Entre 2 album review: A l’Africaine (Iwacu)

Track 3: L’Africaine (Iwacu) [“In the African Style (Iwacu)”]

A l’Africaine (Iwacu) (“In the African Style [Iwacu]”) is a love song between 1Key and Africa, his Iwacu, which means “home” or “homeland” in Kinyarwanda. In his song, 1Key invites us to a generalised Africa. His detailed descriptions evoke the human senses when he speaks of rain flowing over skin, kept warm by the sun. He tells us: “Close your eyes so I can remove your mascara with my kisses”, and: “Come, put your head on my chest/Listen to the echo of the source of my forces.” (Translated from French to English) The hook, too, has a particularly seductive quality:

“Come taste this love

Though it might seem tough

It’s sweet like sugar cane

Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine [‘I wanna love you the African way’]

Iwacu.” (Translated from French to English)

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Kigali, Rwanda. 2016. Cecile Kayirebwa performing at her album launch. [Courtesy of the author]

For 1Key, a self-proclaimed citizen of the world, home is not a single, fixed place, but a feeling. Wishing to evoke a feeling of connectedness to Rwanda, he samples Cecile Kayirebwa’s renowned and well-loved song Iwacu, which was released as a track on her Amahoro (“Peace”) album in 1998, four years after the 1994 Genocide. When the Rwandan traditional singer recorded Iwacu she was living in Belgium. 1Key told me: “She was announcing her homecoming. She was describing the streets of Kigali, you know? It was beautiful”

While Cecile Kayirebwa was longing to physically return home to Rwanda, 1Key was already there, living a life between Kigali, Rwanda and Kampala, Uganda, and amongst the beautiful nature he so lovingly describes. For 1Key, his nostalgia is for a generalised “African Style”, before it was corrupted and diluted by dominant, Western-born ideals. For a moment, at least, 1Key invites us to take off our watches and our make-up, and to stop viewing life through technology. He says:

“Forget your apps, your gadgets, disconnect yourself from the society-screen

Reality is in the experience of the moment, not on the screen

Free yourself from modern slavery,  come discover that innocent smile that you lost

Before we move to the other side, or before the machine colonises us” (Translated from French to English)

Kibuye, Rwanda

Lake Kivu, Kibuye-Rwanda. [Courtesy of the author]

As well as forms of technology, 1Key asks his listeners to forget Western romance plots like Roméo and Juliet and Cyrano de Bergérac, which, he told me, he and his peers were exposed to during their childhoods, and which “set the format for love.” (1Key) Instead, 1Key makes reference to African stories, folk tales and superstitions, thus celebrating and promoting this generalised “African Style” he refers to. 1Key raps about Bwiza, a princess in “Rwanda’s most popular romantic tale.” (1Key) He says: “I had ticks in my eyes before I met you”, which, according to Rwandan superstition, happens to a person when they’re about to see something beautiful and surprising. Finally, 1Key raps:

“Do not be afraid of the dark, these BOOM that you hear

It is the ndombolo, makossa, kwasa kwasa coupe de Kale

These loud voices are byivugo, mpangara nguhangare, under a starlit sky.” (Translated from French to English)

Here, 1Key is making reference to drum-heavy dance styles from the DRC (ndombolo, and then the kwasa kwasa style invented by Congolese soukous music legend Pepe Kalle), and from Côte d’Ivoire (makossa), as well as Rwandese oral traditions. Like most Kigalians today, 1Key is extremely proud to be Rwandan, and also African more generally. The artist wanted to counter the “racist cartoons” and pernicious representations of Africa as “the dark continent”, which have dominated (and to a large extent continue to dominate) Western media outlets. 1Key’s concerns in relation to representations of Africa are reflective of current discourse among many African communities.

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Lake Kivu, Gisyeni/Rubavu-Rwanda. [Courtesy of the author]

Continuing the album’s motif of Entre Deux (or “Between Two”), 1Key further indulges in African folk tales. In the first verse he describes the in-between weather of “sunny rains” and tells us: “You will be amazed by the/Dance of these innocent little children celebrating the birth of the new leopard”. (Translated from French to English). In the Rwandan version of this tale, when it rains and it is sunny at the same time a hyena has just got married, while in the Ugandan version this signifies the birth of a leopard. 1Key recorded his vocals in Kampala and he opted for the Ugandan version of the tale, which rhymes beautifully. 1Key told me that he enjoyed inserting an element of surprise for his audience, which is predominantly made up of Francophone Rwandans.

A l’Africaine (Iwacu) is rich with multiple meanings and references to 1Key’s lived experiences, which he manages to sew together in creative and thoughtful ways. 1Key is a playful poet and enjoys concealing meaning between the lines of his text, for the “deserving ones” to uncover. (Refer to the final line of Apprenti_Sage) The opening line of A l’Africaine (Iwacu) makes reference to a song called Monaco (28 degrés à l’ombre) by Jean François Maurice. 1Key remembers listening to this explicitly erotic French song on Radio Rwanda. He tells us: “In my world [meaning Rwanda] we remain bashful, yet it is always beautiful”. (Translated from French to English). Once again, 1Key is appealing for pride in “the African style”, this time in relation to conversations about sex. Rwandans are more reticent about public discussions of sex than Westerners stereotypically are.

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Musanze, Rwanda. 2015. Rwandan traditional dance: a contemporary cultural symbol of “being Rwandan.” [Courtesy of Amy Pritchard]

In A L’Africaine (Iwacu), 1Key celebrates a rather romantic view of the “African Style” as being about: folktales and drums, nature and innocence, and forgoing technology. His song speaks to some of the big, important themes in Rwandan nation-building efforts and patriotism: the promotion of Rwandan traditional dance, the celebration of Rwanda’s beautiful landscapes (and gorillas), and Agaciro: a powerful phrase that Rwandans use to define their self-worth and dignity. Simultaneously, 1Key contributes to current efforts in countering negative portrayals of Africa, such as the image of starving children with flies in their eyes. Interestingly, though, 1Key’s generalising of the “African Style” (rather than acknowledging the continent’s diversity), and the associating of Africa with innocent rural scenes and drums, reinforces particular stereotypes about the African continent; stereotypes which members of various African and pan-African communities have opposed.

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

A L’Africaine (Iwacu) (“In the African Style” (Iwacu) [Track 3 on Entre 2 album]) 

Prod. Junior Kafi (Kigali). Vocals: Urban Aksent (Kampala); French, English, Kinyarwanda.

[Verse 1] [Verse 1]
28 degrés à l’ombre, le temps serait lubrique à Monaco 28 degrees in the shade, the time would be lustful in Monaco
Dans mon monde, on reste pudique pourtant il fait toujours beau In my world we remain bashful, yet it is always beautiful
Mes chansons seraient toutes éro-tiques si je devrais parler amour et météo All of my songs would be erotic if I should talk about love and weather
Car quand c’est pas la pluie qui tombe et parcourt ta peau Because when the rain is not flowing all over your skin
Les rayons du soleil t’entourent pour te garder au chaud The rays of the sun keep you warm
Si tu ne succombes pas pour les pluies ensoleillées If you don’t succumb to the sunny rains
Et tous ces phénomènes qui laissent sans mot And all these phenomena which leave you speechless
Tu n’arrêteras pas d’être émerveillée You will be amazed by the
Par la danse de ces innocents mômes qui célèbrent la naissance du nouveau bébé leopard Dance of these innocent little children celebrating the birth of the new leopard
Oui on est un peu superstitieux, y a toujours plus à que la vue donne Yes we are a bit superstitious; there is always more than the eye can see
D’ailleurs j’avais des tics aux yeux avant notre rencontre Moreover I had ticks in my eyes before I met you
Comme si l’univers me préparait sans que je m’en rende compte As if the universe was preparing me without me realising
Allez donne moi ta main, enlève ta montre Come on, give me your hand and take off your watch
T’en aura pas besoin, monte avec moi sur ma colline You will not need it, climb with me on top of my hill
Que je te montre où se cache le dernier bout de paradis So I can show you the last piece of paradise
[Hook] [Hook]
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu… Iwacu…
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu… Iwacu… 
[Verse 2] [Verse 2]
Oublies tes apps, tes gadgets, étrique-toi de la société-écran Forget your apps, your gadgets, disconnect yourself from the society-screen
La réalité est dans l’expérience de l’instant, pas sur l’écran Reality is in the experience of the moment, not on the screen
Libère toi de l’esclavage moderne, viens retrouver le sourire  Free yourself from modern slavery, come discover that innocent smile that you lost
Avant qu’on passe à l’autre rive ou que la machine nous colonise Before we move to the other side, or before the machine colonises us
Viens vivre le rêve de naturaliste loin des caricatures racists Come  live the dream of naturists, far away from racist cartoons
Craint pas ces bombes, ce sont les future reums de nos enfants Fear not these bomb shells, they are the future mothers of our children
N’aie pas peur de la tombée de la nuit, ces BOOM que t’entend Do not be afraid of the dark, these BOOM that you hear
C’est du ndombolo, makosa, kwasa kwasa coupé de Kalé It is the ndombolo, makossa, kwasa kwasa coupé de Kalé
Ces cris c’est des byivugo, des mpangara nguhangare, sous un ciel étoilé These loud voices are ibyivugo, mpangara nguhangare, under a starlit sky
Si on célèbre autant c’est parce que la nature nous a bénit If we celebrate this much, it’s because we are blessed by nature
Reveilles-toi, regarde le soleil se lever derrière les collines Wake up, look at the sun rise behind the hills
Ces merveilles se répètent tous les jours mais restent magiques These marvels repeat every day, but remain magical
[Hook] [Hook]
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu… Iwacu… 
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu… Iwacu… 
[Verse 3] [Verse 3]
Oublie Harlequin, Roméo et Juliette, Cyrano de Bergérac Forget Harlequin, Roméo and Juliet, Cyrano de Bergérac
Laisse béton tes bouquins, mon amour est incomparable Forget about your books, my love is incomparable
Ferme les pages de ton roman-photo, regarde moi Close the pages of photo novel, look at me
Nous Deux c’est réel, non tu ne rêves pas You and I, it’s real, no you are not dreaming
Ferme les yeux que j’ôte ton mascara de mes bises Close your eyes so I can remove your mascara with my kisses
Allez viens ma Bwiza que je te dise Come my Bwiza so I can tell you
A quel point tu me rappelle la légende de Mashira How much you remind me of the legend of Mashira?
Eternelle Beauté sans maquillage convoitée par les rois Eternal beauty without makeup desired by the kings
Allez viens, pose ta tête sur mon torse Come, put your head on my chest
Ecoute l’écho de la source de mes forces Listen to the echo of the source of my forces
Te dire à chaque BOOM, ndagukunda mieux que les mots Telling you on each BOOM, I love you more than words
Je te dirai rarement “I love you,” I will rarely tell you “I love you”
C’est pas une routine Iwacu This is not a routine at home
Mais je poserai ces mots sur ma langue pour que tu savoure le vrai gout de l’amour But I will put these words on my tongue so that you can savour the true taste of love
[Hook] [Hook]
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu Iwacu 
Come taste this love Come taste this love
Thought it might seem tough Though it might seem tough
It’s sweet like sugar cane It’s sweet like sugar cane
Viens que je t’aime à l’Africaine I wanna love you the African way
Iwacu Iwacu 

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