“If there's a revolution, there is a post revolution”

It has been a hectic year for Smockey, one of Burkina’s most popular musicians and activists. The artist uses music to encourage political activism and released in 2015 his fifth album, Pre’revolution. He remains hopeful about the future despite of Burkina’s turbulent past and recent terror attacks.

44- year old Serge Martin Bambara, better known as Smockey, from French S’moquer, to mock, released in March 2015 his first album, Pre’revolution, in six years. His previous albums Épithate, Zamana, Code Noire and Cravate Coustard et Pourriture are all productions of his political engagement. In his triplet album, Pre’revolution, Smockey takes us through the history of Burkina Faso. The title Pre’revolution is a fusion of the words Premonition, Revolution and Evolution. The triplet album was launched in front of the country’s shattered National Assembly where hundreds had gathered to see the famous hip-hop artist perform.

In the song ‘Le president, ma moto et moi’ (the president, my motorbike and me) the rapper imagines giving the former president Blaise Compaoré a ride on his bike through Ouagadougou. The president is shown the poor areas of the town, school’s that are shut down, poverty, and youth demonstrating in the streets. Suddenly a power cut breaks out leading to an accident on their motorcycle. An ambulance brings them to the National Blaise Compaoré Hospital which is in a miserable state as the president never cared about health care.

Pacifism against corruption

The album reflects the harsh reality of Burkina Faso. Some of the songs were written years before the popular 2014 uprising, which led to the fall of the regime of President Blaise Compaoré. Smockey had a prominent part in the uprising. He founded in 2013, together with his friend, reggae artist Sam’k Le Jah, the grass root movement Le Balai Citoyen, the Civic Broom. Smockey says that he became an activist because “praying is good but action is better.” The short- term plan was to prevent Compaoré from running for president again and from modifying the Constitution. “Balai Citoyen was born out of the frustration I shared with my friends and a big part of the youth in Burkina Faso. We constantly had to see how our demands were neglected because of corrupted structures that controlled the power.”

The movement is a reference to sweeping out political corruption. It is also an allusion to the regular street-cleaning exercises that was initiated by Thomas Sankara in which Burkinabés would pick up brooms and clean their neighborhoods, both as an act of community development but also as a metaphor for societal self-sufficiency.

Smockey clarifies though that the Civic Broom is a pacific movement with no wish to access any political office despite of associations to the late revolutionary. “We are a peaceful movement but certainly determined, we will use violence but we're not going to turn the other cheek if we receive a slap on the left cheek, we are not armed with sticks, knives, Kalashnikovs and other abominations, but we have our fists, our feet and the most powerful, our voice. The voice and the conscience are weapons especially if there is a way to canalize it, and art is the perfect diffuser.”

Post revolution

Smockey won in 2006 the "Best Artist of the Year" at Kundé, a national Burkinabé music award, and was in 2010 chosen "Best Hip-Hop Artist” in the Kora Awards. His fifth album highlights the urgent need for a ‘post-revolution’ to complete the process of liberation of the people. "If there's a revolution, there is a post revolution. We must continue to maintain a citizen watch to prevent history from repeating itself, " the rapper procliams. To encourage voting after the uprising, he initiated with the release of his album, the campaign ‘After you revolt, you vote’ in which he encouraged the youth to vote in the 2015 elections, the first in 27 years of which Compaoré did not run in.

Smockey had to go underground after his activism had become too dangerous for his own safety. Military supporters of Compaoré rocket-bombed his studio in the wake of the coup in September 2015.

Terrorize terrorism

The end of last year may have went towards a hopeful direction as Burkinabés had their first free election in decades but January’s terror attack in the heart of the capital has left many in shock. 30 people were reported killed and 56 were wounded in the attack claimed responsible by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Smockey hopes that the attacks will only strengthen the population.

“It’s a despicable and cowardly tragedy that hit the city of Ouagadougou, peace to the missing souls, but this is an opportunity for all of Burkina Faso to strengthen ties to fight the one common enemy: the ‘imbecile’ terrorism. These savage acts are part of a post-revolutionary context. Burkinabés are not fooled by those who pull the strings to scheme cynical plans by people like Compaoré. With the attacks, they simply turned the 18 million Burkinabés to 18 million reserve soldiers, including our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. Like I said at the beginning of the events: we must terrorize terrorism. Fear must change sides.

Smockey believes that this can be reached without violence. “I don’t think that a real revolution can be reached with general chaos, but it can be done step by step, and this is what I what I rap about in the album: Premonition is to prevent, organize, and even anticipate events in order to be better prepared for the future; Revolutions is for the action itself, and evolution stands for the African youth’s renewal of the ruling class and for the change of mentalities. In the words of Thomas Sankara: we must dare to invent the future

Text by...

Sumbu Temo

27 years old journalist student and dreamer from Stockholm