The title of Gabonese hip-hop duo Poetes Fysik’s first album can be translated as “A life, a pain, a victory.” Lead artist Moussavou Nze, known as Ngongull ze Blackman, says that title and many of the songs on the album reflect the group’s dedication to changing the politics of their home country, Gabon.
“We follow our fight, because we think that every Gabonese has the power to change the future of our country, not only politicians. And we try to do that by music,” Nze said from while speaking from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where he and his music partner, Sima Ndog, have been living in self-imposed exile for four years.
Nze said the group left Gabon after realizing their music would continue to be stifled under the current political climate. “There is no freedom of expression in Gabon,” he said.
He explained that radio and TV stations often refused to play their musical critiques of daily life in the country. “We were talking about political and social life in Gabon and we decided to fight the power with our words, our music,” said Nze.
The singer said he believes their message has more power now that they live outside the country. “Sometimes when a tune comes from abroad, people are very open to receiving it.”
According to the Washington-based Freedom House, Gabon is ranked as “Not Free,” and the most recent presidential elections in 2009 were “marred by… intimidation of the press.”
In the more than fifty years since independence from France, Gabon has had two presidents. The first, Omar Bongo, died in office. His son, Ali Bongo, was elected after his father’s death in 2009.