Let us imagine you are a celebrity social media chef. More international culinary pin-up than cockney git, you don the white chef’s hat for which we know and love you, roll up the sleeves of your chef’s jacket and prepare for the culinary fray.
Your recipe for December 2019? Take a portion of west African griot, mix well with European art musicians and leave to ferment for about a year. Simultaneously, engage a regional hiphop festival which is the biggest local social event of the year and together cook up an additional day of music events designed to titillate the palate of local hiphop fans and European art music lovers alike.
Now travel to The Gambia. Tipping the second concoction abruptly (but discreetly) into the first, you set the resulting mixture to one side to marinate while you discuss the menu with the European Broadcast Union. You invite the EBU (for it is they) to participate in this musical feast by broadcasting the world’s first live transmission of a sub-Saharan music festival. Have a large glass of wine at this point, you deserve it.
Staggering back to your feet and returning to the fray, you obtain the services of both local and international superstars and insert them liberally into the menu. Remember – it does not initially matter where you insert them as everything will probably change at short order. Be prepared for this, possibly with a further glass of wine.
It is important to ensure that internationally-sourced ingredients come from a very long way away, in order that their travel arrangements are as complicated as they possibly can be. In this manner, international performers will remain fresh (or fresh-ish) at all times. Don’t worry, they were certainly fresh when they were put in the tin.
Combine all these ingredients in a large stadium (beginner’s tip: ensure that you do actually have access to the stadium for the days which you require it. You’ll get the hang of it pretty soon, don’t worry). As you move into the final phase, it would be a good idea to collect all the ingredients in one place. But not literally, of course – you can prepare various parts of the whole dish in different locations around the world, including Finland, Germany, Burkina Faso, Senegal and The Gambia. This you will find very easy to achieve using modern technology and you will probably feel that you deserve another glass of wine at this point, for health reasons.
Now is the time to engage the services of such supporting sous-chefs as legendary Senegalese griot Baaba Maal and his extensive band. You may also involve Germany’s finest art music ensemble the Ensemble Modern, while recalling that Frank Zappa referred to them as ‘his final and greatest ensemble’. Carefully sprinkle Nordic flavouring in the form of Wimme & Rinne – there’s no business like Sami business, according to the old showbiz motto. Assume that local political activist/musicians will be at least temporarily free on bail and add them liberally to the mixture. Fresh produce is of course better, but sometimes these things are so unpredictable, non?
A suitable framing device for these ingredients is naturally a west African multi-media sensation (what else?), and luckily such is to hand in the form of Journal Rappe. Swiftly add them to the pot pourri, both as performers in their own right and as Greek chorus commenting upon the wisdom (or otherwise) of the proceedings. Add piquancy in the shape of contributions by women (no, ladies, you have not been forgotten in these #MeToo times) in the shape of Gambian griot Sambou Suso, kora virtuosos such as Tatadindin Jobarteh, rap activists in the form of Killa Ace, Gee and ST and one-time session bass players with the Rolling Stones, although many of these are inevitably men.
As an amuse guele, add the internationally-famous literary figure of Felwine Sarr moonlighting as incognito reggae crooner, secure in the knowledge that nobody will guess that Emmanuel Macron’s favourite advisor on cultural restitution also has less academic interests. All performers will participate in the creation of a unique one-off dish to be added to the menu as the brainchild of the Liberation Orchestra of Inverted Traditions. More on the Orchestra here.
The flavours brought to the table by this extraordinary combination of ingredients are best described as indescribable. Finally, it is time to ship the constituent parts from all corners of the world to the kitchen in which this culinary miracle is to be created. After all your hard work, you present your culinary masterpiece to an eager post-post-modern world, ostensibly suffering from having eaten too much at Xmas but in fact searching to satisfy as-yet-unidentified post-Santa cravings. Well done you!
You offer the perfect solution. Light yet satisfyingly rich, local yet inexplicably international, spicy yet reassuringly palatable, you present your painstakingly prepared dish. For your own safety, aware of having created an inflammatory cultural mixture of incendiary ingredients, and being also guilty of deliberately mixing your metaphors, you decide to light the blue touch paper and retire from the kitchen. From here on in, the matter is in the lap of the gods.
The resulting culinary explosion was livestreamed by the EBU on December 28th 2019. Here’s an overview.