Last month or so I attended a K'Naan-Wale concert, and simply thinking about it induces a strong desire to curl up in my bed and forever shun the past-10pm, under-21 night scene. I am still tired. Never again...I seriously think I am getting too old for such "all-ages" soirees. Had no idea that "all-ages" meant 85% 18 and under and 15% other. Throughout the 3 hour or so concert, I found myself yearning for longer interludes in order to rest my aching back in the seated section of the club and wondering why I wasn't at home curled up in a blanket with a good novel (a delightful luxury these days). And my, I haven't been around so much weed since undergrad (and note, most in the audience seemed to be imported from CT's surburbs).
The ticket was more of an impulse buy and had I known earlier, I would have gone to the NYC version of the concert (which also featured Damian Marley and my guess, would have lacked the "High School Musical"-vibe). The show opened with Togolese-American rapper, Tabi Bonney, followed by ex-Fugees rapper/producer, John Forte (love him!) and finished with Wale then K'Naan, a combination of both, then encores by K'Naan. To be honest, I paid to see K'naan, though I was somewhat curious about the hype surrounding Nigerian-American rapper Wale. Prior to this, I only knew of one Wale song, My Sweetie, a modern day remix of the Bunny Mack classic and dedicated to "...everybody who ever was forced to go to african parties wit they parents in the 80s [and] 90s...." It was cute - but I have never been much of a fan of remixes.
Prior to the concert, I thought that perhaps Wale was probably the Nigerian Diasporan's answer K'Naan...
I left Wale's performance a bit disappointed that the only mention of his Nigerian heritage came when he corrected audience members (over and over and over again) that his name was Wale, not Wally (for the love of all that is right and decent, didn't Eminem effectively end the reign of my-name-is-like lyrics - please stop). And even at that, he provided no context. By the end of the night, I felt like ditching my green-white-greens and join the Somalis in waving their blues and whites.
The circumstances that gave birth to something-American/Canadian/French artists such as Tabi Bonney, K'Naan and Asa and other Africans-in-America/France/Germany etc are very different from that of Wale. While the other three spent portions of their formative years in Africa, there is no indication that Wale spent much time outside of the Washignton D.C.-Maryland area. I think for that reason, the transition back-and-forth between their "western" and non-western selves seems more fluid; but from the little I know of Wale - his Nigerianness seems to be more of an all-or-nothing phenomenon. To me, "My Sweetie" appears to be a fleeting reference to his African heritage. His "Nigerianness" seemed to be merely packaged into a 3-minute soundbite that hardly made it into his latest album.
Despite the initial disappointment, I am sympathetic. And considering my limited exposure, I am the last to provide a balanced critique of Wale's genre of music (I guess DC Underground rap or something). Admittedly, I almost left his performance embracing the attitudes I have criticized in some of our elders who have complained endlessly of the inevitable Americanization of their progeny in exile. (Elders, who oftentimes, remain incognizant to the Americanization of their homelands and probably would not be able to find the road back to their villas owing to the rapid changes that occurred since Abacha was in office...that is the last time they stepped foot out of the US...anyway, a conversation for another date).
So, when I am not drop-dead tired from a concert, I am of the opinion that there exists a spectrum of whatever you call, "Africanness" possessed by my fellow first-generationers born to immigrant parents. I guess you have the my-name-is-wally identities on one end and the the akpokwala-m-udi-aha-ozo** identities on the other, which, to me, all represent the diversity of what it means to be a first generation Nigerian.
And I couldn't help it, but had to include this old school video of Identity by Chief Oliver de Coque in honor of our musicians for whom music is simply in their nature and represents their identity.
**Translation: (in angry Igbotic "ascent") Don't call me that sort of name again...(feel free to insert fantastic threat re: Amadioha here) ...and forgive my laziness re: dotting of o's...
And yes, Akon is glaringly absent from this conversation...and for good reason.