Originally published on Two Dollar Radio Blog (Noise):

Monday, August 2, 2010:

Djeli Kouyaté 

I’m back blogging this week about the last of my narrator’s lovers, Djeli Kouyaté. He’s a virtuosic Malian rock star - and a formidable intellectual. He studied political philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure. He generally keeps himself pretty busy. 

In the span of just a couple of months in 2008, for example, he had a benefit concert for Cité Soleil with his best friend, Wyclef Jean. He also did a benefit performance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He was briefly back in Bamako for a private strategy meeting with Amadou Toumani Touré, the President. He spoke at the third World Congress Against the Death Penalty at the Cité Universitaire Internationale de Paris. He attended, though didn’t speak at, the Conference on Moral Particularism at Paris I. There was a documentary filmmaker who’d been following him around with a small crew. Djeli went back and forth between finding him entertaining and a pain in the ass. And of course, there was the regular media attention. This seems to flair up when he indulges himself in dinner dates with supermodels. Which happens with considerable regularity.

I haven’t spoken with him about Wyclef Jean’s possible run for the Haitian presidency. I’m sure he has mixed feelings. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Filles, filles, filles…

In my novel, the narrator Vivian describes a field trip she once took with her son’s middle school rock band. They went to see a Mötley Crüe concert. The entourage consisted of her, a couple of tattooed, balding, ponytailed dads, plus the boys in the band:

"It was in Madison Square Garden. Somebody had snagged a skybox for our party. I tried to chitchat with the ponytailed dads. A guy brought in giant cups of soda for us, and potato chips, on the house. You know how rock concerts are. We were very far from the stage, but they have those huge video projections on the side. There were some women dancers with enormous, buoyant boobs making snarling faces at the audience. Tommy Lee rode onto the stage on a motorcycle and the crowd went wild. The biggest hit, which got the most enthusiastic reception, was their classic, 'Girls, Girls, Girls.'

"Perhaps you know the lyrics to that one. They start out extolling the virtues of leggy, red-lipped beauties from the West Coast and the Northeast; then they reminisce tenderly about a certain sexual escapade in Paris, France. They manage to rhyme 'ménage à trois' with 'breaking those Frenchies' laws.'

 "Their rendition of this little chestnut was accompanied by much snarling and gyration from the dancers. The dads drank their sodas and ate chips. So did the kids. So did I. I was wondering what we were doing there but thinking it was an educational experience for Sandro and me."

 Vivian also mentions this concert in an e-mail to Djeli. I think he understood the irony of her citing this particular song. Recently he posted an instrumental cover of it to his YouTube page:

 I thought that was pretty sweet. At least Djeli has a sense of humor about himself. 

 I’d kind of hoped, though, that he would record the song with the words. It would be very pretty, really, in that haunting falsetto of his. 

Filles, filles, filles
Les lèvres rouges, les bouts des doigts…

Raconte-moi une histoire
Tu sais laquelle…

Le Crazy Horse, Paris, France
J’ai oublié les noms, mais je me souviens de la romance…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tierno Bokar

Djeli’s 2004 release, À Tierno Bokar, was one of the most politically trenchant and yet poetically sophisticated albums of recent memory.  It was a complicated project for him to take on. He’d long ago openly stated his resistance to all organized religion and his specific concerns regarding Islam - not just fundamentalism, but even some moderate forms. He most frequently voiced his concerns in relation to gender politics and homophobia. But obviously, it was also important to acknowledge a figure of tolerance such as Bokar. Also, his sister Kadidia was deeply involved in Sufism. I’m sure this had an influence on the project.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Here’s a recipe for kedjenou - the dish that Vivian and Djeli were eating at the African Grill in Bamako that first night when Mariam came storming in with her head-tie undone.


1 chicken, cut up
2 or 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
2 onions, sliced
3 hot chili peppers, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. ginger, minced
1 t. thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325°. Put all the ingredients in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Place in oven for about 2 ½ hours. Jostle the pot a few times while cooking. Correct seasoning. Serve with foutou (mashed yams).

Friday, August 6, 2010