Words by Nigel Williamson
Revolutionary songs written right on the frontline
In October 2014, the people of Burkina Faso took to the streets to demand the removal of Blaise Compaoré, the country’s despotic ruler of 30 years. He fled and democratic elections were announced, but then cancelled following a military coup. Burkina hip-hop star Smockey was a key player in the protests, leading the youth movement Le Balai Citoyen, and this album collects the songs Smockey wrote before and during the uprising.
Mixing hip-hop beats with reggae and African rhythms, he sings in French and it’s a shame that translations are not provided for the lyrics are not only militant but full of sharp and savage wit. On the title-track he imagines giving le président a ride on his moto (motorbike) to show him the capital’s poverty-stricken slums. There’s a power-cut, the traffic lights fail and an accident occurs, so Smockey takes the dictator to the city hospital (named after Compaoré himself), where he can’t be treated because the facilities are inadequate. He follows this with ‘On Passe à l’attaque’, a stirring call to the barricades, ‘Dossier Zongo’, about the murder of a journalist critical of the regime, and a dozen more well-targeted musical missiles. Not just a collection of protest songs, this is the soundtrack to a revolution.