Thanks to William Lehong, standing in for the lunch team on Metro FM’s TGE I was introduced to the Stromae’s song Papaoutai which sounded strangely similar to Dr Malinga’s Oteng. It turned out that I actually knew the artist from his hit song “Alors on danse.”
Naturally since Dr Malinga’s song was released later than the Papaoutai, people called the South African song a sample. But strictly speaking it is not. Because in music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece. And that is not what happened in this case.
Here is what fascinated me about the two works.
I think it is actual safe to say that Stromae’s hook inspired Dr Malinga’s Oteng. Though the hook sounds the same, the two artist aren’t event saying the same thing, or dealing with the same subject matter. Dr Malinga wrote his own lyrics on his own arrangement. He may have used a similar hook, but has a completely different meaning. If anything the guitar on Stromae’s song sounds strangely similar to Thomas Chauke’s hit single Muendliwa Anga Vali taken off Shimatsatsa No. 5.
Stromae is of Rwandan descend while his maternal link and Brussels being his place of birth, allowed him Belgian citizenship. According to Wikipedia, the French speaking Belgian musician’s father, a successful Rwandan architect, is reported to have been killed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
The song Papaoutai actually means “Father, where are you?” And speaks of a person dismayed at his father’s absence in his own life. The singer starts by paying homage to his mother for what she has taught him about hard work. But goes on to lash out at his father for being absent when he needed him all his life. He even says Ah sacré papa, Dis-moi où es-tu caché ? Ca doit faire au moins mille fois que j’ai compté mes doigts (Translated: Oh my dear father, Tell me where are you hiding? I must’ve counted my fingers at least a thousand times)
Even though the song is upbeat and likely to fill up dance floors, it is quite a sad song. In fact one wonders if it is autobiographical, because knowing the circumstance around Stromae’s father’s passing; the words “Tout le monde sait comment on fait des bébés, Mais personne sait comment on fait des papas” (translated: Everybody knows how to make babies, But nobody knows how to make dads) Sounds like he is speaking about his own father. In that case, one has to wonder what he was told about his father when he was growing up.
On the one had Dr Malinga sings about a father who is painfully present and is so strict that he is cramping the singer’s style. The singer addresses is his own friends, saying he know they are ready to go party, but they don’t have any money. He has the money, but he cannot join them because his Father is home, watching him.
Different song, different lyrics and different subject.
Sometimes song come to the wrong person. Oteng came to Malinga and he recorded it. But I still think it would have been a more epoch-making song in our Kwaito/ House subculture had it been recorded by a group like Rhythmic Elements. His treatment of the subject is comical and light, which is a very popular treatment in Tshwane bedroom producer circles. It is simply sounds brilliant when executed very well. The song “Two-by-Two” is a classic example of this. I do wish we took it seriously enough to make it bigger, as it does present a phenomenal opportunity for social commentary.
But thanks to Papaoutai not only do I have a better appreciation for Dr Malinga’s artistry, I have also developed a strange fetish for Stromae’s sound. I do recommend that you look up the song and draw your own conclusion. Better yet, look up another song called Tous les mȇmes, taken off the 2013 album Recine Carrée. If you liked house remixes of Cesaria Evora’s work, you will like that song.
The tempest prognosticator
Themba A Dikgale
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