I remember seeing an interview with Angolan musician Paulo Flores some time ago in which he described with his solemn poetry life in urban Angola – lots of people with their feet in the mud but tuning in to satellite TV.
I can’t find the interview now, but it doesn’t much matter because he sang about the same thing, in a “letter” to a mother, which we imagine living in a province somewhere. I cannot do the full song justice in translation, as I am not talented enough. Here are some sections:
“I hope you are well, and I don’t want to worry you here, but [...]
Rhythms are broken and wants grow, ignoring dislikes, ignoring the strength of the unwanted, mixing with the new sounds of the peripheries, while phone calls change the face of the city, building, cranes, half-naked women and progress runs over with sincerity the generation of utopia.
Oh mother, your son who one day dreamed of changing the world.
The disfigured with their heads down descend on compatriots and citizens looking for money at the traffic light of the new civilization, oh mother it will not be me falling into disgrace for not being the mirror of the sterile contents of the new TV. [...] women with high-heels always going to weddings where all the Marias pass through the mud of the semi-pavement [...]
Original transcription from angola xyami
Flores positions himself here as a cultural bridge between the liberation generation and the generation coming up. In the lusophone sphere I think he is really unique in this, I would dare to say even in sub saharan Africa.
But he appears on ads for banks. He lives a comfortable life. He observes at a certain distance.
The new generation does not have the luxury of his melancholic gaze.
They live in the mud and are not scared to throw rocks or burn tires. It was the same Soundcloud user “Pequenolino” that drew my attention to the young rapper Extremo Signo and his lyrical combat in a track called “Reportagem”, or “News report”.
As Flores does in his “letter”, Extremo Signo frames his critique with a poetic device, simulating an interview with state radio, in which he drops the “bomb” on the powers that be. He speaks of the influences of China, Brazil, and of a fury that only grows
I’ve tried to transcribe and translate a couple of lines, but I can’t do it justice. (I invite my readers to do the rest and to correct me if I’m wrong)
“bué de problemas aqui mas não muda a situação
sempre confusão rebelião [?] se morre o irmão
partem as portas de casa para fazer caixão”
“a felicidade dura pouco como as obras dos chineses”
“a esquadra que era escola já não ensina nada
os nem procuram-saldo os mambo-do-gato
para não virar bandidos saem engraxa-sapatos
vivem como ratos não são egos são factos porque alguns até dizem preferiam morrer no parto”
“ate custa crer que temos administrador nesta merda
culpado também és tu que pegas num kumbo [dinheiro]
que gasta em roupas caras ou em qualquer mambo fútil
gastar em festas parvas para ti é mambo útil
que [?] tem razão a tua existência é inútil”
“vidas incrédulas flores sem pétulas
só conhecem pai porque nome está na cédula
vivem nas esquinas respiram gasolina”
“tentam nos distrair com novelas da Globo
mas aqui há novelas que já não valem a pena ver de novo”
Mad problems here but nothing changes
Always confusion, rebellion [?] if a brother dies
They pull down the door of the house for his coffin [...]
Happiness does not last, just like Chinese construction[...]
The police station that was a school doesn’t teach anymore
The don’t-even-bother-to-save, the hustlers
So they don’t become criminals just shine shoes
they live like mice they aren’t egos they are just facts
because some say they would have preferred to die at birth [...]
Hard to believe we have government in this shit
You are also to blame, you grab cash
And spend it on expensive clothes or some futile thing
Spending on stupid parties is for you useful
[?] is right: your existence is futile [...]
Incredulous lives, flowers without petals
They only know their father because his name is on their ID
They live on the street corners inhaling petrol fumes [...]
They try and distract us with the Brazilian soaps
but here there soap operas that are not worth seeing again [...]