I had the opportunity to watch a screening of the brilliant film ‘While We Live’ at the African Diaspora Film Festival this past Saturday. I purposely chose to watch this film precisely because it is a Swedish film with English subtitles. (Yes, I am a foreign language film nerd who believes this is great way to learn 2 or 3 new words in another language). Well, I learned the word ‘tack’, which happens to mean ‘thank you’ and is a pretty useful word to learn in my opinion!
This film was directed by Dany Kouyaté, set in Sweden and the Gambia. It is a film about identity. Kandia, an African women in her fifties who has lived in Sweden for 30 years, decides to move back to Gambia. Her son Ibrahim, who dreams of a career in hip hop and is about to make a break through, goes follows her. Their encounter with their homeland, however, doesn’t turn out the way they imagined. It is a heart warming story of family and soul searching.
The striking sub-theme for me was the concept of homelands and remembering who we are. The leas actress Kandia had lived in Sweden for a long time, spoke fluent Swedish but her son who was born to a Swedish father identified more as Swedish than Gambian. In this globalized world we live in, I think this is question many people who live in foreign lands have. According to Kandia – ‘even if a log falls into a river and stays there for many years, it will never turn into a crocodile.” As much as a person adapts and becomes a part of the new country he/she finds herself, homelands are forever a part of the ties that bind humanity.
During the Q&A the Director mentioned that the film would show at upcoming film festivals in Paris and Burkina Faso. Definitely worth a watch!
I am a fan of world music, a term that previously described any non-Western traditional music. The contemporary definition focuses more on the elasticity of the music, a fusion of different styles of music from around the world. World music often features distinctively non-Western ethnic instruments like the mbira (Zimbabwean hand piano) or Atabaque ( Brazilian hand drum) as just two examples out of many.
Putumayo Music is a record label founded by Dan Storper. It specializes in compilations of music from different countries and cultures. The first album release was in 1993 and since then the label has released many more albums. Typically a Putumayo World Music compilation is presented as a theme under the title “Putumayo Presents:” Putumayo’s distinctive CD covers feature the colorful art of British illustrator Nicola Heindl.
What I love about Putumayo music is its diversity. The music takes you around the world through your senses as you hear the cool sounds and swing to the beat. The songs are carefully curated and project the fusion of culture with music and art. The album covers are always a breath of fresh air. It’s a non traditional brand with an eclectic aesthetic that you can’t help but love.
Brazilian Café, the focus of this review is a Putumayo music production. I first listened to it in 2012 when I was learning the Portuguese language at the Brazilian Embassy in South Africa. I figured it would be a great way to sharpen my language skills in a relaxing and fun way outside of my classes. It is marketed as ‘Sensuous samba, bossa nova and jazz from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Salvador and beyond.’ It definitely didn’t disappoint. I still listen to it while cooking or on lazy mornings. It is relaxing, clean and refreshing. My favourites on this album include the upbeat Pra que pedir perdão by Ana Costan & Oswaldo Cavalo and Feliz e Triste by Ceumar. As I listen to this album I cant’t help but imagine a Brazilian café scene with the smell of freshly brewed coffee aka cafezinho and people socializing and catching up. I guess this album gives a glimpse of the Brazilian artist community projected through the diverse songs.
Visit Putumayo Music to sample the album and see their other offerings. They have many other albums for sale.