Any attentive viewer will not miss the spiritual undertones of Elom 20ce’s visuals. This, made all the more visible in the video for Voodoo Sakpata – from prominent images of masks to that of the ocean – prompted me to ask Elom to talk about African spirituality in Voodoo Sakpata – and beyond. “I think spirituality is our identity. If we lose our spirituality, we’re lost,” he declared, and added that spirituality is intrinsic to African cultures. Elom said that Voodoo Sakpata was “very challenging” for him; and he mentioned the barrage of criticisms and the loss of fans that the song brought him. “Sakpata is the God of Earth (in Dahomey). It can do very dangerous things when it’s angered. That song is a metaphor; and what i wanted with it is that ‘we’re walking on something that is alive – The Earth.’ It’s something that is always moving. You put a seed in its mouth and it’ll give you a tree. You can fetch water from it. And then, sometimes it shakes, saying ‘i’m carrying you on my back and you’re still misbehaving.’ So in the song, i’m basically saying that we’re misbehaving, and if we’re doing so, The Earth will ask us questions. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that.”
In view of the fact that there is a track titled “Organize, don’t agonize” on Elo 20ce’s last album, Indigo, i thought it pertinent to ask him to share thoughts on – and to simplify, if possible – this concept – organizing – which seems to be a lifeblood if activism. “Firstly, i think organizing means taking time to understand the system – by learning, discussing, teaching – and then linking up with people to strategise, and move on to implementing strategies to achieve set goals.” In the context of Africans all over the world, Elom 20ce thinks that “we ultimately have the same fight. So we need all the oppressed to come together and fight the system. That’s organizing, too.” To allow colonial frontiers to serve as hindrances to linking up and organizing, is, according to Elom, “a lack of organization. “In my mind, there are no borders. Seriously, i’m not seeing them.”
“If people can’t go to the mountain, let’s bring the mountain to them,” Elom began, in response to a question i asked on how to make consciousness available to a critical mass. “It’s all part of what i was trying to do on the Indigo album.” On the album, Elom 20ce namedrops and also samples speeches of several revolutionary artists/activists – from Amilcar Cabral to Nina Simone. All of this, he says, is an attempt to use his music “to make public the ideas of some people that are hiding.” Ultimately, he hopes that his music could be where a listeners interest in certain progressive people and transformative ideas, is sparked.
Further, in pursuit of this very vita end – of making knowledge – accessible to more people, Elom 20ce is involved in other projects such as Cine Reflex in Togo. At Cine Reflex – which happens on the last Sunday of every month – there are activities such a s documentary screenings and discussions, knowledge creation and sharing. “My art doesn’t end with just the music and the stage,” Elom said, “it is important to me that i create space where i can engage with the people and share thoughts and ideas.”
After all is said and done, Elom 20ce envisions and hope for the eradication of the painfully ridiculous paradox that is Africa’s situation: a very rich continent, having most of its people in penury. “My ideal Africa is an Africa where suffering is not normal. Where we’re living free, and all the people can eat and be educated properly, and be respected as human beings.” And of course, Elom’s ideal Africa is a borderless one as well” “we should remove all the borders,” he charged.
By: Moshood Balogun
Photos: Selorm Jay