All the President’s MCs in Gabon

Over at africanhiphop.com there’s a great article about the recent Presidential election in Gabon.

Since independence from France in 1960, the equatorial African nation has been ruled by the same regime, and from 1967 until 2009 it had the same President, Omar Bongo Ondimba. Bongo, who died this year, was the longest non monarch to remain in power continuously.

Bongo instituted one party rule, crushing opposition. In the 1990s multi party democracy was supposedly introduced, but this was after many of his opponents had been killed or co-opted, and he continued to win several highly dubious elections with high majorities.

Bongo, his family and personal circle, stand accused of monopolising Gabon’s massive natural wealth for themselves. He managed to stay in power all this time only with the support of the former colonial power, France, who in the past have sent troops to quell opposition to his regime.

This year Bongo died, and there was perhaps finally a chance for some change in Gabon. The existing regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG in French) was represented in the Presidential elections by Omar Bongo’s son, Alain Bongo.

The interesting thing musically is that in Alain Bongo had a previous career as funk musician. His 1977 album ‘A Brand New Man,’ was produced by James Brown’s former manager Charles and featured Fred Wesley of the JB’s, Parliament and Funkadelic. The album was supported by a massive tour of Africa. Over at the original article on africanhiphop they have a song off the album and it’s pretty damn good!

And then this year it seems Bongo managed to co-ot a number of Gabonese hip hop artists into performing for his Presidential camaign, even appearing on stage himself to rap along with his campaign song:

One of the few artists to stand up to Bongo and refuse his money is Lord Ekomy Ndong, one half of the biggest selling hip hop act in Gabon. He has released tracks attacking the history of the Bongo regimes and the massively unequal distribution of wealth in Gabon, as well as talking about the long history of electoral fraud and corruption in many African countries.

In the event Bongo won the election, sparking protests by many who claimed there was corruption, and is now the President-elect. But who has the better track, the government and the rappers it paid to perform for it, or Lord Ekomy Ndong and his principled stance of opposition? You decide for yourself.

Pro Bongo song:

Lord Ekomy Ndong (my personal favourite):

Incidentally, Omar Bongo’s first wife and Alain Bongo’s mother Patience Dabany is a singer as well, and has been one of the biggest in Gabonese music for a long time. Here’s one of her tracks:

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