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Le Blues des Sourds-Muets

Deaf and Dumb Blues
The music of Mwezi WaQ. is anchored in an era that denies, in an unashamedly regressive way, the stories of how the majority have suffered. Those who have been rejected, forgotten, sacrificed. Those who are rather contemptuously dismissed as the little people — the majority — all the better to confirm them in their social tragedies. Coming from a country where music has long been the repository of popular memory, Mwezi WaQ. has chosen to take up a tradition, initiated by the elders, of raw words. The elders of yesterday and today. A rhythmic speech, anchored in the daily life and language of the people, under its rustic and rough exterior. A poetic speech, full of shinduwantsi, in the image of a word fractured by restraint or exile.
Shinduwantsi — the word literally brings us back to the Comorian idea of digging in the earth to extract the juice of life in a joust of words and sounds. A way of embodying the poem in all its complexity, by amplifying its relationship with reality. Mwezi WaQ. identifies with a world where humanity is synonymous, first and foremost, with sharing and hope. One is not born human, one becomes human by contributing to the common destiny. A necessity in the face of the adversity of an era where the deaf and dumb become elements paraded in broad daylight. Mwezi WaQ. is a quest for meaning in a glass half full of dry truths. A Comorian grandfather once murmured to his youngest daughter: “Always see yourself in the gaze of oblivion, so as not to drown in the ocean of silent horrors.” A means for Mwezi WaQ. to think about music and its “why".
Born from a first album, Chants de Lune et d'Espérance (Buda Musique, 2012)[1], the Mwezi WaQ. combo has six performers — guitars, cello, percussion, choirs and vocals — delivering a repertoire borrowed from the imagination of an archipelago with a shattered destiny. These songs emerge from the Îles de Lune, commonly called “Comoros,” a name that reverberates in the cemetery of the living. Five of the songs, although revisited here, come from a common history, woven by Comorian artists who were silenced during the 1970s-2000s. They embody a fight against annihilation. Song is sometimes the only way to show the pain of intimacy and of families. In any case, that’s where this music comes from. Two tracks are taken from the first Mwezi WaQ.[2] album released in 2012. Seven other songs — new ones — are a more contemporary reflection of an era in a country where consumerism and the law of probability lead us to believe in the fable of the tamed man. In fine, they all say, the water always goes away but the pitcher ends up broken, whether deliberately, inadvertently or by forgetting. “We should beware of the thirsty man who is always on the run, even in countries that are still oppressed,” exclaims the madman from Badja Square. This music aims to listen to the most ignored voices of the hinterland. It aspires to reconcile people and dry up fears, beyond borders and beyond words. It also tells of the burden of colonial history on an archipelago that the world seems to have forgotten.
1. Mwana-djinn
The djinn-child traces his path across the oceans. He passes through unlikely places, grabs what he can as he passes, lifts what sleeps under the stone, without any concern. “I am the Djinn-Child,” he says, “I refuse to give up my soul to the unknown.” He thinks of the fathers, the mothers, the families, their prayers. He would so much like to go back to them, to bear their burden, to bring them peace. He loves wandering through the world, carried away by love and life, as one who has no God. But let us never forget that a promise always returns to its starting-point. The race through archipelagic childhood has no limits, but it does not yield to the wind. Legend has it that djinn-children are born when the invisible is invoked to offer what does not belong to the mother: a child who all too often embodies the ills of his family, wherever he goes.
2. Ya ngaya
A lullaby passed down the generations. Played by Souleymane Mze Cheikh, covered by Olivier Ngog. It is the story of a seed. "My prayer is for this seed" says the voice. Just like the one that produces date palms. The good seed is the one that grows, propagates and benefits everyone. Whoever gives a child, insists the voice, continuing the metaphor, should take care of it, as for a seed, from which one hopes for a good outcome. “Grow up child, grow / May God protect you” sing mothers to their children. For whoever hopes the best for his child, ensures that the child has the means to fulfil itself. Like the sprouting seed…
3. Ankipwa
They breathed into our hearts, lifting us up. They closed our eyes, pushing us around. Who are "they", who are "we"? Those in power, and we the people who speak. We know no regret for the scholar, who forgot us at the table. In the darkness and the wind. And when the sea is rough, the djinns — a reference to fire, to danger — see hope as an extinguished thing. We were promised the incredible. The fundi introduced us to night-time love. The elders, in turn, taught us arrogance, running after a fortune of verses, stupidity slung over their shoulders. Our princes think we have no soul. Perhaps the time has come to invoke Tumpa,[3] the terrible.
4. Komoro
The anthem of a generation, composed by Ali Affandi. We are told that there is no way out, he sings. Yet we have seen America and Russia fall under fire. They say that submission is the only truth, because the white master knows better. Mystery! O, miracle! This is the first time that memory has a face and a colour. Don’t do yourself down! he sings again. Dare to say to them: “Coloniser, go home". To the country, he says: “O, Comores/ Our thirst, our hunger/ Embrace this world/ It belongs to us/ Even if it is full of thorns.”
5. Kondro
Prayer for a defeated land where humanity turns into a wild beast. Only fracture and bitterness came out of the soroda war[4]. The mothers, oblivious, have chosen instability and volatility for ever, setting fire to the shared destiny, in the name of myth and old quarrels. Family bonds drown while we give thanks to the ogre of Europe. We pass and pass again like poor wretches, goes the poem, while the stranger laughs at our memory. O God...
6. Maji ya limbi mtsanga
Stories of Mshambulu, of power without limits, of chains and pit bulls. They say they came, they lived and conquered. They also say they ate the brains and the dignity. Once upon a time there was a colony… A rewrite of one of the mythical songs — Maji ya limbi mtsanga — by Abu Chihabi, the father of folkomorocean. “By dint of being despised, the water ends up [literally] stretching the sand,” he exclaims, speaking of the people.
7. Mavuzi ya landa
Poils-de-porc-épic (“Porcupine-Spine”) is a king. Hearts shrivel under his rule. He is a tyrant who does not suffer criticism. He never jokes with those he preys upon, he likes to show off to those who keep quiet. He likes to turn the country upside down, suspending the souls of his subjects. He is the first to speak in the public square, even though he is no more than an orphan without a cap. He only speaks and cares about his family. When Porcupine-Spine he wants to soften up his world, he puts on a tie. He speaks the sparkling language of the elites, while he spends his time diminishing that of the people, who sweat in his wake.
8. Ndjadjitswa
Written by Boul des îles, the man who was the pride of the folk scene in Moroni in the 1980s. The text sounds like a call to order. Let's stop avoiding the inevitable and take action. We know where the obsession lies: “I do not regret my words. Don't be afraid to tell me what's in your heart.” Contrary to expectation, a truth: “Let us not wait around waiting, prostrate, while time passes by.”Regrets bring us back to what we did not think about. To what we lost. Love, on the other hand, comes without knocking. No one knows exactly where it comes from. But it never disappears without reason. Boul suggests flying away like stars. Other words echo in the title: “A story of promises and follies/ That we tell to all kids.”
9. Si wadje
"We are nothing", repeats the citizen. The powers that be make him dance, by beating him. They make bones speak to remain in power, having taken away their dignity. He forgets that the Lord has given everyone a conscience. He clings to a zile zidu lament, to satisfy his passion for things of the occult. Plays with the seeds of the deep and an astrological table, as if for a satanic litany. He was seen descending into the sea of Mdjumbi[5], like the masters of himbuki,[6]swearing that he would bury the people like a tornado. "Those who dominate by force say out of modesty that we have lost to them, but God knows what is hidden," said the poet to himself, as if to ward off.
10. Undroni Blues
MwA great success for Mwezi WaQ. from the early early days. Lady Moon and Mister Sun, quarrelling over the land where they both live. A case of community withdrawal. The “native” versus the “imported” in a city. Undroni - the city we are talking about here -, now called Moroni, is the Comorian capital. Its history, we are told, dates back to the Dimani. The remains of Mazwini[7] are still there as evidence. The djinns watched over the wandering saha.[8] An old story that dates back to the time of Mwazema[9] la Douce...
11. Sariko
Immigration creates fear. Comorians, like other communities, are moving to France. But a French nonentity called Sariko keeps whispering that he would like them to go back to where they came from. His country, he says, is tired of bearing their ills. He is then reminded of the time of possessions, of Western wars, of General De Gaulle's lies, of Denard's dirty tricks, of assassinated presidents. He is told that only history can judge. “Let them close their doors / Put the padlock on / We'll keep on coming”, the poem sings. It also says:“We are here / Because they came / They turned our brains inside out / They made us sweat our souls.”
12. Mkolo
Title taken from the first Mwezi WaQ. album. A story of passing time. Once upon a time, there was the coloniser: “You decreed that this land belonged to no one. You abused our good nature, appropriating what was meaningful to us. You have attacked the prince and the citizen of this country.” The dispossession of an archipelago, summed up in a short poem.
13. Ngayo ha ngayo
"Step by step, we go towards Maore / One, two, three and four/ The shungu is broken, say the elders/ One, two, three and then no.” A chronicle of times of surrender. The shungu[10] brings nausea. There is no longer any peace on these islands. Only conflict remains, and chicken wings on the menu. The “pimpon” of the French gendarmerie is the law from now on. Secession and wandering lead only to "mourning". The country walks at the pace someone dragging his goitre. Handicaps and disfigurement are the sap that saves. Resistance fighters and rebels are nothing more than doormats! Speech after speech, the inhabitant of this archipelago becomes non-existent. Except on Maore, an island transformed — strangely enough — into a promised land. All those who approach it say with one voice: “Mpaka tsho.”[11] The poet mimes exhaustion on arrival: “Ya haya tsiwo/ ya hayi/ Ya haya tsiwo/ ya hayi.”
14. Hale
Come and listen to the tale. Once upon a time there were men on this island. They lived together, had children, grandchildren. There was a minister, a sultan. They lived in peace. Their Islam was full of humanity. One day, a rowboat arrived on the shore. Filled with men and baubles. A party was held. The sultan befriended the newcomers. "I have heard that the tale is neither lie nor truth. But the story must continue," said the storyteller. Years pass by. The friends were given a piece of land. But one day they burst into the sultan's house with books full of secrets, which the children had to learn to fathom the future. The men ran to learn truths from them. They learned them so much by heart that it stayed with them. "I take care to say by heart, not in the heart," he repeats. Then they began to bury themselves in silence, to erase their memory, until they lost their humanity. A re-telling of a condensed history of the conquest of Maore, written by Baco, one of the archipelago’s most vibrant artists.

[1] Nominated World Music by the Académie Charles Cros in 2013.
[2] Buda Musique, album still available.
[3] A freed slave who set out to attack the power of the Sultans and ended up beheaded.
[4] relation to the history of “French Mayotte”.
[5] Mythical ocean depths.
[6] A reference to Madagascan trumba ceremonies.
[7] Ghost city in the Dimani region.
[8] The placenta, buried by Comorians in the place where the child has just been born to confirm the attachment.
[9] Founder of the city of Moroni.
[10] Shungu means “circle”. It is the foundation of Comorian identity.
[11] Including French President français Emmanuel Macron. During his visit in 2019, he declared: “Maore na Farantsa, mpaka tsho.” As if to say this situation might continue to the end of time.