Concluding my series on female vocalists this week, one song. Fatoumata Diawara, singing in the Wassoulou tradition I wrote about in last week’s Monday Music.
Did you wonder, as I did, why she is crying?
If you click the YouTube icon you will find that the song is dedicated ‘to all the brothers who die’ when they leave Africa trying to find a better life.
I burst into tears as soon as I started reading Diawara’s words, thinking of the stories you read of African migrants found dead in shipping containers, or drowned at sea. Perhaps it’s having African relatives, those stories touch me more.
DadaK, my son’s dad, took a boat like this once. A boat across the Gulf of Guinea was the first step in his journey to Australia, around 30 years ago. It wasn’t an easy journey. He was not graced with the melodies of Fatoumata Diawara. He landed in Gabon, and worked there, and in what was then Zaire, until he’d saved the plane fare to Zimbabwe and then Australia. Also not easy. This song reminds me how lucky we are his boat made it to shore. How our beautiful son, just starting at University this year, and his precious siblings by another mum, would not exist if DadaK had drowned. Lives not lived, stories never told.
DadaK was not a refugee. He didn’t flee violence and persecution, but he did flee poverty. I’ve described this poverty elsewhere on this blog.
It’s worth remembering that Africa’s poverty is linked to centuries of European colonisation. Of course there are other contributing factors, but it’s not independent of our shared history. It shouldn’t be a crime, to try and escape that, to seek out a share of the wealth that grew from what was plundered.
The song also reminds me of Australia’s current shame — our treatment of asylum seekers, which in the early years of this decade has reached a new low. Currently many of them are being accused — without having been assessed — of being ‘economic refugees’, as though that justifies the inhumane treatment.
So for what it’s worth, I dedicate my few words, this humble post, to those ‘warriors’ as Diawara calls them, who defy poverty, racism and inequality to find a better future for themselves and their families.