Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Randomiser #17: 17 January 2007

Today's song: Chuck Prophet, "Balinese Dancer."

"I got a Balinese dancer tattooed across my chest / I got a Balinese dancer, boy, tattooed across my chest / She's been my closest companion ever since my arrest." This is from Buy This Used Compact Disc, a bizarre indie compilation album put out a decade or so back to protest about attempts by major labels to suppress the second-hand record market in the USA. (They were refusing to supply new material to records with second-hand sections, or something like that.) Quite what was actually achieved by an album of off-cuts from bands like Babe The Blue Ox, I have no idea. I bought it because it was marked down to some ridiculously low price, and it included Sebadoh's "Gimme Indie Rock." Which was far and away the best known thing on the album.

I've got only a very faint idea of who Chuck Prophet is, but this is exactly the sort of thing you want to come up randomly on shuffle from time to time (which is why I bother copying over these oddball compilations in the first place). It's a country song and it's, er, very Mojo, but in a rather loveable way. He's in jail with only his Balinese dancer tattoo for company. What more do you need for a song?


- The great thing about satellite TV is that if you're willing to flick around the obscure channels long enough, you can find some compellingly unlikely imports. Most people with Sky have probably flicked past channel 148, BEN, at some time - it's quite near E4. BEN appears to run imported African shows, presumably aimed at African ex-pats.

And so I found myself watching the Bisi Olatilo Show, solemnly billed in the listings as a "Top Nigerian variety show from Africa's foremost multi-linguist Bisi Olatilo." BEN's definition of "variety" is clearly some way removed from mine. The show actually seems to be some sort of news programme, which reports on rather dull-looking events in a cheerfully uncritical way. It's difficult to imagine anyone actually watching it for entertainment. Nonetheless, an on-screen graphic proudly reminds viewers that the show won "TV Production of the Year" in 2004.

In this thrilling episode, Bisi Olatilo reported on the launch of the government's 2007 re-election campaign. The ruling PDP party are, it seems, great. In fairness, a bit of Googling suggests that the Bisi Olatilo Show is often a sort of Nigerian equivalent of what Hello used to be, complete with adoring in-depth reports on pretty much any society event that's going. (Galaxy Television Nigeria's website describes it as "a celebrity magazine show that celebrates the success and achievements of individuals in private and public offices.") So perhaps everyone's great in the world of The Bisi Olatilo Show, and it's not just the government. Or perhaps not.

Obviously, you can't expect Nigerian TV to look like European TV - you're looking at a rather more straightforward approach to production. But the reality is a twenty minute report that comes across as something like a late-eighties promotional video for the PDP, with a few buzzwords like "stakeholder" thrown in. At one point, viewers were regaled with thrilling footage of the party's new campaign offices in Abuja. It has a reception area, and a water cooler.

Across the bottom of the screen, there are captions to make sure we grasp the message. Here are a few, to give you a flavour of the production.

"The PDP is Set To Rebrand and Reinvent Itself as an Innovative, Agenda-Setting Institution."

"The PDP Can Proudly Look Back on 8 Years of National Progress Under Its Stewardship."

"All Patriotic Nigerians Fervently Hope for a Peaceful and Credible Polls [sic] in 2007."

And my personal favourite, which might possibly have been phrased better:-

"Corruption was a Major Theme at the PDP Policy Retreat This Year."

Do ex-pat Nigerians actually watch this stuff? Apparently, yes, they do - if only because there aren't many other sources of news on the homeland. But not surprisingly, they aren't totally thrilled by what they see. An ex-pat in Dublin describes the show as "a praise singing forum for the looters of the Nigerian economy." In London, freelance journalist Nkem Ifejika is even less impressed - while one of his commenters describes the show as "like having a tooth extracted." And they've seen more episodes than I have.

Bizarrely, the show also apparently has a gameshow segment which sounds like it's vaguely similar to Mr & Mrs.

If you don't wander the minority channels, you miss this kind of thing.

I was especially delighted to learn that the PDP's vice-presidential candidate for Nigeria 2007 is a chap called Goodluck Jonathan. Not only is this an absolutely fantastic name in its own right, but there surely has to be an emo band somewhere in the American midwest called the same thing. Perhaps they can record a collaboration.