In the middle of a crowd gathered in support of the soldiers in Niger, the star of the moment appears. Girded in his fatigues, Sergeant Maman Sani Maigochi performs a choreography where standing at attention and imaginary gunshots mingle with swaying dance steps.
The coup d’état of July 26 in Niger is supported by several military or civilian artists, who produce a series of productions in a country gripped by patriotic fever.
An active soldier and musician trained in the barracks, Maman Sani Maigochi is distinguished by an improbable mixture of silky rhythms and martial symbols, presented in his clips broadcast repeatedly on national television in the early hours of the coup d’état.
Soldiers on operations, military parades, medal presentations… Images taken from films promoting the Nigerien armed forces, and interspersed with the swaying of Niger’s most famous non-commissioned officer, regularly deployed on operations to support the morale of the troops.
Since the beginning of the 2010s, his green beret and his devastating smile have embodied the strong popularity of the Nigerien army among the public: 71% of Nigeriens say they have “a lot” of confidence in their soldiers, according to an Afrobarometer survey carried out in June 2022.
On leave in Niamey, stronghold of opposition to the fallen regime, Sergeant Maigochi records yet another clip in front of a crowd of curious people in the gardens of the Oumarou Ganda cultural center.
The set consists of a camera and a computer placed on a speaker which spits out its new title. Since the coup d’état, new productions have been produced at a breakneck pace despite limited resources.
Heir to a long line of civil servant artists, Maman Sani Maigochi intends “galvanize” the troops and civilians through his compositions and integrates classic sounds of Niger’s musical heritage, still little-known outside the region.
“The douma, the kalangou, the gourimi, these traditional instruments, I put them in my music (…) to enrich them a little, because if the Nigerian hears this type of thing, he likes it, it wakes him up! »he said.
The threats of military intervention brandished by West African neighbors opposed to the coup d’état have awakened the patriotism of some Nigeriens and the new national anthem adopted in June, before the coup d’état, caused fury.
A cohort of civilian artists have joined the movement and liven up the rallies in support of the military regime organized in the main cities of the country. With a wide range that extends from traditional music to rap and reggae.
“There was a spontaneous impulse from different social strata to come out and support the coup”assures singer Adamou Yacouba, aka Black Mailer.
Inside a studio in Niamey, this famous Nigerien musician begins his new production as soon as the power returns after a long power outage. The Rastaman matched his eternal dreadlocks, rather frowned upon in a conservative and religious society, with an appropriate military jacket.
“When democracy is privatized, soldier, it must be militarized! »he sings, over a syncopated beat.
” Roadmap “
The scene could be surprising in a foreign country, but it is not surprising in Niger.
The country’s history is marked by a succession of military regimes and coups that often brought an end to unpopular governments. From Seyni Kountché to Ibrahim Baré, strong men and their exceptional regimes have left good memories for some Nigeriens, disappointed by the political class.
“Everything we have had as a text governing the world of culture, 70% or 80% we had during the exceptional regimes. A way of saying that the military listens to us more than the civilians, it’s a shame, it’s paradoxical, but that’s how it is.” says Rachid Ramane, president of the Federation of Artistic and Cultural Associations of Niger.
These musicians, military or civilian, are not content with singing praises, however. Their art is considered as “a road map for the military”, says Black Mailer.
Artists like him did not hesitate to criticize previous regimes, at their own risk. “My whole career has been a series of troubles!” »he jokes.
In a country where music struggles to free itself from societal constraints, art and politics often go hand in hand.
“In the artistic and musical heritage sung in Niger80% of productions are calls for monitoring » citizen, believes Rachid Ramane who adds: “We are the eyes and ears of the voiceless, and we will continue.”