What are the sounds of your childhood? This song definitely makes my list. I went to my aunt’s house last weekend and we spent part of my cousin’s birthday, reminiscing about music from back-in-the-day (yes, I think I’m old enough to join such conversations :D). This song came up, and I remembered when my friends and I were just learning what rap, french rap to be exact, was. It was around the time when Britney Spears was dancing in school girl uniforms and Cisco was still pretty popular.
So, as a sucker for good lyrics, I thought I’d give this video and this musical group some space on this blog. So, unless you can speak French, you only get the “Bisso Na Bisso” part. Here’s a little bit from their wikipedia entry:
Bisso Na Bisso (Lingala: Between Us) is a music collective of rappers and singers with origins from Congo Brazzaville formed in 1999. The group consisting of Ben-J (from Les Neg’Marrons), Lino and Calbo (from the group Ärsenik), Doc and G Kill (from 2Bal), Mystik and the only female M’Passi was put together by French rapper Passi.
The group created an album called Racines which means ‘Roots’ in French. The album contained a fusion of hip hop with African rhythms and sounds like rumba, zouk and soukous giving it a unique and distinctive flavour…
Many French rappers such as those that comprise the group Bisso Na Bisso, describe their desire to both foster solidarity among Blacks and demonstrate their pride in Africa, while simultaneously acknowledging their roots in an Urban French context. This identity struggle represented in French rap music is further complicated by the fact that black rappers in France struggle to create a presence in the film industry and on television where French Blacks receive little exposure and being white opens doors to many more opportunities. Rappers report their feelings of disconnect from both their homelands and from their present homes where they are unable to adequately use the media to portray the inequality in French society….
So, I’m going to go ahead and call them Afropolitans. Bisso Na Bisso speaks of that feeling of disconnect, as well as a connection to a place they haven’t been to in a long while.
In this song, with the same name as the band, it seems as if they asked themselves the question: “What would we like people to say about us in 20 years?” So, they rapped about themselves in the 3rd person, referring to each member and what they brought to the group as people and as musicians. In their mind, they saw people referring to them, saying “That’s when the music (and the dancing) was good”. I think it’s important to note that they refer to themselves as a “congolese bunch” (not a French one). They mix French with words in Lingala as well as some in inverted French or Verlan. It’s that mix that reflects the “hybridity” of their experiences and their identities.
The clip is shot in a retro style. Bisso Na Bisso is showcasing life in Congo, but not in the city: they’re in the village, with clips of daily life being shown. The dances are sometimes modern, other times traditional. They show themselves taking portraits, like it was done “back in the olden days”. One could say that they took a romantic view of life in Africa. I think that’s inevitable. Just like distance makes the heart grow fonder (and erases the rough edges of one’s perspective), longing to be connected to a place you’re no longer part of leads to the painting of a positive, sometimes rosy picture of the place.
If you can read French or you’re just curious about the lyrics, go here.