Wednesday, March 12, 2014


27. Number 27. Age 27. I had anticipated it would come with so much joy like the flood gates of a dam opening up to the gush of the water current. But no, it came with exactly the opposite feeling, with impair, with so much pain and with so much doubt. It seems one of the dementors in the Harry Potter novels came to me just when I was about to turn 27 and sapped away all the happiness in my soul like a honey bee sucks away nectar from a flower leaving it ‘sweetless’ and bare and hopeless. Leaving me sad, leaving me horrible, leaving me in doubt, doubt, doubt nothing but doubtful doubt. And at this moment, all I can do is pray and hope with only traces of hopeful hope, that the ripped off page of my passport will not haunt me like a ghost and chase me away from that airplane or chase me back to Douala on board a return “deportee” airplane. All the effort, all the strife, all the communication attempts to make it possible for weeks and months seems to have crumpled today in just a matter of seconds like a pack of cards. It took only a one second rip of a page from probably the most important tiny book in the world. And as you come, bitter 27, you come in pain just like number 26 came with fair Nephatiti who is so insane. I didn’t shed tears like the rain, but I did shed tears in a tiny trickle. Even though, the “Happy Birthdays” will come trickling down today on Facebook, on my phone as messages, on my phone as phone calls, they will never know the last two have been my most, “Unhappy Worstdays” bringing to mind Biggy Smalls lyrics, “Birthdays were the worst days…” And even though I told my bro minutes ago that maybe this writing thing is not for me, here am I, writing!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

All what I read in 2013

The Firm by John Grisham 500p USA
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham 500p USA
The Client by John Grisham 600p USA
Unanswered Cries by Osman Conteh 120p Sierra Leone
Eight Letters to a young writer by Teju Cole Nigeria, writing tips
The Famished Road by Ben Okri 500p Nigeria
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi 300p Nigeria
All the five 2013 Caine prize shortlisted short stories, Nigeria generally
All the five 2012 Commonwealth Regional winning short stories, Global
Happiness, like Water by Chinelo Okparanta 196 p Nigeria
Four of Mehul Gohil’s short stories kenya
My Father’s head, short story by Okwiri Oduor Kenya
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 296p Zimbabwe
Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing 200p winning African writers
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie 300p Nigeria
Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie 541p Nigeria
2011 Caine Prize Anthology, To see the Mountain and other stories 200p African writers
Bomboy by Yewande Omotoso Nigeria (I abandoned it after reading 70 pages because I didn’t like it)
So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba 96p Senegal
2010 Caine Prize Anthology, A life in full and other stories, 200p African writers
New Yorker Short story "Benji" by Chinelo Okparanta Nigeria
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi 300p (I abandoned it after reading 60 pages because I understood nothing)
"African Literature does not exist" essay by Taiye Selasi, 15p Afropolitan.
Together with dozens of writer interviews by NoViolet Bulawayo, Chinelo Okparanta, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Pablo Neruda, Eleanor Catton, Alice Munro, Mehul Gohil and lots of literary articles, book reviews and blog posts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrity Rejections

1) J.K Rowling’s debut novel "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.
2) In 1958, Achebe sent his novel manuscript “Things Fall Apart” to the agent recommended by Gilbert Phelps in London. It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through West Africa read the book and forced the company's hand with his succinct report: "This is the best novel I have read since the war"
3) “I had so many rejections” Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie in her 2009 CNN interview on “African Voices” with Lola Ogunaike.
4) Here’s part of Jhumpa Lahiri’s biography online…Lahiri's early short stories faced rejection from publishers "for years"
5) Here’s part of Michael Jordan’s biography…He tried out for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5'11" (1.80 m), he was deemed too short to play at that level. His taller friend, Harvest Leroy Smith, was the only sophomore to make the team.
6) Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o played two test matches for French club Le Havre in the mid nineties but wasn’t signed and rejected, so he moved to Spain. At Real Madrid, he made just three starts the whole of his first season so he moved to Real Mallorca on loan. Who doesn’t know the rest?
7) In school, Walt Disney was told he could never write a good story.
8) In school, Notorious B.I.G’s teachers told him he would never “amount to nothing”, His club banger “Juicy” is a dedication to all those teachers.
9) 2pac’s first solo album, “2pacalypse now” was not even a classic. It had just mild success at the time of its release and didn’t generate any “Top Ten” hits. 
10) With no major label to give him a record deal, Jay-Z sold his CDs out of his car and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label in 1995.
11) Barack Obama contested for the US Congress in 2000 and lost. In 2001, when he told his friend he wanted to run for the US presidency someday, his friend told him it was impossible for him to win the US presidency because he was black and his name Obama was one letter short from the name of America's number one enemy...He did -twice.
12) Abraham Lincoln's failures before becoming president are well known. He lost a congress election, lost a senate election, lost a vice presidential election and won a presidential election at the age of 60

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Hein Pere" by Stanley Enow

Some months ago, I’d worked on a very late Kenya Airways mid night flight. It ended at about 4:00 AM. Scared that we were going to be attacked by the Douala bandits, a few of my colleagues and I decided to take “one man” to ‘kill’ time, such that we’ll leave when its dawn. At the bar, the DJ was booming hip hop from the Stereo. He suddenly played one song with a Cameroonian feel to the lyrics that I’d never heard before which had the whole bar singing. I asked my buddy Glissement Yobi Yobi about the song. He said the title of the song was “Hein Pere”. “Who is the guy?” I asked. “Stanley Enow. He’s new, it’s a very new song. They broadcast it on Trace. Trace Urban eh! The guy start yi career na with high level, Y! The video na die, if you watch’am eh! You no go know say dey do am na for Cameroon. They make am for Douala but yi dey like say na Etats.” It then made sense to me why I had not heard it or watched it. (At the time, my TV had a technical fault and was at the repairer so I’d not watched anything for quite some days.) But what first struck me about the song in the bar that day was its beat. It was off the hook.  After I collected my TV, I started gauging Trace Urban for it. And after some hours, there! I had it.

(Lighter cocks, next, someone inhales cigarette or is it banga?)
Stanley Enow (oh ho a) Stanley Enow. Banyangi boy ahn! Ahn!
You know what it is, Eh hein, (oh ho a) Hein Pere, (inhales cigarette or banga)
Hein Perrrre (Coughs) Lighter cocks again. ahn! Listen, check!
I dong waka nobi small, see my foot,
Up, down around town, see my boots,
My foot dem di worry need Dschang shoes,
Like Banso man I di fight fo my oun…(hold up, hold up, u know da rest aight!)

What first blew me away about the song was the video quality. Jeez, that video is the bomb. High tech images, magnificent image resolution, camera positions, witty choice of scenes and shots. The video is shot in Douala where I live but I must admit, the first time I watched it I didn’t even recognize any place! It was only after watching it a couple of times that I recognized the spots. Good job Shamak Allharamadji, it looks and sounds heavy on production. I later heard from some music friends that it cost one million francs. What I also like about the video is the concept of incorporating Cameroonian street culture into it. It’s got Mboa credibility y’all. Wild looking street boys playing Zing zing and fap fap with a ten nkolo note sticking onto the right ear of one of them. (I saw that a lot while growing up in Kumba). He’s also overtly patriotic as he shows himself draped with the Cameroon flag in some scenes. 

At another point, a well dressed Stanley Enow sits beside his zing zing hommies like he runs things, (maybe he’s the Katika). And in lil Wayne like charisma and coupled with Fabolous/Eve lip curling fashion, he delivers his lyrics and street stories in typical Cameroonian Pidgin English and French spiced with Lapiro like flavour. His voice sounds intentionally sloppy and intelligently slow over the beat like he’s drunk and high on banga. Great idea. And the lyrical climax is when he sings “work dat body gi you small Kangwa, mwa, Charlotte Dipanda, I go marry you. Lady Ponce I go marry you…" Talking about girls, in the video a dread locked hood girl walks up to Stanley holding his fat Kumba bread phone which is ringing so that he can answer his call. I love that. (No I-pad nor I-pod for Kwat). His business associate is on the phone (looks like a Libanais) calling for some bizzy. And the Bayangi Pere walks up to the glittery Chrysler 300 with a white T-shirt that has the inscription, “On est aight pere” (picture below is different)

Pere then takes a ride to a secluded snack in town to talk business in the song's second verse. “So boy, what abt the deal?” he’s asked. “Pere the street’s hustling, let’s do this” Stanley responds. The Lebanese hands him the tape (probably the music contract too) “Here’s the masterpiece, go so proud of you” And Stanley Enow walks away into hip hop stardom. Doubt me? Check up his U-tube stats, Hein Pere’s got 400.000 hits and it is the most watched Kamer hip hop video by far ever. Channel O has got it on rotation now too.

So what does “Hein pere” really mean? Well, strictly speaking it means nothing. “Hein” is an expression we use when we’ve not heard what someone has said, though in the context of this song, I think it’s a bit different. “Pere” is a French word for “Father” though in the song again, the context is different. It could mean “man” or “buddy” so “Hein Pere” may literally mean “Hein man” or “Okay man” or “Okay buddy”. See? It makes little sense. That’s why some people are insulting him and attacking him saying he sang something that means nothing “Hein Pere”. Well, insult him or praise him as you like. But if you’re one of the insulters, first ask these other guys what the hell these their song titles all mean. R.Kelly’s “Thoia thoing” what the hell does that mean? It’s not even English. What does B2k’s “Uh huh” stand for? What about Will Smith’s “Getting Jiggy with it, na, na, na” What does “Jiggy” mean? it’s not even English. What about Foxy Brown’s “Woh yoh, yoh, yoh”. Stanley didn't start it y'all. When asked, Stanley Enow said it means, “Yes, sir”. Well, hate it or love it, his song title has got a lot of Cameroonian originality, he’s made his way to the bank, he’s made his way to the Unity Palace and performed in front of the Presidential couple and even got the first lady, Chantal Biya dancing and Hein Pere’ing with him, with only his first single. He has also created a social movement with it. I’ve heard so many stories about two-year-old kids singing “Hein Pere” at home.  And when I was in a taxi once, I heard two old men saying to each other “Hein Pere” “Hein Pere”. I was shocked and asked them “Vous aussi dites ca!” One of them said to me “C’est la musique qui est partout noh! On va faire comment Pere?

One commendable thing in the video is that there’s no vulgar language in it, there are no video vixens with exposed booties and boobs in it. I found that rare for a hip hop video, almost unheard of. On the criticism side of things, I felt the beat was too American, there’s not much Kamer originality in that beat. He’s also building on the foundations laid by Jovi. So for “Hein Pere” to come, “Don for Kwat” had to come. Also, Stanley’s mboa stories are quite cool but they don’t have the artistic depth that Jovi’s mboa stories have. And he still needs to impress me with an album. We’ve seen only one performance, just one hit. We’re waiting for him to impress us like Jovi did with “H.I.V”. So while it’s a fact that Stanley Enow is a bilingual intellectual, (last time I heard, he’s pursuing Maitraise) and a talented artist, probably Cameroon’s lil Wayne who shook Cameroon last year like Wizzy did with “Tha Carter 3”, I still think Jovi remains our Anglophone hip hop pioneer and Cameroon’s 2pac. But ladies n gents, ladies n homies, once again put your lighters up for Cameroon's lil Wayne, for releasing a debut single which has now become the most successful Cameroonian hip hop track, Hein Pere! Tu est high pere, on est aight Pere!