Recognized for her subversive and ironic pen, Hemley Boum made a name for herself in French-language literature with The Women’s Clan (L’Harmattan, 2010), recounting the polygamous system of a village at the beginning of the 20the century. Deeply humanist and feminist, the author depicts the human condition with rare accuracy, anchoring her stories in often overlooked parts of Cameroon’s history. As in the much noted The Maquisards (La Cheminante, 2015)his third opus which had reopened the debate on the war of independence of Cameroon.
In his latest novel, Days come and go (Gallimard, 2019), she once again mixes intimacy and politics by dissecting the recruitment of young people in Boko Haram through the voices of three generations of women. If very early literature allowed him to escape and understand the world, music also nourished both his life and his work.
Capcov: Do you remember the first album you bought ?
Hemley Boum : I remember it well, it was the Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. This femme and her texts which tell pieces of life, the destinies of a tightrope walker, the acoustic guitar, her particular voice… She burst into my life as if we had an appointment. Everyone loved “Talkin’ About the Revolution”, the one that was taken up by heart by the fans at their concerts. My favorites have always been “Fast Car” and “For my Lover”.
Women hold a central place in your work. A song in their homage?
The one that comes to mind right away is “Miss Celie’s Blues” in the movie The Color Purple by Steven Spielberg with Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg.
I am also thinking of “Amio” by Bébé Manga and “La Donna è mobile” by Verdi, a song about the disruptive potential of women. Finally, there is “Sarah” by Anne-Marie Nzié, a song that has gradually become essential for the novel that I am writing.
Finally none of the songs I quoted can be considered as a tribute to women. Apart from that of Verdi: the only one written by a man and reflecting a male gaze, the others rather summon a sisterhood, often chaotic but essential.
A piece that accompanies you when you travel…
I listen to music and sing on my car rides like others might in the shower. The playlists vary constantly but some songs come back like “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics or “Vulindlela” by Brenda Fassie.
« Attack means hope in bassa: a piece or an album that best symbolizes this disposition to believe in‘coming ?
The whole album 1958 by Blick Bassy brings this hope to my eyes. the attack Cameroonians means both hope and courage: what in this people remains indomitable.
Reading has you trsoon allowed to escape. Which piece gives you the feeling of escape?
When I need air, lightness, to remember – as Shakespeare would say quoted by Dinaw Mengestu in The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears – I turn to three of my absolutes: “Dream Baby Dream” by Bruce Springsteen, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff and “Idiba”, the version by Francis Bebey or Manu Dibango, whatever, when I miss Douala too much.
An album or a piece that participated in your awakening,whether political, feminist, social… ?
“Lady” by Fela Kuti was a kind of feminist awakening by opposition. Fela criticizes with the talent and the verve which is hers, the African women who take themselves for ladies because they live western style. I remember the parties at my parents’ house where the gentlemen took up this song in chorus. Of course the music is absolutely sumptuous: Fela Kuti in the great period of Afrobeat. But even when I was young it already seemed obvious to me that women were much more complex, freer, and that their worlds, their aspirations were less compartmentalised than Fela claimed.
The songs of Lapiro de Mbanga, and in particular “Mimba We”, were the soundtrack of the major political movements that marked the beginning of the 1990s in Cameroon. The political commitment of the artist and the language used, pidgin English, which is that of the street and of the rankless, have made it a battle song. “Mimba We,” in essence, sounds like a warning to the ruling class: “Think of us when you binge on our backs. »
A song that best defines your childhood or you ramass in childhood ?
“Who is crazy about whom? by Manu Dibango. I have a very clear memory of the first time I listened to this song. After a day of school, I was in the car with my dad, we were driving home and the song played on the radio. I remember something very happy and tender. I must have been about ten years old.
“Pam Pam Bé” sung by a group of young people Les Rrum-Tah led by Nkembe Pesauk. Late 1980s I believe. In Cameroon this song was on all the radios, everyone loved it.
A Guilty Pleasure Piece ?
“Law” by Koffi Olomide. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. As soon as I hear it, wherever I am, I dance. And if my body is prevented, I dance in my head.
Your cult song…
The most beautiful song in the world: “Malaïka”, the version sung in duet by Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte.