By Ogova Ondego
Published December 19, 2007
The planned concert by controversial Senegalese-American R ‘n’ B and Hip-hop griot, Akon, has been cancelled.
Akon had been set to perform in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 22, 2007 in what had been touted as the biggest Christmas treat for Kenyans.
This performance by Akon whose music appears to glorify crime, prison life and dirty language and that had been scheduled for 7:00 PM at Impala Club grounds near Adams Arcade on Ngong Road, had been long overdue as the singer had failed to show up in Kenya where he had been expected on June 17, 2006 after performing in Dar es Salaam’s Diamond Jubilee the previous day; it was reported that the Nairobi concert organisers had failed to pay him a US$70000 fee.
Akon, whose life may be said to be living up to the truism of a second chance or that of turning a lemon into lemonade, is best known in East Africa for his well loved songs like Mr Lonely, Don’t Matter, Shake Down, Sole Survivor, Ghetto and Smack That that are played frequently on FM radio and television channels targeting young urbanites.
While Akon’s debut album, Trouble, had sold more than three million copies by the first quarter of 2007 since its release in June 2004, Konvikted (the second album) had sold two million units in two months since its November 2006 release.
Born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam in St Louis, Missouri, USA, 26-year-old Akon, a Sunni Muslim with three wives, has served three years in a US jail for peddling illegal drugs and stealing cars.
Though he tells Leslie Goffe in BBC Focus on Africa magazine (April-June 2007) that “Society is so twisted right now thinking that being hardcore is cool” and that “You have kids looking up to people doing life in prison”, no one may know how to exploit this “twisted thinking” better than Akon himself who exploits his own teenage criminal past to great advantage.
For instance, Goffe writes that Akon owns Kon Live Distribution, Konvict Muzik, Konvict Clothing and that he was set to begin work on an autobiographical feature film called Money Power and Respect: A Hustler’s Dream, before the end of 2007.
Despite the twisted thinking of society that glamourises crime, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, one of the architects of the still-born New Approach for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative with South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed Akon his unofficial adviser on youth issues.
Whether this presidential appointment could have been the driving force in Akon’s founding Konfidence Foundation, a charity for under-privileged children in Africa, one cannot tell.
Like his famous father Mor Thiam, writes Goffe, “Akon was supposed to be a griot dedicated to keeping the musical traditions of his people, the Dogon of Senegal, alive.”
But Akon prefers to rap and sing what Goffe refers to as “bump-and-grind dance songs about his life selling drugs and stealing cars in America” to performing the praise songs of his ancestors. And with this departure from expectations comes massive sales of records, a sack-full of money, fame and popularity that his famous percussionist father can only dream about, his having remained in the harness since childhood notwithstanding.
According to Goffe’s article, Thiam “Akon’s famous father who began performing at naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals in Senegal since the age of 12” is a master drummer specialising on the djembe (a hand drum), the tama (a talking drum), and the sabar (a drum played with one hand and a stick).