Monday, February 9, 2009

And then, we went to a concert

We had seen the poster taped on the doors of the store, the bakery, and the restaurant. Black and white printed on an A4 sheet of paper, it announced Bonsa in concert in Dori for the first time, this Saturday night at ‘Séno Ambiance’, the maquis to be for dancing in Dori. The poster said nine o’clock, we left the house about half an hour later, wondering whether it would have started already or if concert times also fall in the category of relaxed African schedules.

As it turns out, this was actually not a case of relaxed African schedule- no, this was very, very relaxed, as we had to wait three hours before the DJ, apologizing for ‘ce tout petit retard’, introduced Bonsa onto the floor. But considering our relaxed African spirit, this was no problem. We drank Malta Guinness (non-alcoholic malt beer, much too sweet) and watched the dance floor fill up to the sound of coupé decalé- before joining it ourselves, of course!

It is past midnight already when the music stops and people take their seats. We wait. The loudspeakers play the familiar Windows-computer-starting-up jingle. Followed by the USB-stick-has-been-plugged-in sound. Finally the DJ (whose baby is one of the few in the crowd tonight by the way- ‘his mother wanted to come to the concert too, so we had to take him with us’- the adorable boy spent the whole time sleeping despite the loud music) enthusiastically introduces Bonsa to the lukewarm crowd. Bonsa runs up to the dance floor like a boxer entering the ring, and, after introducing himself, casually lets us know that the concert will be in playback.

Indeed, after singing a few lines a capella (to prove that he can actually sing?), he announces his first song, which starts playing on the loudspeakers. He clutches onto his mike and passionately mouths along the song. He is wearing a brown ‘boubou’ (traditional African dress), completely clashing with the gangsta style, flat-rimmed, red cap on his head, and he accompanies his fake singing with energetic Usher-meets-Westlife dance moves. The entire scene is incredible. Even more so when, as he introduces his second song, the same song he just ‘performed’ starts again. A few seconds into it they realize the mistake and switch to the next one. Frederic, the Burkinabe friend with us that evening, is not surprised- apparently, the majority of concerts in Burkina are done in playback. I don’t know about the other concerts, but, in all honesty, this was simply ridiculous!

After the third song, for some reason, Bonsa takes a break. To keep the crowd entertained, the DJ invites some guy sporting a Nokia t-shirt onto the dance floor for the ‘danse de la bouteille’, i.e. to dance while balancing an empty beer bottle on his head. To the crowd’s delight he moves his hips (very suggestively, as is most coupé decalé dancing) to the music, bottle steadily standing on his head, for a good ten minutes. Though it verges on the circus act when the DJ keeps telling him to get down and back up again and back down, it’s quite impressive. Clearly, the guy has been practicing (and if he’s anything like Thierno, that probably means hours of mirrors!), and for good reason as people, including Frederic, seem to love it. In fact they seem to like it a lot more than Bonsa, who barely receives a few claps as he takes the stage again. Two songs later, it’s enough laughing for one night. Kath and I get on our motorbike and ride home under the bright bright moon.

ps- apologies for the text/pictures imbalance, but the internet is too slow to upload any pictures on the blog these days

**edit many months later: Bonsa actually performed at the Festival Mundial in Tilburg (The Netherlands)this summer, and I went to see him, waving a Burkinabe flag of course. He was apparently voted best Burkinabe artist in 2008! Though that made me curious considering his Dori performance, I mainly went to regain some missed Burkinabe feel after being back in Europe for a few months.

Accompanied by a band playing traditional instruments, himself on a string one I think, Bonsa's performance was much better than the playback one in Dori. The traditional music also seemed more suited than his pop/r'n'b attempt, although when he saw there were a few Burkina(be) enthusiasts in the crowd he led his band to playing some coupe decale-ish songs with the traditional instruments, and that worked quite well- it actually ended up in two Burkinabes jumping on the small stage to dance!

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