity again, I’m including Yamore, a track composed by Selif Keita and sung by him and Cesaria Evora, two voices from the continent I absolutely adore. Enjoy!

Friday, 27 April 2018

X is....a piece of cake...only in Africa!

is for

Xalam with a track called Xaarit.  Xalam is a Senegalese band formed originally by a group of friends in 1969, called African Khalam Orchestra. Different musicians have joined and played at Xalam. Find out more about them here.

Xalat – a track by Ismael Lo. Ismael is a musician of Senegalase-Nigerian heritage.

And also Silver X, the stage name of Okuta Ceasar Malish Jeremiah, an award winning musician from South Sudan with a track called Duniya Karabu. 

And finally, here is diva Miriam Makeba with Baxabene Oxamu, a Xhosa number. The track has both the transliteration and translation in English. Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

W is for WiFi ...and...Wallets... and...Well, just one more sip of Wine

is for

Fadhili Williams (1938-2001) – This is the oldest recorded version of ‘Malaika’ available online, Williams was the first person to record this song with his band ‘The Jambo Boys’ in the early 60’s. The authorship is controversial. Many think it was written by a Tanzanian musician called Adam Salim who was never credited in the recordings and did not make any money off the song. He wrote it for his girlfriend whose parents didn’t approve of the match and forced her to marry someone else. But Williams also claimed the same experience and inspiration, and the song. The authorship was contested legally and settled in favour of Williams in 1986, however many Tanzanians continue to believe that Salim was the rightful owner. Miriam Makeba was taken to court by Williams also for singing it. Read more about the history of the Wrangling over this song, and/or enjoy listening!

Wazimbo – is the stage name of Humberto Carlos Benfica, the most famous singer of a genre called Marrabenta, a fusion of Mozambican traditional dance rhythms with Portuguese folk. Enjoy!

And Wizkid who is huge in Nigerian music, here’s one of his tracks featuring the famous Fela Kuti.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

V is for Valiha...and...Viticulture

is for

Virtuoso from Mali - Vieux Farka Toure, the son of Ali Farka Toure. Magic fingers playing the desert blues!

And also Neide Van-dunem, a singer from Angola – watch her music video featuring Calo Pascoal below:

And last but not the least, here’s late Brenda Fassie - the Black Madonna, one of the top Vocalists from Africa with Vulindlela, which means ‘Open the gates’ a celebratory song sung from the POV of a parent whose son’s getting married. Also another great musician, singer-songwriter from South Africa - Vusi Mahlasela, who is simply known as The Voice - worth checking out by clicking this link here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

U is for Ugali... and... Ujamaa

is for

First off, a Ghanaian Highlife band called Uhuru Dance Band, singing a track called Umraro

If you want a quick round up of the history of Highlife, go here.

And here's another Ghanaian hiphop artiste - Joey B, with a title called U x me

I have a lot of choices for you today – Cesaria Evora and Dorota Miśkiewicz with Um Pincelada

Finally Under African Skies composed by Paul Simon and sung by him and Miriam Makeba. Controversial at the time because Simon travelled to SA in defiance of a cultural ban in place due to the policy of apartheid. He recorded with African musicians and subsequently faced criticism about cultural appropriation as well. But as far as I am concerned, that’s just two of my absolute favourite musicians’ art together – sublime! 

Monday, 23 April 2018

T is for Tourism ... and ... Trophies

is for

Tinariwen - a Tuareg (Amazigh) band from Mali, formed in a refugee camp. Internationally renowned since the 2000’s, they won the Grammy in 2012 for their album Tassilli. Very guitar driven, stirring music, take a listen to their track Tiwayyen -

Ali Farka Toure - the most renowned musician out of West Africa and the grand old man of the desert blues, can’t not include him! He was the first musician to popularise Malian music across the world. Read more about him here.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

S is for Safari... and... Songs... and... Slavery

is for

Oumou Sangaré is a multi-awarded musician and a leading exponent of the Wassoulou genre of Mali - its performers are largely women, and its lyrics address themes and subjects relevant to the lives of women in the region. Here is a song from her 2009 Grammy nominated album Seya -

And  for a completely different listening experience, here’s Tiwa Savage, with Standing Ovation featuring Olamide, both Nigerian contemporary artistes.