Lucy Duran visits Equatorial Guinea to hear the music of the island of Annobon and meet singer and guitarist Desmali.
Lucy Duran heads back to Equatorial Guinea to hear the music of the island of Annobon and meet singer and guitarist Desmali.
Desmali is a quiet emotional man with a sweet toned voice, who comes from the remote island of Annobon, 400 miles south of the capital Malabo, separated from the rest of Equatorial Guinea by Sao Tome and Principe. Desmali is clearly a performer, and in the slum where he lives, ironically named "Niu Bili" meaning New Building, sat under the almond and mango trees he worked an ever growing crowd of elders and children drawn to World Routes' Sunday afternoon recording session. His songs were of love for his guitar, a woman he met called Sonita, but also of a life spent struggling to make ends meet through music. Despite the tinge of wistful melancholy that haunted his words. the music confounded easy definition, so naturally embracing centuries of criss-crossed paths of returned slaves, Europeans and indigenous people that make Equatorial Guinea, and its music so unique.
Home to many different ethnic groups, the Fang, Bubi, Ndowe, Bisio, Krio and others, Equatorial Guinea is spread across a mainland portion, squeezed between Gabon and Cameroon, and a series of islands, the largest being Bioko and home to capital Malabo. The Spanish claimed the country in 1843 as Spanish Guinea, independence came in 1968, followed by the 11-year reign of terror of first president Francisco Macias Nguema. He was overthrown by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who at 34 years in the job is now Africa's longest serving leader. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-1990s Equatorial Guinea has become an extremely wealthy nation, and is undergoing extensive infrastructural change.