White people can’t dance, you know — to be more precise, not if they’ve been raised in a place or community or family where they’re not socialized and enculturated into dancing, or don’t later make great efforts to correct such an impoverished upbringing. (& of course, that goes for ppl of any color.)
This video of Elvyna, “la petite blondinette,” getting her groove on to some coupé décalé definitely gives the lie to racialist bs about skin color and shake-ability. Nuff culture, and yes, some natural talent no doubt, on display here —
The song is by Jessy Matador, who is apparently from the DRC but whose MySpace has him repping “Paris/Dakar/Miami/Kinshasa.” He’s clearly plugged into the Francophone world, and if I’m not mistaken this track is somehow connected to Guadeloupe (Gwada). But Google doesn’t translate most of the (French?) lyrics. I do like what it gives me for the first verse, tho —
It is there to do the show
Did you want to heat
One meter is for the ambience
Did you want to dance
You can compare her choreography to the original here. Notably the top comment on the YouTube video leads with this:
mdr elle a eté adopté par des noir ??
another one includes this —
Superbe!! une futur chorégraphe d’enfer!!? WHITE PEOPLE DO DANSE merci petite blonde!!
Merci from me too! (& to kiddid for sending the link)
41 thoughts on “Gwada Blondinettes Have More Fun”
alas, its more boring, like ‘We’re here to make a scene / do you wanna get hot? /were here to create ambiance / do you wanna dance?’ but damn. this videos making the rounds! I subscribe to coupedecale blog search on my reader, and for a while 1/2 the links were to this video.
The jessy matatdor lyrics are a little hard to get lots of mixed french/lingala. Lingala is widely spoken around kinshasa, so most soukous and a lot of congolese pop uses it. this song has a long time coming cotedivoire2006 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2XOeMg-U8E upping the ante in 2007 -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD07GALuaQY before the 2008 hit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSjjqhQ_99 i dunno where the gwada comes in, i think its just the name of the dance?
that whitened girl can dance! i bet she cant dunk tho.
Heya, sorry Rachel but these are not what the lyrics mean and it’s not lingala at all, it’s french creole from Guadeloupe (aka Gwada in slang) and also used in Martinique, french Guyana, Haiti and Reunion island (on the other side of the hemisphere though).
And the music is not soukouss but Coupé Décalé or Koupé Dékalé depending on who’s writing it.
This rhythm (coupé décalé) originally came from Ivory coast but due to its “closeness” with zouk, soukouss, and a ragga/dancehall type of toasting (rapping) it quickly spread all over.
And I totally adhere with Wayne’s comments about this being a slap in the face of prejudice/covert racism or plain stupidity as I’d rather refer to it.
…It’s all about what you can do as a human being and what you can contribute to our collective knowledge.
3 lovely comments, thx!
@canyon, i totally should have said “whitened” in my post. thanks for the reminder.
@krishnin, appreciate the clarification, though we really don’t have to worry about rachel’s coupedecale bonafides. maybe you can clear this up for me? why is a congolese singer talking about guadeloupe? just because gwada slang is cool? interesting.
i can’t stop watching this video! she has so much style, it’s insane. when the main vocals start and she does that leg sweep my eyes about popped out my head!
color (heh!) me impressed
there’s a bit in African Dream by Talib Kwali which I’ve always really liked: If you can talk you can sing, If you can walk you can dance, a proverb I guess. Too true!
we were talking about this the other night, and how you can tell when people have put in the effort to learn how to dance… not that it takes much, people just need to be given the space and place to be free and expressive, and then to practice. kids are awesome in part cuz they don’t care, haven’t been wound tight by the the world and just go buck wild. it’s rare however to see a child with such a knack for rhythm, playing *around* the beats, not just on them, understanding the song on multiple time scales (repeating dance moves to mirror the musical structure of the song!!) and the muscle control and coordination to flat out shake it.
thanks for sharing
actually, it’s rare to see ANYONE with that type of awareness, let alone someone so young.
i believe i’ve said this here before, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever played an instrument, sport, etc. that physical facility comes from a combination of factors including exposure to the tools of the trade, willpower, and a natural inclination to perform said task. it kind of amazes me that people still get hung up on the black & white thing. i suppose it takes generations to clear up social stereotype and cultural generalizations. this video certainly gets us thinking in the right direction.
reminds me of what cabide dj says about how he started making music…he started djing because he couldn’t dance. and he’s brazilian! go figure! (i thought they could all dance and play the drums?)
i’m curious what the parents reading this blog have to say about the more “sensual” movements in this video.
hey canyon c: i’m sure that would depend on how high the hoop was set…
@ wayne : I messaged a few friends about it so maybe a better picture emerges. I think yr right that the gwada might be a hipness move, which would be pretty interesting… carib is always cool?
@Krishnin : it is & yeah, i know its coupe, thats why i posted the earlier vid where its more obvious/sounds more “ivorian”. I assumed it was lingala b/c i first saw it on a congolese message board, people there were pissed he called it ‘gwada’ and were arguing its whereabouts, sayin it was congolese 100% but as we know from this: http://wayneandwax.com/?p=100 the story could be tres compliqué!!
I’d read these comments on youtube like: “lé paroles ces pas sa du tout la vous détruisé ma langue ex: kan ya marké ”kitoko lamou sapa hié”ba sa c pa du linguala dsl lé vrai paroles c:”kitoko lamousa ka ye ” et yen a plein des erreurs comme sa”
“It’s Congo music and he’s from congo tho lives in France. The song is mixed with French and Lingala, many Congolese dance steps in it like Decale and Konami”
“Jessy est? congolais (Zaïrois) ya qu’a écouter dans ses chansons il parle parfois lingala.
& so on..
I also know kitoko means beautiful in lingala & theres a few other common words so i dunno. you could be right tho, and theres french, lingala, AND gwadacreole??
do you know any creole to translate it?
@kiddid the sexuality thing certainly comes up in the youtube comments :(
The girls 9, lived in northern france [dunkerque] her whole life, started taking african dance lessons at school and got really into it. Shows us it really isnt that hard to learn dance! Mama (messaoude59) says “juste pour vs dire qu il n ya rien? de sexy dans ses pas.elle vit de sa passion depuis ses 6ans ~ just to tell you theres nothing sexy in her steps/pace, shes been doing this since 6 yrs old!”
Yeah, I’m with la blondinette’s mom dukes on this one: I don’t see why shaking one’s tailfeather (even like that) necessarily needs to be seen as sexy/sexual, especially if we’re talking about prepubescent kids. This is something that has come up here and there on this blog, as when I linked to a young boy dancing some serious gaga, or in our longer discussion about sexuality, enculturation, Euro/Afro mores, and repression.
I also need to track down a video that I’m pretty sure Nina sent me, featuring some toddlers perreando. That one definitely generated an interesting comment thread.
Ah, Nina comes thru (though it appears that I sent her the video initially). Not quite toddlers, but they don’t look much older than 7 or 8. The 1200+ comments are overwhelmingly disapproving. Perhaps it’s different when it’s not a solo dance? I dunno. Here’s that vid (embed below), and here’s how it’s framed:
I just watched Cuba Feliz a few days ago. There was one part where there was a band of musicians and they began to dance in the street as they played. They began playing and toying with the crowd of people, dancing “at” some women in the front of the throng. The women were Dancing. And between the older women was a young girl, I made her to be my middle child’s age, early teens. She was maybe younger, since her face wasn’t fat but she still seemed to have no breasts. So perhaps 11 or 12.
And that little girl, while perfectly still from the waist up, was doing her little legs and feet and her little hips were going and that little pleated skirt she had on was just swishing and flipping. It was absolutely adorable. NOTHING sexual at all about it. The girl was watching men in their 60’s play some relatively Folkloric style music, and the spirit moved her and she danced.
While definitely, sexual pantomime is sexual, not everything that involves the PELVIS is SEX SEX SEX and SIN SIN SIN.
I mean, is she gyrating and swiveling any more than a little girl using a hula hoop?
i feel that dancing often has a sexual aspect, even if it’s not explicit as daggering or something similar. rhythmic movement + focus on the body = sexy, esp in a culture (maybe just my whitened midwest usa upbringing?!?!?) where such actions are generally not expressed. so while i’ll agree that young kids might not be actively trying to be sexy, it can trigger those connotations in an observer. RE: how these issues play out in different parts of the world and when cultures rub against (harrr) one another, i really don’t even know how to start or begin…. a bit unequipped
looks like this has been hashed out before on the blog, so i know i’m not saying anything new…. just adding my perspective.
it’s crazy how powerful sex and sexuality are, how they makes everyone excited, cautious, judgemental, happy, hurt, hungup etc. it shoots right to the core of who we are as living things.
BTW, the only thing remotely sensual to MY eyes is when she briefly squats and her pelvis makes a circle or two. But listen, I was 4 years old in hawaii wearing nothing but a bikini bottom at the beach. For our school shows we wore grass skirts and hula’ed. Anything short of simulated intercourse or actual caressing of the erogenous zones tends to be nonsexual to me, if it is not BLATANTLY intended to be sexual.
I mean, again, if the child had classical music on and was wearing a topknot and a gymnast’s leotard, who’d see it as sexual? She’s cute and young and flexible and engergetic.
And yah, you originally sent me the link :)
Yes, sexy is in the eye of the beholder. When I was little we didn’t wear shirts, we had nothing to cover. If we put our little hand on our haunches, or shook our little hips we were laughed at for shaking our “imaginations”. We wondered wtf was WRONG with people who would look at a barechested 7 year old girl and think SEX, where did that come from?
Sensual and sexual aren’t neccessarily the same thing. Its great to be able to move your body freely, feel the sun and rain on your flesh and enjoy being washed and lotioned and caressed without having the restrictions on you that are on adults. Why take that away from kids any sooner than we have to? Kids are sensual (and sexual) beings. We are born to root at the breast, nuzzle flesh, sleep with one another etc.. Not only are we touch deprived in the US, but we don’t even want people to MOVE in enjoyable ways. Not if it may incite the debbil and inflame the wicked flesh.
BTW, I find that in the salsa (and reggaeton) world it isn’t the rubias who can’t dance, but the chino/as who get a bad rap for being soulless and stiff.
yeah, i had seen some of those comments. people can be stupid (as the president might put it) especially when they think they are leaving comments anonymously.
i was curious what the parents on the blog thought of the education of children on dance techniques. as those youtube comments confirmed, her dancing is perceived as a little bit racy. at least in the USA. i’m hesitant to believe that these responses are solely the result of a sexually repressed society. Is this an adult perception issue? Does this deal more with how there are possible limits to how we educate children? What is appropriate when it comes to teaching a child to dance?
this is meant as a question not a personal statement.
shit, i guess i was a little late with posting that last comment…
@nina ya i agree with all that you just wrote above! i’ll need to contemplate the relation between sensuality and sexuality… it seems i’ve fallen into a bit of a trap conflating them, but i don’t think this is uncommon
agree that it’s really important to let children be comfortable in their own bodies and the way they use them. probably helps them grow into being comfortable in general with their own sexuality later on, as their awareness and agency grows?
thanks for letting me think through some of this with you all!
thx to all for the continued convo!
obviously, as the dad of two young girls, these are questions i have to ask. and yet, the first thought that comes to me when watching the blondinette is: boy, i hope my daughters will be able to dance like that. i guess the questions that follow are: 1) how will they learn? 2) how will we deal w/ questions of sexuality in the process? where are the limits that dan refers to?
i’m sure nina, and other parent-readers, might have some insight on that count. all ears…
i personally don’t see anything over-the-top in this video of elvyna doing her gwada decale thing, but obviously some people did.
i know my wife wouldn’t be to happy if she caught her daughter dancing like those kids in the perreando video. and i would have to agree with her. dancing isn’t just an “expression of the soul”. it’s obviously something more. even if that’s how a female dancer might feel i when she’s dancing, i guarantee you that’s not how the majority of male viewers of the dance will perceive it.
i don’t want to darken the tone of this post though considering i’m a big fan of the elvyna video and what it’s got to offer. i guess it’s clear that i believe there should be limits…or maybe “conditions” is a better word, to the teaching of a child to dance.
lol just got a message from a Congolese friend on hi5 : “its french and a language spoken in the ivory coast…. there are some random words in lingala …!!” ahh should be easier to find out!
As for dancing, i dont think a lot of the solo or even dual dancers are ‘sexual’ and it seems pretty wack to say. BUT, when i think of myself at maybe not 9, but def 12 that i had my own sexuality and that dancing at that age def involved displaying a little of my own sexuality. So i wouldnt say these people are always crazy for bringing it up, but just because theres a little sexuality doesnt mean red lights of sin have to go off.
My little sister is 9, and likes to perform miley cyrus songs vamped up in lipstick swishing her hips, albeit much less talented. Sometimes we cringe as she writhes on the floor, singing “All I need is you”. But shes doing her thing so we laugh. Even if its non sexual, id all keep an eye on the where/when/withwho’s. blondinettes public appearance seems tamer :
wow. that girl is just awesome. thanks for the 2nd video, rachel. and thx for the elaboration. i feel like we’re coming around to a nuanced take on some complex crap in this thread, and i’m grateful for the range of perspectives (& parent/sibling/gender-hood) in the discussion.
another thing about her “public” performance (which has, for all its “publicity,” 100X fewer views than the coupedecale bit): it’s not necessarily just the public context informing her performance, it’s the musical context too. In both cases, she’s drawing on a pretty stock vocabulary (if fluidly, fluently, and even distinctively); moves cribbed from African dance classes on the one hand, and from music videos on the other. These things can mix, yes, and inform each other, to be sure. But it appears to me that the accompaniment in the “public” video is perhaps more responsible for engendering the particular movements — which look to my relatively novice eyes like trad W.Af dance steps (though I’m sure they have particular names, from particular places; help anyone?) — than the publicness per se.
she’s a sensitive performer! and a bit of a ham. i’ll bet she’s having a helluva time.
yeah! i was thinking that after i made the comment, looks kinda like sabar dancing? tho of course id think that…
Her school (http://www.youtube.com/user/lasophialicious) looks pretty kickass, tons of talented kids practicing bellydance, dancehall,etc in what looks like a crazy bomb shelter. Her saucier moves arent just video informed tho:
Context def makes a difference.
I think I snipped part of my reply which was that lil girls love horsies, see saws, and swings because the rocking motion does increase pelvic blood flow which is pleasant. Yes, we are sexual beings even when small.
I’m not a good Short Answerer.
I allow a lot of things in the safety of my own home that I do not allow elsewhere. I tend to be a non-discusser. Meaning I do whatever, the kids do whatever and some things we don’t do in public because its “not appropriate”. That’s as far as my discussions on why we don’t put our dresses over our heads or scratch inside our panties in public ever go- no, thats not appropriate to do outside of our home.
My kids rarely watched tv when small, I don’t watch more than an hour a month. And I’m remarkably prudish, especially considering I am NINA, about what they see and hear. So the little ones went about 10-12 years without watching tv, movies, videos or listening to radio.
I curse, I dance, I yell, I get married and have babies. I figure they can learn about life from the world, not scripted versions of reality. So they are both worldly yet innocent. They are aware of how babies are made, that people divorce, that small children have genitals, that infants suck from nipples, that daddies leer at mommies and sometimes sneak up on them from behind and nuzzle them.
I think my older one has managed to be both very aware and mature but not in a Worldly sort of way.And I think that has prepared her well to handle high school, which she starts today and which means I may have to kill someone for looking at her because she is 13 and looks 20 and omigod I forbid dancing or even moving or breathing in case her bosom heaves….
Don’t let me fool you into thinking any of this is easy or that I’m totally laissez-faire about my girl children.
My children have grown up watching me dance alone and with my husband and other friends. I have never danced hardcore perreo in their presence, but I gyrate and squat and shake my hips a lot. Both girls have done it at times. The older one has little interest in such things and is rather blase about it. In a way, it is like the attitude of children in nudist families to nudity, whats the BFD?
So they have learned to dance from me and from watching people in the streets when WITH ME. I suspect most parents dont expose their children to dancing they find inappropriate for young eyes. And if the dancing was done at home and only got in the wild due to youtube, the problem is YouTube and the inability of the parents to set boundaries on who can see their children do those things. But in a commuity where there are designated safe places for kids to play that way, if it stays within that circle, its ok to me.
@kiddid touché, I consider myself corrected. great photo! BAMMO
@ Rachel yes I speak creole, I’ll try to do a quick translation this we.
As to the link between Jessy Matador and Guadeloupe (or Gwada), I suspect it’s simply cultural and musical closeness in action…
gotta love this, mixing up things/people/ingredients/cultures… hmmm fun stuff!
In Paris for instance, music wise it’s hard to distinguish between a west African club and a Caribbean club as they play mostly the same music:
zouk, compa, soukouss, zouglou, ragga, reggea, soca…etc basically any bootyshakin stuff ;-)
There are indeed some sexual connotations in the various dances from these area and it’s mostly about making fun of postures and actions I think.
Just like during carnival its common to make fun of people’s behavior, physical attributes, postures… it’s part of acknowledging how people are and what they do but in an inclusive way not to put them aside (for the most part at least).
The funny part is to look at tourists or people who don’t know the culture and see their eyes wide open in a sort of amazed/surprised/upset/obfuscated like expression….lol
When my buddy kiddid sent me the link I forwarded as well, and my intern from Algeria replied with this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msjZp_Vl5LA
This should spark some interesting comments ;-)
When I was 8 years old I used to be pimped out by my parents at parties. At 3am when I’m faking sleep upstairs and all the adults have had enough spirits they used to say, put on Michael Jackson, then they’d call me. I’d get in the circle and shimmy and shake and hip thrust, and older women would stick dollars in my clothes. I’ve not grown up to be a male stripper.
re: Decale Gwada. There is also Decale Chinois and Decale Sicilien, and perhaps more Decale, some crazy place either out there or yet to come.
I don’t know if it can be broken down a black v. white either/or-ism, but it definitely _is_ cultural (and that cultural aspect might involve — among other things — who one’s ‘people’ are). Speaking for myself, I noticed a big change in attitudes toward dancing when I transplanted from the Deep South to the Midwest. Apparently being “rhythmically impaired” is a common syndrome up here, if not endemic to the native population. Or that’s the consensus I get from a good number of friends I have who are averse to getting on the dancefloor at a nightclub or party, of getting up and maybe acting the fool.
All kidding aside, I very much agree with Wayne’s comments at the beginning of the post.
@giessel, re: the “sexual” nature of dancing. I’m inclined to say yes and no about that. Plenty of people see it as just some sort or sexual prelude, part of a mating ritual or whatever. In some circumstance yes, but by no means in all. How about the fact that it’s just plain fun, feels good, and is — in its own way — very therapeutic? If I don’t go out dancing fairly often, I notice a difference in my overall demeanor. I haven’t consulted any medical or psych journals about this, but I suspect it involves loosen up reserves of serotonin and endorphin in much the same way that sex and/or exercise do. I see it as being equal parts libidinal and (more importantly) _liberatory_ in nature.
And now that I’ve reduced dancing to a dry topic suitable for a grad-school dissertation in social anthropology, I’ll be on my way… ;)
@ krishnin thatd be awesome cuz i just got another confusing note that said it was french with lingala expressions, but that she didnt understand all of it so ‘something else’ is mixed in. gwada is the missing link!
@boima haha. just gotta say, your parents are awesome
theres 2 versions of decale wolof one by molare/mokobe : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XXAiznHPu8 and an older one by la leage dj http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CMgZkWBBzc both feature wolof language & the older one has sabar drum breakdowns and some senegalese-ish dancing ie the twisting yr clothes while holding yr hand up thing. so many great decales out there..
1) My apologies for the hasty & mangled syntax in the prior comment.
2) And yeah, gurl’s got some moves!
i couldn’t really dance till i lived in TNT. being surrounded by music that doesn’t villianize the body make the years of racialized restriction melt away
Here you go minus a few words (for style) here and there covered by the music the I couldn’t grasp
“We’re here to present the show
Do you want to get hot
We’re here to bring the vibe
Do you want to dance
Decale gwada woop woop…
Decale gwada we’re gonna dance
All the womens in the middle
We’re gonna present
Am telling you the heat is going to increase
How are you doudou (darling)
Come do a lil cuddling
Come give me a kiss all over
(listing various towns in Guadeloupe) Pointe a Pitre, Abymes, Goyave… up to Madinina (name for Martinique coming from the caribs indians who are the former but not first inhabitants)
Back to the chorus
Watch the smoke
Watch her spin
Watch her zoom
You’re there, you’re there what do you have
But what’s there (girls answering)
Show me your head…
Funny that the band also includes the “Selesao” crew, isn’t “selesao” the selection in portugese?
i really doubt anyone cares at this point, but jesse matador or whoever controls his official myspace actually wrote back. im still confused at this point.
I’ve noticed that Décalé Gwada Blondinette video is now being circulated among Anglophones as 7 year old Dance Hall Queen.
excuse me… 7 year old “Blonde Dance Hall Queen”
Hilarious, Boima — and somewhat predictable. Thanks for sharing.
Returning to the question of sexuality and enculturation, Nina points me to another provocative video:
The commenters are, for the most part, shocked (SHOCKED!) that this is happening. Others recognize it as a familiar, if shameful, scene. E.g.,
Also, incidentally, I’ve been reading Oscar Wao and there’s a reference at the beginning to him doing the “perrito” as a child (though it is later retracted in a footnote, alleging that that style of dance wasn’t popular until the late 80s / early 90s; not sure about that — it does seem like the “perreo” came into a certain popularity at that point, but haven’t people always danced like that?).
who da fuck care just enjoy the music….It’s Universal!
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