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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  May 29, 2019 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the bbc has been speaking to many of the yazidi families of iraq, trying to rebuild their lives after the fall of the so—called islamic state group. since the extremists were defeated in syria, hundreds of yazidis who had been captured and enslaved are now free and reuniting with their broken families. a landmark trial linked to the opioid epidemic that is killing nearly 1,000 americans each week has begun in oklahoma. state authorities are suing the pharmaceutical giantjohnson & johnson, accusing it of deceit in the way it marketed highly addictive painkillers. the company denies any wrongdoing. there is a top—level disagreement in the european union over the eu's seniorjobs. the two big powers in europe, the germans and the french, have different views over who should be the next president of the european commission. reaching consensus will be more difficult because the recent elections have left the eu so fragmented.
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now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, from nairobi. i'm stephen sackur. now, in kenya, hope and despair live side by side. there is economic growth, technological transformation, and a youthful population hungry for opportunity. there is also grinding poverty, inequality, and endemic corruption. my guest today is one of kenya's most popular musicians, eric wainaina. his songs have confronted issues which kenya's politicians often prefer to avoid. so how political is this artist prepared to be?
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eric wainaina, welcome to hardtalk. it's good to be here. you have been making music for three decades or so. making music for three decades or so. if you think about the music you made at the beginning, and the sort of music you are working on now, what's changed 7 of music you are working on now, what's changed? well, the music i'm making now is a lot more personal. when i started off, i came from a gospel background, you know, and there's a lot of pressure, and the music industry, coming from a church background, you know, to tell a particular line. but i felt that... festival, i had been raised in a very despotic error, in both the original uhuru kenyatta, and the president, . .. you original uhuru kenyatta, and the president,... you mean culturally and politically? culturally and politically, you know, and i had come of age at a time when kenya was
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a single party states, so coming from this sort of political straitjacket, as it were, ifelt i wa nted straitjacket, as it were, ifelt i wanted to have a message on my music that brought people together, that made us focus on what was going wrong in kenya. ati.i made us focus on what was going wrong in kenya. at h was singing for this archipelago, and our leader was coming back to nairobi from his rural hometown, and he said to us, you know, because we got the attention of kenya, we need to address issues. he was coming back from the valley, and on either side of the highway, homes were on fire, and he said, look, wejust got to do something about this. but recently, i think something about this. but recently, ithinki something about this. but recently, i think ijust wanted to write a record, this new one that i have just put out, called dreams in stereo, that address is a lot more personal stuff. it's an album that talks about passion, betrayal, and redemption. i want to take you through that journey redemption. i want to take you through thatjourney in the course of this interview, so i want to actually go back now to consider you
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asa actually go back now to consider you as a young man making your way in music. even younger. even younger than you are now, good point. you did something unusual for a than you are now, good point. you did something unusualfor a lot of kenyan and african musicians. you went to study music in the united states. and i wonder if that changed your sensibility, in some way, your musical sensibility? completely. i went to the berklee college of music, in boston, and beckley is a very charged musical state. first of all, you are out in boston as a kenyan, and the first thing people ask you is, do you run? there is the boston marathon. so it's this kind of space where if a kid is waiting for a of space where if a kid is waiting fora drum of space where if a kid is waiting for a drum practice room, all right, they will have a drum pad strapped to their knee, and they will be, you know, going away at it. i remember standing ona know, going away at it. i remember standing on a 7/11 once, waiting for a cup of coffee, and this guy in front of me has an unplugged electric bass, and he is thumbing away, you know, and that kind of environment can only make you a
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better musician, you know? so i think it change the way i look at perfection, it changed how complacent i can ever be, you know. but you also said something interesting. you said, reflecting on it, you said it actually also made you invest in your kenyan—ness. that's correct. what do you mean by your kenyan—ness, particularly in terms of music? well, i mean, having been raised in nairobi, nairobi is this cultural melting pot, you know, and so when i was growing up, you turn on the radio and you could hear anything from sort of quasi— traditional stuff to the jackson five, you know? and so i grew up sort of listening to all these different sounds, but kind of leaning towards what was coming from the west. and so when i showed up in america, they said to us, look, if we wa nted america, they said to us, look, if we wanted to hear boys to men, we would go and see boys to men, so play us canyon song. and i wasn't
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sure what that meant, so i came back home to sort of immerse myself and hang out with a couple of kenyan musicians and find out exactly what it meant. and i am just musicians and find out exactly what it meant. and i amjust wondering also, i mean, leaving aside the kenyan—ness, the african nurse of your sound, i wonder how much you are influenced by one of the great african musicians of your childhood and earlier years, and of course he combined music with incredible bravery, activism. he was arrested dozens bravery, activism. he was arrested d oze ns of bravery, activism. he was arrested dozens of times, he was imprisoned once i think for 20 months by the nigerian military government. that's correct. was he somebody you look to and took inspiration from?” correct. was he somebody you look to and took inspiration from? i took inspiration from him, definitely, from his message and how direct he was in his lyric, but i also took influence from others, including one who sadly passed away the other day, i also took inspiration from paul
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simon, you know? interestingly, growing up in kenya, listening to the stuff we were listening to, graceland was... it was just a stop in history for us. and everyone gives paul simon a really hard time for, you know, did he come from america and steal all these african sounds... that idea that it was a crossover which was somehow superficial or selling out, or... but i mean, i listen to that stuff, and hearing african traditional melody and harmony and rhythm with english lyrics on it, i mean, for us that was new ground. now, we're doing that every day now, but in 1988, that was mind blowing. now i mentioned him in particular because of his activism, and the degree to which in your early years, and you have alluded to it, you make a point of singing songs which have clear m essa 9 es of singing songs which have clear messages for kenya and for the ca nyon messages for kenya and for the canyon people. i am thinking of a
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couple. let's start with the one which was entitled in english, it was in swahili but the title would be kenya 0nly, was in swahili but the title would be kenya only, and it became almost like a national anthem after the terrible al qaeda bombing of the us embassy in nairobi, which killed more than 200 people, when the nation came together and it was your song that seemed to express the spirit of kenya at the time. i wonder how you felt about that. because you became suddenly the sort of favourite song writer of the nation. well, i mean, when i look back, i might have called that song can you always, as opposed to kenya 0nly, because it is not about exclusivity or exclusion. so here we were, can you had just come into a multi—party... we were, can you had just come into a multi—party. .. we had just were, can you had just come into a multi—party... we had just returned to multi—party democracy, for the last 20 years we had been a single
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party state. in the 90s you couldn't even imagine or contemplate the death of the president, for instance. and so here we were, we we re instance. and so here we were, we were having this huge political debate, but one of the things that was happening was the tribes were being pitted against each other, you know, and someone was benefiting from that politically. and i said, look, it's funny, i mean, someone said to me, this guy came up to be ina barand said to me, this guy came up to be in a bar and he said write a song for kenya? in a bar and he said write a song for kenya ? football in a bar and he said write a song for kenya? football team, all right? and that's how that song started, because tanya's football and that's how that song started, because ta nya's football team and that's how that song started, because tanya's football team was doing well, for once. i was going to say, they needed all the help they could get. so i said no, i need to write about something larger than that. and so it's funny, you write a song about people coming together and rejecting sort of political division, you know, and tribalism on ethnic lines, and then the bomb went off, and suddenly it was being reinterpreted, repositioned, as a song about solidarity in this moment
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of sadness, you know? and it wasn't until three years later when i translated it into the swahili, which is a national language, that it began to sort of permeate areas of the country that it hadn't yet gotten to. and then, after the post—election violence, is when it actually became a sort of household song. but then you had a platform, and you chose to use that platform to write perhaps your most controversial song, or at least it was at the time, which i guess again the english translation loosely would be a country of small things, and the small things woodberry clearly be a euphemism for bribes, and it really was a song that described the pervasive and endemic corruption that canyon people have had to live with for so long —— kenyan. that brought you into confrontation with the authorities.
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# nchi ya kitu kidogo. confrontation with the authorities. # nchi ya kitu kidogolj confrontation with the authorities. # nchi ya kitu kidogo. i understand from just looking at the record that there were radio stations that wouldn't play it. you attempted to play at once in front of a bunch of senior officials, including politicians, and your microphone was switched off. to what extent did you feel the harassment, the intimidation? this is what happened, stephen, to be honest. i put out that record while i was a student in america, and we were playing this one show, the kenyan music festival, and like you say, they tried to switch off my microphone, tried to stop us from singing the song, and that then vice president was there, and it was the sort of height of president moi's sort of corrupt government. and i was getting really intimidated by these guys being able to turn it off and turn it on, right? but the audience had started to sing the song, you know, and the
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dances that i was with onstage, and the choreographers, were saying dance hard, dense harder. and it's funny how, as artists, we respond to societies, the social conditioning saying this is how we feel about a thing. turn it into words and music. and you do that, and it your moment of weakness, society then comes back and gives you the strength you need to go on. and so, i mean, thankfully, at the height of the song's success, i was a student in the us, and so i didn't actually get harassed as much as would increase my street cred. right, but while corruption is perhaps even worse today in kenya, according to all the independent measures, you no longer sing those songs, or you don't write new songs, along those lines. what has happened to your impulse to protest? well, that's the thing, stephen. i don't know what it is. i guess i'm at a place right now, i've been married for a number of years, been married for a number of years, been dating the same woman for 20
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yea rs, been dating the same woman for 20 years, and... ijust — i went through a bunch of personal stuff, andi through a bunch of personal stuff, and i wanted to talk about a bunch of personal things. i wanted... and i wanted to talk about a bunch of personalthings. iwanted... i'm sorry to interrupt you, but ijust — i'm thinking of fela kuti, and the king of all the people who regarded you with that particular anti—corruption song as a sort of a torchbearer for a campaign, and anti—corruption song as a sort of a torchbearerfor a campaign, and then i look at transparencies, latest figures, kenya 14ath in the world in terms of its corruption index, that is 145 out of 180, not a good place to be. she even yesterday, in central nairobi, in whom the park, there were people protesting about endemic corruption, and tear gas was used by the police to disrupt them. we are hearing that canyons are so fed up, something will have to give, and yet you have sort of up—to—date —— equity.
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and yet you have sort of up—to—date -- equity. you know, so a bunch of yea rs -- equity. you know, so a bunch of years ago, i started to write a bunch of articles, you know, expressing my dismay at the fact that, despite the fact that our now president and vice president were wa nted president and vice president were wanted by the icc, and were pretty much implicated for initiating the valence... that is the violence in the 07-08 valence... that is the violence in the 07—08 election period. valence... that is the violence in the 07-08 election period. that's right, can you had turned a blind eye. and it was funny, i would rate these articles, i would say all these articles, i would say all these things, play all these shows, you know, and it will come up to you and they say we agree with you completely. but when it comes to the ballot box, everything always goes down tribal lines. so in a sense, maybe i felt a bitjaded, you know. i actually find it hard to watch the news right now, you know. i mean, someone once said the world is a tragedy for those who feel it and a comedy for those who think. and sadly i think i am both, you know?
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that isn't depressing that you have that sense of resignation about the failure of the country to change... i have not lost hope. i think one of the things that i continue to do, talking about this personal information, this personal stuff, has only served to increase the things i have to say to an audience 01’ things i have to say to an audience or when i things i have to say to an audience orwhen i am things i have to say to an audience or when i am playing my live shows. iam not or when i am playing my live shows. i am not despondent in any way but right now i feel like i want to talk about something different.“ right now i feel like i want to talk about something different. if i may, iam about something different. if i may, i am wondering and thinking for example, ina i am wondering and thinking for example, in a neighbouring uganda, i'm thinking about bobi wine, a famous success story from uganda who was very political who then decided to pursue a political career and has
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been harassed ever since he has spent a lot of time in jail. he been harassed ever since he has spent a lot of time injail. he is again in detention, accused of various crimes by the ugandan authorities. does it seem to you that in your country, maybe your neighbouring countries, it is impossible to yours your creative voice without frankly losing your freedom? --to use. ithink voice without frankly losing your freedom? --to use. i think we can. academics and artists have spoken out against government repression. ina out against government repression. in a country like kenya, there is a slow u pta ke in a country like kenya, there is a slow uptake and i begin to question myself about the best way to address political change. ethnically, people feel like they live vicariously
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through their political leaders and do not care what they are accused of. they want to have their person in power. as i think about it more and more, one thing that is unassailable is, if you talk about the failure in policy, it does not matter what tribe you are, who you supported, show me your healthcare, show me your free education, show me the promises that were made and have they been fulfilled? that is a stronger way to invoke political change but one of the things we need to understand is that it is going to be slow. people talk about ethnicity stopping in my father's generation, ido stopping in my father's generation, i do not think so. i wonder how you ensure you engage with canyons because after role this is a country of massive inequalities. —— kenyans.
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there are millions of kenyans living in poverty. we can go to a slum as the people living in absolute poverty. i wonder whether you feel your music is for them, is it reaching them? i hate that you can pigeonhole our experience and say they only listen to hip—hop, reggae. i ride through it every single day and it is such a mosaic of humanity. living, you know. you can get the best haircuts in the world, some of the best food in. you may not hear my songs but they are not choosing
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what is being played on the radio. i will happily play there. . do you go there and playing gigs in that sort of slum? i have not played there in a while. another slum in nairobi, we we re a while. another slum in nairobi, we were doing a weekly gig for a couple of months... the young people, of kibera and other parts of this country, are they listening to american rap and hip—hop than the sort of fusion music that you're making right now? i think everyone in the world is listening to american hip—hop, indigenous music. does that bother you? yes, it does
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but it also challenges me. i'm not going to listen to beyonce more than eric - i going to listen to beyonce more than eric — i take that as a challenge. i wa nt eric — i take that as a challenge. i want beyonce's homecoming and can you west sunday service and i tell you, it liberated me. the stash can. iam directing you, it liberated me. the stash can. i am directing things on stage and directing shots and i am never going to be the guy who hears something and that may be better than mine and not be challenged by it. if we want to compete with american music, with nigerian music, while i do agree there might be some policy et cetera, i think ijust have to bring my best game. can you do it? can you
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compete? we know of west african artists are over years of made a big success in europe and to a certain extent in america. do you have a vision we can become a popstar, to be brutal about it, in the uk, the us? i am as good or better than any global popstar. the only thing standing between myself or any other artist on this side of the world and global participation is hundreds of millions of dollars, right? i am as good... iam millions of dollars, right? i am as good... i am not trying to be adversarial but i am as good as sam smith, ed sheeran. i do not look as good as beyonce. .. i suppose that theissueis good as beyonce. .. i suppose that the issue is whether those markets that would bring the riches to you,
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the us or europe, whether they are truly open and accessible to a musician from can you? they are not yet but we getting there. —— kenya. it has two sent to our collaborators, record companies, promoters. in your most recent album, dreams in stereo, is in english? is that a conscious decision, i am going to sing in english, right accessible songs and songs that i believe will do well elsewhere? i cannot guarantee that a song will do well because it is in english. i wrote it in english because that is what came out. i sat at my piano and tried to write some political songs but they just were not coming. i could not leave this
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studio without asking you to play us out. is there one particular song that means a lot to you that you would like to play for me before we end? yes. i will play, would like to play for me before we end? yes. iwill play, can would like to play for me before we end? yes. i will play, can we fly away together. what is the background of the song?m away together. what is the background of the song? it is a... i wrote it one moment morning, i was trying to write this musical about this kenyans girl who falls this love with the wrong person. —— indian girlfalling in love with the wrong person. —— indian girl falling in love with a kenyans boy. we all want to escape from the traffic, from everything that we have to face every day, with
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oui’ that we have to face every day, with our loved one and be in a special place and that is what the song is about. eric wainaina, thank you so much for being on hardtalk. # i have a motorbike, i have some change, i have some wine for the night when we talk low. i have some things i would like to cook you.
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there are stories that i swear i have never told. can we fly away together, tell no—one, don't leave a number, we will not need any money either, in our state of mind. we will not share it with assault, but we plan and where we're going. maybe, we don't even know it. leave it all behind. #. hello. it looks like being a very warm start to the weekend across some parts of the uk, but right now we are in a spell of cooler weather, there has been a bit of rain, there's another chance of rain on the way during wednesday as an atlantic weather system pushes outbreaks of rain eastwards as the day goes on and here it comes.
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ahead of that, though, with clearing skies, it'll be a fairly chilly start to wednesday with a lot of dry weather around, maybe still a few showers rushing through the northern isles, but single figures for most, and cold enough across parts of northern england, especially in scotland. and the coldest spots could even see a touch of frost. but already that weather system coming in, as outbreaks of rain feeding towards western england, into wales, northern ireland, and then on towards southern scotland. feeding further east during the day, so early sunshine across eastern england, cloud building, there may be a shower, not a huge amount of rain though arriving until either late afternoon or indeed into the evening. so northern scotland will see the lion's share of the sunshine. notice though the winds switching direction. breezy out there but from a northerly more to a southerly. we are going to eventually bring in some warmer air in with that, but at least for wednesday nowhere is particularly warm. and there's some heavy showers in the northern isles, while just single figures for some of us. but on that south—westerly breeze, we'll start to draw in some warmer air the south—west. certainly more humid on through wednesday night and into thursday morning for some of us. still with plenty of cloud and some outbreaks of rain. still fairly chilly in northern scotland, whereas elsewhere we're going to see those temperatures starting the day on thursday into double figures,
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and quite mild and muggy start to the day. and we are going to draw in ever warmer air, but particularly in parts of england and wales, on through the rest of the week into the start of the weekend. weather fronts never far away from scotland, and northern ireland, north—west england and north wales at times. and on thursday plenty of cloud around. still quite breezy out there. it feels humid, a bit of patchy rain. that rain looks like pepping up through north wales, north—west england, northern ireland and to parts of scotland, as we go on through the day. some cloud breaking though, through central and eastern areas of england, and this is where we will get to see some warmer sunny spells coming through. and the temperature heads up further here friday and into the start of the weekend, peaking in the upper 20s in a few areas. but again, those weather fronts close to scotland and northern ireland giving clouds, some outbreaks of rain and a very wet end to the week in western scotland, for example. but of course that's going to hold temperatures down here, though for some into the mid teens. that weather system moves south at some stage over the weekend, some uncertainty about the timing, but right now, it looks like the warmth in england and wales is going to peak on saturday. it will turn a bit cooler and it'll
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feel less humid by sunday.
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this is the briefing, i'm ben bland. our top story: european leaders meet to thrash out who gets the top eu jobs, but there's already a diplomatic disagreement. massive tornados hit america's midwest in one of the worst—ever storm seasons. baku prepares for a major european football final, where the nation's politcs are proving more problematic than the match. huawei strikes back! the chinese telecoms giant files a lawsuit against the us government.

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