Honorine Uwineza, considered by many to be one of the founders of the genre
|Other names||Hourege pop|
|Cultural origins||20th century modernisation of Ndjarendie traditional music|
Djeli pop is a genre of popular music originating in Bahia. The modern conception of the genre became prevalent in the 1980s with the popularity of the genre amongst the Bahian diaspora, in particular the success of Garamburan artist Chloe Kolisi, but its original forms can be traced back to the mid 1960s in Mabifia where such music was seen as a way of combining traditional sounds with modern, especially Euclean, techniques as a revolt against the socialist regime of Fuad Onika. It is marked by its usage not only of traditional instruments such as the balafon, but also Euclean instruments like the electric guitar and even digital music software in contemporary pieces.
Despite its origins in the traditional Bélé Houregic caste, Djeli pop was quickly adopted by singers of other ethnic backgrounds. Its first star was Honorine Uwineza, an ethnically Barobyi singer who saw limited international success, but due to Mabifia's international isolation the genre remained highly local until its adoption by Garamburan artists in the 1970s. Thanks to the international connections of Sainte-Germaine, Djeli pop was able to attain international success. While Garamburan Djeli pop was initially related to the independence struggle due to its Mabifian links, it eventually became associated with the Pan-Bahian movement. This has continued to the modern day, and despite the prevalence of diasporic artists the focus of Djeli pop remains an embrace of Bahian traditions and pride in Bahian culture. Its popularity is not constrained to the Bahian population and diaspora, as its association with anti-imperialism and urban culture has led to the rise of a subculture in several Euclean nations.
The Djeli is a social caste which has existed for centuries in Mabifia. Under the Houregic system they were classed with other Artisanal castes, meaning that for the most part they were enslaved either to a merchant or Djelitier, the name given to a djeli who had managed to earn his freedom and led a troupe of musicians and trained them. Unlike other enslaved groups the Djelis were normally more or less free to move around and many had relationships with their owners closer to modern wage labour. With the fall of the Hourege system following Euclean colonisation, the relatively unofficial nature of the Djeli caste led to its continuation as a hereditary tradition of wandering musicians.
In the industrialisation which came in the early stages of Fuad Onika's regime in Mabifia, many rural people flocked to the cities in order to seek employment opportunities. With this urban influx came several Djelis, who came into contact with more Euclean musical techniques. The Villes nouvelles established in order to sustain the new industries became fertile breeding grounds for new social movements. One such movement was the Djeli pop movement, which attracted the youths who were growing up in these planned cities. Having been taken away from more traditional rural life and the stories told by their elders at a young age and thrust into a flawed socialist system plagued by shortages and persecution, they began to idolise traditional Bahian life and society. At the same time, their exposure to Euclean ideals and culture via contraband increased their taste for this. The result was a hybrid of Bahian traditional music and Euclean pop and Rock, characterised by strongly political lyrical themes and soothing rythyms.
Rise of Uwineza
What began as a protest movement by disenfranchised youths in Tangadougou soon attracted a national audience. The record "Kaloukoura - La Nouvelle Lune" by Papa Djounkoutigi was played on several pirate radio stations across the country and gained a cult following. This led to the musical style becoming more known among other communities who jumped aboard the fusion of traditional and modern styles. This led to the first flowering of the genre, as a diverse range of artists sprung up across the nation. One such artist was Honorine Uwineza, who grew up in the port city of Iboïambou. A Barobyi born into a Sotiran Catholic family, her father had served as a clerk under the colonial administration and was sent to a forced labour camp as a result. Along with several of her friends, she started to make Djeli-inspired music and soon managed to get some tracks recorded. Her first song, "Umuginizi" ("coward" in Kinyarobyi), sang of the fears that she felt under the current regime by telling the story of a woman who is too afraid to stand up to an abusive partner. The song's outward themes of female empowerment meant that at first it was not suppressed by the state media controls, and was even played on the state-run Musique 1 Ouagedji. The song's gentle yet powerful vocals and pertinent messages resonated with the Mabifian audience, leading to Uwineza becoming Mabifia's first true musical celebrity.
On the back of Umuginizi's nationwide success, Uwineza released several other songs upon a similar rubric. Most of the songs used themes of love and fear in relationships in order to mask political criticism of the regime, while some branched out into religious themes. Her song "Impamo" ("Reality" in Kinyarobyi) saw influences from Gospel music and told of her theological journey from Catholicism to Southern Orthodox Sotirianity. She mainly sang in Kinyarobyi, but branched into Gaullican and Ndjarendie in order to widen her appeal. Her Gaullican songs and "The one I love is gone", her only Estmerish song, saw success outside of Mabifia and led to the rise of Djeli pop as a Bahian phenomenon. She undertook one tour of Rwizikuru before the Rwizi-Mabifian Split, playing to sold-out crowds in Mambiza and Port Fitzhubert in 1965.
However, her success was unable to be replicated in the Euclean markets. While Uwineza gained a following among the Mabifian diaspora in Gaullica and Estmere, this did not cross over to mainstream listening due to the lack of attention towards Mabifia as a centre of arts. In 1968, Uwineza came under suspicion of the state after one of her original band members confessed the anti-establishment messages of several songs. Thinking she would be safe from persecution thanks to her stature, Uwineza released "Bahiens, levez-vous!". This song made no effort to conceal its political message, and was swiftly pulled off the radios after there were reports of protests against the central government. Fearing arrest, Uwineza attempted to flee the country but was arrested and shot whilst trying to flee police custody. Many believe that she was shot so as to avoid incarceration, as her popularity would likely lead to disturbances. When the news got out about her death, there were riots in several major urban areas but these were suppressed. Her death was unable to stop her music from being listened to, and Uwineza quickly became an iconic figure in the Mabifian underground music scene.
The rising popularity of Uwineza in Mabifia saw the idea of Djeli pop manifest into a movement against Rwizikuru. It perked up especially in 1969 following the war over Yekumavirira, which saw Garambura declare its independence from Rwizikuru with the support of Mabifia. Chloe Kolisi was one of the first artists to produce music following the ideals of Mabifian Djeli pop, and cited Uwineza as a significant influence on her style of music. Kolisi birthed a strand of Djeli pop now referred to as "Club Mambiza", a catch-all term for all Garamburan Djeli pop, which heavily influenced the culture of Garambura throughout the 1970s. Along with the emergence of Djisco on Kolisi's second studio album, Bvarura, and the general popularity of Djeli pop increasing rapidly in the early-1970s in Garambura, it became one of the first early-modern musical revolutions in a whole country.
With Mambiza's large international integration compared to Mabifia, owing largely to its colonial past, Djeli pop began to spread worldwide, gathering traction in Gaullica, Estmere and a plethora of other Euclean nations, particularly those with strong colonial history. Kolisi herself was known for her raw and unapologetic lyrics, often referencing Bahian struggles for independence and anti-imperialist ideology in her music. Kolisi became one of the first musical icons of Garambura in the process, and played her first Euclean show at an underground bar in Verlois. Her music began to pick up traction in Euclea and she became the first story of international success in Djeli pop, with Uwineza following suit posthumously. Critics who reviewed Kolisi's work in the 1970s often cited her passionate, angry and loud delivery in her music as one of the main characteristics that set her apart from others in the early pop scene, with some early punk bunds also citing her raw delivery as inspirational. When Kolisi passed away in 1981, she was seen as a defining factor in the growing rebellious music scene of the 1970s, and was named Artist of the Year by several popular musical publications throughout the world during her career.
Into the mainstream
Kolisi's successes catapulted Djeli pop into the Euclean popular imagination. The genre was quickly embraced by diasporic communities as a way of finding links with their Bahian roots, leading to a wave of new Djeli pop artists within Bahian immigrant communities. This phenomenon was known as the Djikourou, meaning "wave" in Bélé, and was not just limited to Euclea. Nations such as Imagua, where the majority of the population have Bahian roots, saw the genre rise in popularity. Djeli pop releases now debuted on the national charts and were played not only on specialist diaspora radio stations but also mainstream music stations. This brush with the mainstream had a large effect on Djeli pop. Many conventional pop stars did collaborations with Djeli pop artists, such as Gaullican artist Kévin Marchant who released the song "Southern sun" in collaboration with diasporic Djeli pop group Lion and attained top charts in several Euclean nations. The influences of pop music were felt on several artists, with more catchy lyrics and choruses becoming a feature in many songs. Physical versions of traditional instruments became less widespread due to their cost of import out of Bahia, by contrast, many traditional sounds were replicated using electronic technology.
Djeli pop's rise into the mainstream cultural psyche had broader societal effects as well. It gave Bahian youths a way of connecting with their culture, increasing pride and ethnic identity within these communities. In many cases, this led to moderate decreases in petty crime rates as at-risk youths found new ways to channel their disenfranchisement with Euclean society. However, there were increases in attacks on police and, in some instances, riots in majority-Bahian neighbourhoods as seen in the 2002 EUCLEAN CITY riots. These events attracted the ire of several far right politicians in Euclea who condemned the genre as "barbaric" and "a weapon of civilisational clash incompatible with Euclean values". Much of this criticism was based on the strong themes of anti-colonialism and Bahian pride, which sometimes strayed towards advocacy of militancy and Bahian supremacy. Despite these events, the genre's popularity grew as its notoriety attracted the interest of non-Bahian youths looking for music that rebelled against their parents.
Djeli pop remains a highly popular genre of music internationally, with songs of the genre consistently reaching the top charts across the world. Djeli pop concerts are often sold out in Euclean nations. The genre has shiften in its centre with the Bahian diaspora, primarily in Gaullica due to its colonial history in Mabifia and Garambura, producing the most music and basing the most popular artists and groups. Some of the most well known modern artists include Djeïne, Kusvika Madhuku, Ibichitsi, Bahian Soul Collective, and Les Kèlètches. The genre's popularity has seen the rise of several subgenres which mix elements of Djeli pop with other musical styles. While some of these such as Djisco, which combines Djeli pop's lyrical styles and usage of traditional sounds with Disco style music, have existed for years and have their roots in the Club Mambiza artistic movement, new forms of the genre continue to emerge. Djelectro is a major example of this, and despite its relatively old age as a Djeli pop substrate in recent years it too has branched out into Electronic dance music and Bahiawave. Similarly, there exist Djelified forms of genres such as spoken-word poetry and even death metal.
Djeli pop has managed to carve out a unique cultural niche for itself, which continues in the modern day. In low income urban areas Djeli pop has been widely embraced not only by Bahian immigrant communities but other marginalised groups, providing a sense of shared identity. This has lead to "Djeli pop" songs which make use of traditional Badawiyan musical techniques, and songs whose lyrics deal more with the social situations within such urban communities instead of purely focusing on Bahian issues. Elements of traditional Bahian dress such as the Dereke and Kufi have become more widespread in Euclean countries, while clothing that makes use of traditional patters is also seen as a way of showing connection to one's roots. With the popularity of Djeli pop, other areas of Bahian culture have gained in popularity with Bahian cinema and Bahian cuisine also seeing rises in popularity.
Resentment of law enforcement
With Kolisi's entrance into the Euclean mainstream in the mid-1970s came an increase in rebellion against the status quo, particularly among the Bahian diaspora in Euclea. Her lyrics often referenced institutional discrimination and racism within many law enforcements in Euclea, but particularly resented the ground police, especially in Gaullica and Estmere. She would often reference somewhat exaggerated accounts of police racism, which earned her disdain amongst the government and popular police advocacy groups. In 1977 her music was enough for her to receive a letter from the head of Estmerish law enforcement following her peformance in Ashcombe. She went silent in the media before her scheduled performance in Knowleston, where she famously emerged with an outfit representing the pan-Bahian colours - green, yellow and red - with shreds of the torn up letter stuck all over the outfit. The event was enough to get Kolisi banned from Estmere in August 1977, citing a "desire to incite hatred and division amongst the populace". The ban would not be overturned throughout the rest of her living life, with Knowleston 1977 being her last performance in Estmere. After Kolisi's death a large spike in attacks against law enforcement was recorded in eastern Euclea, but particularly in Estmere and Gaullica, where Kolisi was most popular. The trend continued throughout the 1980s and formed the framework of the political landscape regarding police and the Bahian diaspora in Euclea in the 1980s and 90s. Resentment against law enforcement would also be a defining aspect of Djeli pop after Kolisi's death.
One of the most controversial cases of Djeli pop's anti-law enforcement messages is that of singer Impiri. Impiri, a Kirobyi artist, attracted widespread notoriety after the release of his 2008 song kill cops, its fun which called for people living in Euclean nations to commit terrorist acts against law enforcement officials and referred to those who did not as "smiling Mirites". Following the deaths of three police officers in Gaullica, there were pressures upon the Mabifian government to arrest Impiri on charges of incitement to violence and conspiracy towards murder. While the government initially claimed that Impiri's remarks were covered under free speech, they were forced to back down from this position following the publishing of several cases of Mabifian journalists being killed extrajudicially following reporting on corruption and government misconduct. Impiri was eventually arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail, which he is currently serving. While in jail he has released two other songs with very similar messages such as makin' pink which refers to killing white people, and y'all cowards don't even own slaves which defends Bahian slavery. His sentence was elongated by 3 years after each song's release.
Accusations of historical revisionism
One of the major modern faces of pan-Bahianism in global pop culture, Mabifian-Gaullican artist Djeïne came under criticism in 2018 for remarks made at a concert in Verlois. She claimed to be the "Houregess of pop music", and when asked to explain the title went on to describe the system in a way that was described as "historically revisionist to the extreme, to the point of depicting the Houregic system as vastly superior to modern Bahia" and claiming that Bahian slavery was "humane, and a part of Bahian culture which should not have been erased by the colonists". Facing widespread criticism in Euclean media, she later claimed that the remarks were taken out of context but did not offer any further explanation and instead claimed that she was being vilified for her race. Several popular radio stations removed her songs from air, but overall sales of her music increased by 4% in the three months after the event.