if you are a white girl in africa, you fall into one of two categories: either overweight and like black dudes, or everyone else. i happen to be in the other category, which makes me unlikely to attend a papa wemba concert.
papa wemba is like the bob dylan/mick jagger/winston marsalis of central africa. old guy. suspenders. hat. good music.
whenever he plays in kinshasa the show is meant to start at 8, but he doesn't end up on stage before 3 am and everyone is drunk and wasted included papa wemba and it's usually a mess. tonight he was playing at the monusco -largest UN presence in the world, btw-it's UN blue helmet benetton ad zone kinda thing. my nigerian friend alice who works at the mining ministry knows an argentinan greasy comb over guy named luis who could get us in. my colleagues warned me it was going to be an endless night of getting hit on by bangladeshies and uruguayans, and obnoxiously gave me a female condom brochure, but i had nothing better to do. i just want to see papa wemba, ok?
so alice and i go and show up at this plastic desk with lots of people at it in the middle of the UN parking lot, where they check IDs and such. the price seems very variable. 5$ or 15$, depends on who you ask. all we had was a 50 dollar bill and we hand it over and the lady holding the money in a louis vuitton purse attemps the confuse and diffuse strategy, to somehow make us not realize she owes us a lot of change. some guys ask alice where she's from, and just to make sure she's congolese they talk to her in lingala but she tells me under her breath how stupid the congolese are and simply invents a province or something where she is from. like, i'm from wangawala. and it's like, ohmygod you come from so far away! poor thing!
there are IDs handed around, this and that and finally they realize there are two of us, and only 1 monusco person to sign for us. the cash lady thinks this is a perfect reason to not give us our change so we must resort to starting a scene. hand waving. so on. the italian very metrosexual manager of the evening comes over hurriedly and says "luis, you ah no ah read ah my email-ah. only one-ah guest-ah per person-ah! you always make a trouble-ah!" so alice goes in with luis and i tell her i'll figure it out. there are tons of people coming in, I feel a bit like a groupie outside a club, though i remind myself, i'm at a plastic table in a gravel parking lot...everyone coming is mostly UN dude with very prostitutish woman. no dice.
finally this UNHCR truck pulls up with an old solo white guy and i'm all, UNHCR man, I'm a papa wemba refugee, help meee! turns out he's like, head of the humanitarian unit or something. and refugees are not a funny topic. no dice.
finally, the metrosexual guy is like, okay-ah! i take you with me, but this is the last time-ah! and i'm in.
it's like a private little concert, some plastic chairs, tables, a bbq with really spicy sauce, bananas, beer. allset.
there are lots of gyrating dancers, shaking their butts in ways are barely anatomically possible. guys with shirts made out of net material and i get to hop on stage and get my picture taken. along with alice, a burmese dude and the guy who is carrying around a box of johnny walker black label, so proudly. a young michael jackson wannabe moonwalks. on gravel! and then everyone throws money at him. he has a leather codpiece.
only issue is getting home at the end...my taxi guy is in bukavu for the weekend and the guy i found on the way in doesn't work past 11. there is car after car after UN car driving with 1 person inside -UN policy not to pick up non-UN people, they are on high alert like it's Kabul. it's ok folks, really, we're totally going to press our luck at the gas station and maybe find a kidnapper or something. so we're walking down the creepy dark road...thanks UN, thanks for watching out for me, this is great. finally someone stops and is all "jump in quick make sure no one sees you!." and i crawled into the trunk like being willfully kidnapped in a land cruiser. they had beyonce on the radio. and then i was home. thanks monusco!