Suddenly, you can’t do it anymore. Playlists are sentimental spaces. This one is from just before a stormy period. All the damage is done now, all ways. The wind and the rain owe me nothing. Yet, beyond the devastation, there is half of hurt and sadness beyond what words can say.
Happy. On a morning when I don’t have a car, all engagements shifted to later in the day when the mechanic returns it. I have Fatoumata Diawara playing, the love song called Kanou, from the album Fatou. I am working on the revised edition of a memoir of a much older friend of mine, a babban yaya na, who was at the centre of the convulsions of my country in the crucial year 1966, and in the period since then until the mid-90’s. I’ve decided already yesterday to put some money in a mutual fund, having asked advice, and in the government’s new SUKUK development fund. My sisters are settled into their lives and are thriving. As are all the people I care about. My lawyering is going well. Most of my books are shelved.
And I think, maybe this is happiness? This morning thing. You hear songs of a land whose language you do not know but every verse is spoken in beauty. You are not afraid of any possible cash calls in the next two months. You have nowhere to go when you do not have to go anywhere. You wish to travel to East Africa again, but that won’t be until months yet and you are certain it will sort itself out. I’ve just brewed a coffee on a moka pot I’ve actually come to enjoy using. And this here is now happy.
I’ve been thinking about something I read recently, about happiness not coming from things. The writer wondered if a French caveman a thousand years ago was not exactly as happy as a French investment banker today. And I thought, how interesting. It is possible that for that caveman, that hut was the state of the art and he was indeed happy. Just as for our man today the apartment with a view to the Champ Elysees, or whatever it is investment bankers want to view, makes him indeed just happy. To each his own. To each his precise balance of chemicals in the brain.
On behalf of Fatoumata Diawara, who is now singing Makoun Oumou, and my half mug of excellent Uganda coffee, I salute you, my friend, my brother. Here’s to the little things and to our this moments.
As a person who keens a lot to melancholy, certain songs speak to me, capture my mood well. So, today, I’ve thought to share one of my all-time favourites. Boogie Street, recorded by Leonard Cohen in 2001 for his album Ten New Songs. Boogie Street is, of course, the mental and physical space in which we live while we are still young, still beautiful, or still happy.
A sip of wine, a cigarette,
And then it’s time to go
I tidied up the kitchenette
I tuned the old banjo
I’m wanted at the traffic jam
They’re saving me a seat
I’m what I am, and what I am,
Is back on Boogie Street
And, oh my love, I still recall
The pleasures that we knew
The rivers and the waterfall,
Wherein I bathed with you
Bewildered by your beauty there,
I kneel to dry your feet
By such instructions you prepare
A man for Boogie Street
So come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made
In love we disappear
Though all the maps of blood and flesh
Are posted on the door,
There’s no one who has told us yet
What Boogie Street is for.