Music has long been a form of escapism for those under the regime of Obiang Nguema, a ruler under global scrutiny for corruption. Though oil flows freely in the nation of about 800,000, only a sparse few enjoy wealth. Here are five artists confronting these inequities through the power of song and rhythm.
Las Hijas del Sol
Aunt-and-niece duo Piruchi Apo Botupá and Paloma Loribo Apo traveled from their native land to Spain and forged a formidable world music career from 1992 until 2006. They performed in the Bubi language, as well as in Spanish, blending Castilian characteristics with the euphoric, painstaking harmonies of their tribe. Their biggest single, “Sibèba,” melodically spoke of their struggles as immigrants to Madrid. (Thank you to UCLA’s Ethnomusicology Review for the recommendation.)
“What’s there to be afraid of if I’m dead?” rapper Adjoguening told USA Today in a 2015 interview. His hip-hop protests against minority oppression have infuriated the government and censors, but he continues to speak his mind. Despite public attempts to silence his political art, he remains one of Equatorial Guinea’s most vital MCs, selling thousands of albums through DIY distribution.
Spanish classical guitars entwine with energetic beats throughout Respect, the 2016 album by Nene Bantú. His music is toe-tapping and gleeful, serving as an escape from the everyday tyranny Equatorial Guinea’s citizens face. Songs such as “Molon” set spirits alight with soukous vibes—a reverent style popular in Western Africa.
With a soulful, throat-gripping voice, Yolanda Eyama bid everyone Welcome to Malabo via a powerful 2014 record. She conjures up Whitney Houston and Jill Scott with her uplifting messages of overcoming adversity. Eyama collaborated with Madrid-based songwriter Zani McPherson to create “2 Freedom,” a celebration of autonomy in a land that so rarely grants it. (Lead image courtesy Big Music Ediciones.)
Malabo Strit Band
Named for Equatorial Guinea’s capital, the Malabo Strit Band composed breezy tunes capturing the lighter aspects of life. Jazz, new age and easy listening elements blended with tender vocals on their self-titled 2003 album. It’s considered one of the nation’s most essential modern recordings because of its variety, accessibility and charm.
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