Parodying the President: Musical Activism

In his well-known song and music video, “Votez pour moi” [“Vote for me”], Burkinabé rapper Smockey takes to the microphone to simultaneously parody and criticize the 2005 presidential re-election campaign of then-incumbent Blaise Campaoré. In both the lyrics and the ridiculous video accompaniment, Smockey works to make fun of and tear down the messaging of Campaoré’s campaign.

In his lyrics, he drops bars like:

“Votez pour moi et vous ne le regretterez pas.
Vous ne me sentirez pas, vous ne me remarquerez pas.
Je me ferai discret, quand je ponctionnerai l’Etat.
Je ferai mieux en un an que Mobutu en dix mandats.”

[“Vote for me and you won’t regret it
You won’t feel me, you won’t notice me
I’ll be discreet when I break apart the State
I’ll do more in a year than Mobutu in ten terms”]

Without any sense of politeness or restraint, he decodes Campaoré’s campaign promises in the context of his past corruption and concentration of power to show the reality of his claims. In the video accompaniment, he goes a step further and shows some of the tactics that Campaoré used to seem like he represented or cared about the people of Burkina Faso.

In the video, it starts with Smockey putting up posters with Campaoré’s campaign iconography on them. When a local woman tries to set down her work and rest for a second near him, he gets upsets and shoos her off, indicating his lack of actual respect/care for normal Burkinabé people. He then sits down and has a daydream about the success of his campaign.

In this daydream, he’s dressed up in a nice suit, has a parody of Campaoré’s wife under his arm, is flanked by a security detail, and is smoking a big cigar. He embarks on a campaign in a classroom where he espouses the benefits of electing him and hands out cards to the people in attendance, which are promptly taken back by his military-clad partner. There are cutaways to him with giving gifts to the public, posing with his security team, out on military operations, getting booed by the public, and the bribing/threatening them into liking him again.

In one of the more poignant scenes, he holds a raffle of sorts to gain their support with the possible reward of a suitcase full of money. The people are excited, but it then turns out that none of them won and instead he’s keeping the money. In all of this, Smockey has worked to make a rather silly but cutting criticism of the false promises of Campaoré in his 2005 re-election campaign.

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