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The perils of girl power

The perils of girl power in Kyrgyzstan

Plus, an album that resurrects the long-lost songs of the Wolastoqiyik people of Canada

Plus, an album that resurrects the long-lost songs of the Wolastoqiyik people of Canada

December/January 2019

Flesh mob
Zere Asylbek’s passionate ode to female empowerment, “Kyz” (Girl), has provoked a furious backlash in Kyrgyzstan. Social conservatives in the mainly Muslim nation were far more worked up about Asylbek’s supposedly unseemly attire in the song’s music video than her message of gender equality. Made up of a purple bra, a jacket and a mini-skirt (above), the outfit revealed a flash of flesh – enough to spark sexist rants and even death threats from the country’s self-styled morality police.

Currency swap
One of South Africa’s most-popular rap songs has an unlikely refrain: “Tito Mboweni”, chants Cassper Nyovest, name-checking the governor of the country’s central bank from 1999 to 2009, who was the first black man to have his signature on the rand currency. Nyovest released this dark, rhythmic track last year as a punchy ode to getting rich. But when Mboweni became finance minister in October, after his predecessor resigned amid controversy, the tune got a new lease on life. Now regularly played on the radio, the song has become a hymn of praise to the widely respected Mboweni, who faces the herculean task of turning around South Africa’s battered economy.

Meet the ancestors
Jeremy Dutcher’s Polaris prize-winning debut album, “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa” (“Our Maliseet Songs”), represents the culmination of many years spent trying to transcribe traditional music of the Wolastoqiyik or Maliseet people of New Brunswick, Canada – music which has not been broadcast for over a century. The resulting 11-song album reintroduces the world to the community’s gorgeous melodies – and the Wolastoqey language, which is spoken by around 300 people. Dutcher, a singer and pianist, seamlessly fuses his operatic training with surprising contemporary sounds, such as pop-inspired hand claps on the track “Ultestakon”. But the grainy archival recordings threaded through the album remind listeners of Dutcher’s greatest ambition: to honour his ancestors’ voices while transmitting a musical tradition for future indigenous artists.

Scary good
Neon crucifixes, skeletal trees and votive figurines haunt the low-fi music video for “Freaky” by Santi, a rapper and film-maker from Nigeria. The dance-hall-inflected song pays homage to the homegrown Nollywood-horror VHS tapes that his friends and family watched when he was a child in the 1990s. Santi’s spooky, spaced-out percussive groove is edgier than the more peppy songs that characterise the Afrobeats genre, in which hip hop and Caribbean influences meld with pop. But “Freaky” is melodic and nostalgic enough to hook listeners. Interest in Nigerian music is exploding; Universal, the world’s largest music company, recently opened a new division in Lagos. Santi and his peers are killing it.