This post is another testament to Jovi, and his art that has the power of erasing class and gendered boundaries to solidify the Cameroonian social identity. Check out his music video for Zélé and you’ll see what I am talking about.
The video beings with a shot of a run-down city, with open land covered in debris. The camera follows Jovi until we see a crowd of people bumping to the music like you’d expect if Jovi were performing. The song is called Zélé (zealous), which perfectly characterizes every individual in the music video.
The message of the song and video are clear with the juxtaposition of the run-down city and the positivity of Jovi and those in the music video – despite economic hardships and poverty within the country, Cameroonians are not ones to give up. In the video, Jovi takes a break from the bottles of booze and bling-bling and takes it back to the basics: black t-shirt, wheelies on bicycles, while rapping on top of a van. His t-shirts don’t represent Gucci or Prada, but just have “Cameroun” printed on the back or front. Most importantly, his entourage isn’t angry or scary, they’re unified. This is the crux of his message – Cameroonians don’t need to be validated by fancy jackets and tall buildings, even in times of a nationwide struggle, because they can get through it with the perseverance that has brought them so far.
The music video was released in 2015, a year during which Cameroon’s GDP sharply fell after years of consistent growth. Jovi indirectly addresses the country’s frustration and animosity with an uplifting performance surrounded by the harsh realities of Cameroonian poverty and, perhaps, inefficient urban planning. The song’s hook resonates with this imagery: “en cote d’ivoire on coupe on decale, ici c’est le mboa ici on pedal”. It translates to “in Ivory Coast, we cut and shove, here is the mboa, here we pedal”. Mboa is a language native to Cameroon, some consider it extinct, but clearly Jovi considers it to be a symbol for the zeal Cameroonians need to overcome their struggle. The hook continues: “On pedal comme zélé” – “we pedal like we’re zealous”. In a nutshell, those are the captivating words that Jovi needs to reassure his compatriots of their own capability to endure economic hardships and the scores of other problems surrounding his country.
Jovi’s music and video represent the unifying nature and supreme social impact that music can have on a society. While in the United States we held hands singing “we shall overcome”, Jovi’s call for upliftment is tailored to his own country’s struggles and validates their experience by juxtaposing the harsh reality of urban life with the zeal of unyielding community.
I’ll end with my favorite lyrics from the song which encourage listeners to concentrate their energies and frustrations in a constructive manner: “fuck boko-haram, you’re looking at the true rebel”.
Well played, Jovi.