There was an evening in honour of Guinea author Camara Laye at the Franco Guinea Cultural Centre on April 24, 2017. The evenings’ performances were presented by Senegal who were the featured country at the World Book Capital.
Camara Laye was one of the most well know African writers of the 20th Century having produced some of the most iconic work written. He was the author of The African Child (L’Enfant noir), a novel based loosely on his own childhood, and The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du roi). Both novels are among the earliest major works in Francophone African literature. He later worked for the government of newly independent Guinea, but went into voluntary exile over political issues.
Laye was the subject of a ceremony hosted at the Franco Guinea Cultural Centre in Conakry as part of World Book Capital 2017 celebrations. There were speeches and performances of poetry and music to celebrate this most iconic of Africans.
The speeches were given by professors Djibril Tamsir Niane and Doubacar Barry and they spoke about the important role that literature has had in the unity of the African unification. This I got from a friend of mine who was in the event as I don’t speak French the European language of communication in Guinea. It was a matter of sitting and listening to the speakers who were very good elucidating and people cheering on, laughing or clapping enthusiastically as they continued. This was another of those moments that made me realise how hard it must be for a Francophone Africa person trying to chill out in Nairobi. I shall be kinder in future you had better believe it.
With the speeches done and dusted, the performances could now kick off. Fortunately, here language was not such a factor. The first on stage was a guy and girl slam poet who regaled the audience with their lyrical prowess and even I was wowed. One of the poems spoke of love, I think, and referenced the Alicia Keys I Keep On Falling sang by the lady with the gentleman supplying lyrics. In another poem the gentleman was beatbox and the lady did the speaking. At another they would speak of the continent and its children and what we were leaving for them with our actions. Yes, this blogger doesn’t speak French but this was what I got to understand. When they were done the audience who were enthralled almost rioted as they demanded more and more of the coupe on stage.
The two would be replaced by a couple of other poets who were also well received but not to their standard if the crowd reaction was any indicator.
The evening then got to a climax as a band came on stage lead by a singer in a beautiful black gown and dyed blonde hair following contemporary trends. I had been introduced to her by a World Book Capital as an amazing singer at the hotel earlier and she had been gracious in the introduction. As soon as she gave her first note, she confirmed that the Uche had not been joking. She was amazing. She had these voices that I have only seen on TV or read about; one of those rich voices filled with emotion. She reminded me of Fatoumata Diawara who attended the Safaricom Jazz Festival in Kenya last year.
I wasn’t the only one impressed by the singer as she left the crowd in a frenzy as she sang in Wolof and those in the cheap seats in the back went nuts as they dances away. She was accompanied by a band that had a large number of drummers including a gentleman in a red outfit vigorously banged on the djembe talking drum. The audience started joining the performers on stage and they would be doing their best dancing with the djembe guy drumming to your dancing. It was a thing of beauty and at one point even this blogger couldn’t resist jumping on stage and getting down!
The evening ended with this amazing performance as folks took off to rest after a memorable evening was had by all.
We celebrate you Camara Laye.