An ode to Ruben Um Nyobé, the anti-colonialist leader of the Popular Union of Cameroon, Blick Bassy’s latest track grapples with the telling of a historic tale. Sung in Bassa, Bassy’s ancestral language, “Ngwa” reclaims an important moment for Cameroon and does so with the utmost beauty and honesty. As the narrative (usually told and taught from the opposing, French perspective) unfolds amidst the spectacular natural landscapes of Lesotho, Bassy’s vocals soothe torment and honor lives that were uprooted and lost. The song is the first from Bassy’s recently announced album 1958 (co-produced by the artist and Renauld Letang) and following his critically acclaimed 2015 release, Akö.
“The narrative of this heroic leader Ruben Um Nyobé is one that resonates throughout the continent—a continent still grappling with the legacy of colonialism and the attempts to redress the consequences thereof,” the video’s award-winning director Tebogo “Tebza” Malope shares with us. “The visual approach seeks to be a meditation on our leadership as a continent,” he adds, before pondering, “What could have been if some hadn’t been massacred? Because of the might of imperial Europe, what should be? And what hope do we have moving forward?”
He notes, “This is echoed in the first couple of scenes which resemble the first chapter of Kenya’s renowned author Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s book Matigari—where a freedom fighter is spotted laying down his arms for a supposed prosperous future where bloodshed shall be no more. Will he regret the decision?”
“Another visual representation at the end spawns from the images of a lifeless freedom fighter turning into a tree reminiscent of South African political icon Solomon Mahlangu, who was killed by the Apartheid government, whose last words before his death were, ‘My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom,'” Tebza continues. “The song seeks to reconnect the Cameroonian people with their history, the visuals attempt to draw parallels between Cameroonian history and the history of Africa as a whole.”
Bassy himself poetically emphasizes the emotional importance and dedication of the work to us. “Ngwa, my friend, you who fought for our freedom, for our sovereignty, you who gave your life so that we are equal, you are my hero,” he says. “With this song, I wanted to pay tribute to your fight, our fight, but also to your philosophy, where the values of equality, antiracism, anti-xenophobia, serve emancipation and fulfillment of every human being. This is my way of paying tribute to you. To Um Nyobè.” And with the depth of such a tribute, all listeners benefit as the message and music settle upon the soul.
Bassy’s album 1958 will be released 8 March.
Video and images courtesy of Nø Førmat! / tôt Ou tard