Rogomiki: In Spite of Modernity

In his 2015 video “Rogomiki”, Burkinabe musician Art Melody takes to the streets of Ouagadougou to rap about the conflicts he’s witnessed between tradition and modernity in Burkina Faso. The video starts with a shot of Art Melody standing with a friend and someone dressed in long, flowing traditional top and a lion’s head in a Ouagadougou city street. Melody’s wearing clothes that are a departure from the jerseys and hoodies he’s worn in pastvideos.

When the full instrumental slams in, they step into an alleyway that is the setting for the majority of the video. As he raps, he and the two others pass by dozens of people of all ages from the neighborhood leaning up against the walls of the alleyway. They’re in all kinds of outfits: everything from professional soccer jerseys to t-shirts and jeans to traditional dresses. A number of them fall in behind the three of them as they walk onward to the beat of the song.

The title of the song “Rogomiki” translates to “Our Traditions” in Mossi/Mooré, a regional indigenous language in the part of Burkina Faso that Ouagadougou is located. Although I don’t speak Mossi, the video production company that released the video says that in this song, “Art Melody discusses the loss of African traditions and values in favor of modernity” [Translated from French]. In addition to his outfit in this video, I believe that the person dressed up as a lion in a traditional outfit is meant to represent the strength of Burkinabe tradition: when the chorus of the song comes in (and Melody raps primarily about ‘rogomiki’) the lion takes the forefront of the video’s attention and makes a show of strength, all the while hyping up the people around it.

As the last chorus of the song comes in, they come out of the alleyway and all form a larger crowd with the lion and Art Melody rapping about their traditions and bringing the neighborhood group together to show off their dancing and art. This whole song not only seems to make their local reality an essential part of the hip-hop music, but makes hip-hop the method by which they announce the strength of their traditions in the face of globalizing modernity.

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