Apart from lyrical gratification, what do you get when you fill the Royal Festival Hall in London Southbank with artists like Senegalese superstar and advocate of women’s rights Baaba Maal, Speech Debelle, VV Brown, Eska, Krystle Warren and Annie Flore? You get a powerful evening of inspirational female voices from across three continents aptly title ‘Baaba Maal – In Praise of the Female Voice’.
What else do you get? Longing.
In Brazil they call this type of longing saudade, a term which is hard to translate adequately because it describes a melange of nostalgia and craving for something that is unattainable as it leans towards the past or the future. The Brazilians say that once you’ve visited their country and left you will always have saudade, a truth which I can confirm. In Finland, we also have a similar word, kaiho. It describes a deep emotional yearning and pining for something which most often is unidentified.
Normally during my working day, I occasionally pause. Mostly I break to gaze out of the window observing not only passersby, but also the shape of the clouds or the tree in front of my building, which looks different every time I see it.
Sometimes I pause to call a friend or to go for a quick walk or to dance in front of my mirror.
When I’m out I try to deliberately pause as well. Not stop, just slow my pace, share a smile or strike up a conversation with a stranger.
I take these moments as an exercise in regrouping of my mind, body and soul. And I take them in order to not get caught up in routine and forget to feel.
Music touches on those places in our souls where we can’t forget to feel. It hits us with a cathartic recollection of emotion.
The WOW (women of the world) concert made me long for Africa, but more than long, it made me have saudade and kaiho for Africa because my longing is for an unidentified Africa in the past or in the future.
My favourite artist was Krystle Warren. Especially her version of John Lennon’s ‘Woman is the nigger of the world’ was breathtaking.
My least favourite was Speech Debelle. She didn’t really get me going. That is, until she did.
The minus points are only because as she admitted herself she was tired of performing the same songs from her old album and I thought that was obvious because when she did ‘Elephant in the living room’, a taster from her new album, feet were suddenly stomping like a room filled with elephants and I fell in love with her all over again.
Longing. Saudade. Kaiho.
Make of that what you will but when you tune in, pump the volume up ~
What are your thoughts, do you think it’s healthy to long?
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Hi! I’m Minna Salami. I’m a writer, blogger, columnist, lecturer and speaker and the founder of the feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, which connects feminism to contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective. I’ve been listed alongside Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie as one of “twelve women changing the world” by ELLE and my work has been used as a resource and case study at universities around the world. Like what you just read? Sign up above to receive new posts directly in your inbox.