Entre 2 album review: Mal Appris

Track 2: Mal Appris (“Miseducated”)

The album’s second track, Mal Appris (“Miseducated”), opens to a dramatic clap of thunder, out of which spills the sound of rain and over which we hear the melody of a well-known Rwandan nursery rhyme. As the melodic phrase repeats, 1Key poetically recalls childhood memories from his earliest years spent in Goma, DRC. In French, 1Key paints a vivid scene, with blissful images of innocence existing alongside poverty, hunger and the sadistic behaviour of his school teachers. He tells us:

“When it was raining, with my friends, we ran naked in the rain

At dusk I loved watching the fireflies shine.”

And later:

“Bare foot, that’s how we used to go to school

Shorts had holes at the rear; prints of the whip.” (Translated from French to English)

1Key told me that he hated school, where he was abused and “miseducated.” In the hook, 1Key articulates his frustrations with the system of rote learning, with limited space for critical thinking, when he says:

“All memorised without asking any questions

To forget everything at the end of education.” (Translated from French to English)

Later in the track, 1Key reiterates his point by referencing Talking Tom, a toy robot cat and mobile phone App which parrots what it is told to say. 1key explained to me how his teachers would simply parrot what they were instructed to teach, without understanding the content themselves. His concern is how students, and essentially citizens, go on to adopt this behaviour.

DSCN3919

Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. 1Key performing Mal Appris with his son Kerick. On the #Expericment. [Courtesy of the author]

To the repetitive thuds of the bass drum and the evocative sounds of frogs and crickets, 1Key repeats the hook: an ironic and bitter rendition of the Rwandan nursery rhyme, which according to 1key “didn’t even make sense. We just memorized it to learn how to conjugate in French.” In the hook, 1 Key switches between French and Kinyarwanda. He originally planned for the nursery rhyme to be recorded by children, but decided that his own robotic voice, adjusted by auto-tunes, was more fitting.

In the final verse of Mal Appris, 1key continues his critique, revealing how it is almost impossible to gain employment in this region of Africa without using personal connections. Also, that people tend to care more about whether they “look like a boss” than having the knowledge of a boss. Here, the Entre Deux (“Between Two”) theme reappears, whereby disparities between education and knowledge and between success and competence are highlighted. 1Key is disillusioned by the formal education system he experienced. Despite him personally building a successful career, 1Key is angry. He asks the questions:

“Where is that success that our teachers promised us?

If school is the key to success, why are they still poor?” (Translated from French to English)

Entre 2 is available on Soundcloud – Entre2 and for sale on digital stores iTunesSpotify, and Amazon. 
Eric 1key is very active on social media where you can find him discussing and debating all kinds of things. For updates and live info, follow Eric1key on Twitter: @eric1key, Facebook: Facebook/eric1key, Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/eric1key or email for bookings at ericonekey@gmail.com

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Song lyrics and translations

Mal Appris (“Miseducated” [Track 2 on Entre 2 album]) 

Prod. Barick (Kigali). Vocals: Yego Studio (Kampala); French, Kinyarwanda.

[Verse 1] [Verse 1]
J’ai des images claires de mon enfance comme si c’était hier The memories of my childhood are as vivid as if it was at yesterday
Petit village, l’électricité était loin de mon quartier Small village, electricity was far from my neighbourhood
Lorsqu’il pleuvait, avec mes amis, on courait tout nus sous la pluie When it was raining, with my friends, we ran naked in the rain
A la tombée de la nuit, j’adorais contempler les lucioles luire At dusk I loved watching the fireflies shine
En famille, les soirs on jouait au griot à tour de role At night we would get together as a family of storytellers
Malgré les ventres vides des fois, nos impros restaient tout drôles Despite our empty stomachs, our improvisations remained quite funny
C’est au grésillement des grillons qu’on fermait les paupières It was to the sounds of crickets that we closed our eyes
Pour une trêve de misère, on rêvassait de planer dans les airs For a truce of misery, we dreamed to hover in the air
Pas comme des papillons mais comme nos cerfs-volants en papier Not like butterflies but as our paper kites
Pour ne pas se perdre au premier coup de vent et s’éloigner des nôtres So we don’t lose ourselves in the first gust of wind and get separated from our families
Pieds nus, c’est ainsi que souvent on allait à l’école Bare foot, that’s how we used to go to school
Shorts troués à l’arrière, derrières aux traces de la chicote Shorts with holes at the rear; prints of the whip
Qui aime bien châtie bien, mes fesses! C’étaient des sadiques It wasn’t tough love, they were just sadistic
D’esclaves en maîtres, très vite, les victimes deviennent des oppresseurs from slaves to masters, very quickly the victims become the oppressors
Le colon est parti mais nous a laissé oncle Tom comme professeur The colonisers departed but left us with Uncle Tom as teacher
Heureusement on n’a pas appris de lui autant que de nos potes Fortunately we did not learn from him as much as we learned from our friends
C’est grâce à eux qu’aujourd’hui on sait compter les uns sur les autres It is thanks to them that today we can count on each other
On s’est même créé des chansons bidon pour apprendre un peu de conjugaison We even createdcreated dummy songs just to learn how to conjugate
[Hook] [Hook]
Ka gakeru ko ku Muhima That old woman who lives in Muhima
Katetse inkono irashirira Cooked food and it all got burnt
Kajya kumena kagira gati when she went to pour it away, she said:
J’ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont I have, you have, he has, we have, you have, they have
Tout mémorisé sans poser de question All memorized without asking any questions
Pour tout oublier au bout de l’éducation To forget everything at the end of education
[Verse 2] [Verse 2]
Innombrables sont les nuits blanches, passées sous la lueur des lampes à pétrole Countless and sleepless were the nights, spent under the glow of oil lamps
L’avenir était en jeu, il n’était pas question qu’on flanche The future was at stake, there was no time to be complacent
Alors on mémorisait nos leçons comme si c’était des chansons en créole So we memorized our lessons as if they were songs in  créole
Les pieds dans les cuves d’eau, le corps exposé au froid The feet soaked into water containers, the body exposed to the cold
On savait bien que nos examens n’étaient des tests de mémoire We knew well that our examinations were just memory tests
Des récitations aux chansons d’enfance From reciting crammed poems to childhood songs
Des cours de croyances aux sciences from religion courses to science
Des situations géographiques aux dates historiques Geographical situations to historical dates
Des équations mathématiques aux cycles biologiques Mathematical equations to biological cycles
Des notes de musique aux exercices linguistiques From the music notes to linguistic exercises
Des experimentations physiques aux réactions chimiques non expérimentées Physics demonstrations to un-experimented chemistry
Sans poser de question, on a tout bloqué Without asking any questions, we memorised everything
Tout était théorique, avec le temps, tout était dicté Everything was theoretical, with time, everything became dictated
Horribles sont devenues nos écritures pour rester au rythme Our handwriting became horrible to keep up with our teacher’s pace
De nos profs plus attentifs à nos ratures qu’au contenu de nos écrits Who paid more attention to our crossed out words than their content
Inventifs, on a dû se fabriquer des gommes pour bic Innovative, we had to come up with ways to rub ink on paper
Et très souvent on a fait recours à des astuces de tricherie And very often we resorted to cheating
Après tout ce sont les points qui comptaient After all, the only thing that mattered were marks
Nos cerveaux étaient des éponges qui ne gardaient Our brains were sponges that couldn’t maintain anything
Rien à la pression des interrogations At the pressure of “interrogations”
Dans ce système, nous étions des projets de domestication In this system, we were projects of domestication
Sinon, que veux-tu que le perroquet apprenne de Talking Tom? Otherwise, what do you want the parrot to learn from Talking Tom?
[Hook] [Hook]
Ka gakeru ko ku Muhima That old woman who lives in Muhima
Katetse inkono irashirira Cooked the food and it all got burnt
Kajya kumena kagira gati when she went to pour it away, she said:
J’ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont I have, you have, he has, we have, you have, they have
Tout mémorisé sans poser de question All memorized without asking any questions
Pour tout oublier au bout de l’éducation To forget everything at the end of education
[Verse 3] [Verse 3]
Environ 16 ans à tourner les pages dans les deux sens About 16 years turning pages both sides
A répondre présent à chaque cours malgré notre absence Pretending to be present at every class despite our absence of mind
D’esprit… Déficit d’attention à outrance dès notre enfance A high attention deficit marked our childhood
C’est triste mais normal qu’on ait finit qu’avec des poussières de connaissances It is sad but quite normal that we ended with only a pinch of knowledge
A quoi sert un diplôme quand les boulots exigent de l’experience? What is a degree when the jobs require experience
Des compétences alors que l’école nous gonflent de théorie And skillset when school only pumped us with theories?
Car en pratique sans les pistons, très peu auraient des jobs Because practically, without personal connections, very few people would have jobs today
Où est-elle donc cette réussite que ont promis nos profs? Where is that success that our teachers promised us?
Si “l’école c’est la clé du succès,” pourquoi sont-ils restés pauvres? If school is the key to success, why are they still poor?
Aujourd’hui avec un peu de chance et quelques connexions, on taff Today, with a little bit of luck and a few connections we work
Enfin, pour un minimum on se pend sous un soleil de plomb en cravate For a minimum wage, we hang ourselves in ties under a blazing sun
Mais tant qu’on donne l’impression d’être le patron, c’est pas grave But as long as we look like bosses, it’s all good
Esclave de l’uniformisation de la pensée, on pousse la roue de la société Slaves of thought uniformity, we push the society wheel
Sans poser de question, à notre tour, embrasse la médiocrité Without questioning, we embrace mediocrity
Mais qu’on se le dise école n’a jamais été synonyme de charité Yet school has never been synonymous with charity
C’est du biz et vu le produit, je crois qu’on s’est fait arnaqué It is business and given the product, we’ve been scammed
Ils quantifient notre intelligence avec des tests et on les croit They quantify our intelligence with tests and we believe them
C’est quoi leur quotient à l’examen de nos détresses qu’ils exploitent? What is their IQ to the test of our pain that they exploit?
Mes ancetres n’ont-ils pas tout bâti de zero sans leurs écoles? Didn’t my ancestors build everything from scratch without their schools?
C’est cette sagesse incommensurable que je veux pour guide It is this immeasurable wisdom that I yearn for as a guide
Pour sortir de ce système car c’est une taule To break out of this system because it’s a trap
[Hook] [Hook]
Ka gakeru ko ku Muhima That old woman who lives in Muhima
Katetse inkono irashirira Cooked the food and it all got burnt
Kajya kumena kagira gati When she went to pour it away, she said:
J’ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont I have, you have, he has, we have, you have, they have
Tout mémorisé sans poser de question All memorized without asking any questions
Pour tout oublier au bout de l’éducation To forget everything at the end of education
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