Happy in Bamako

After all that’s happened in Mali over the last two years, sometimes we need a reminder that living there can be about something other than uncertainty, fear and violence. That people who dwell there can be–and for the most part, are–peaceable, joyful individuals who love life. So when I came across this video shot in Bamako, set to Pharrell Williams’ cheery hit “Happy” and inspired by its music video set in L.A., I knew I had to post it here.

Watching “We are HAPPY from Bamako” made my day, and my hat’s off to the folks at Abamako.com for the idea. Isn’t it wonderful to see the side of life in Bamako that has nothing to do with politics, corruption, or Amadou Haya Sanogo?

You’ll have fun picking out your favorite landmarks from Mali’s capital in these scenes. Stay happy, Bamako.

Another version posted after the above:

Some other African city videos in the “Happy” family

Turns out “Happy” videos constitute a global urban meme. Check out, for example:

There are plenty of others, but I haven’t yet found any from Bangui, Conakry, Juba, Luanda or Nouakchott. Residents of those cities, you’re on notice! None from East or Southern Africa that I’ve seen either. (Well, one from Cape Town, filmed entirely in a bistro there by its employees–does that count? Too commercial for my tastes.) Maybe they need to get happier?

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19 Responses to Happy in Bamako

  1. Zachary says:

    I’m just delighted that you’re still doing this site. I hope you go back to posting regularly.

  2. Elmehdi Ag Muphtah says:

    I LOOOOOOVE IT!!!! We are and we will always be Happy despite all! That’s the Malian spirit and way of life!!!! An example for the rest of the world!!!! 😉

  3. asil8 says:

    Not to be a downer but other countries have posted similar videos to Happy- just saw one from Benin. Great idea no matter where it originated and great song…..and great reminder that throughout the world people cope and heal with music especially true in Mali!

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      You’re absolutely right, it doesn’t matter if similar videos were made elsewhere–they’re all tributes to the original, in some way. But the fact that this one’s coming out of Bamako carries a special meaning.

  4. A. says:

    Dear Bruce, thanks for this post. i still ‘follow’ you despite having left Mali.

    i actually found it painful to watch ‘Happy in Bamako’ and stopped it angrily before it finished. I was hoping that it would eventually surface, but desperately hoped that the quality/creativity would compare to others. Unfortunately, it was probably the worst of all (and there are some from all over the world). i don’t think it’s right to hold mali to a lower standard. most would agree that the Bamakois version is terrible and i think it’s important to stop accepting mediocracy simply because it’s Mali or Africa. one doesn’t need expensive equipment these days (creativity and talent is much more important anyway) and frankly, it’s just depressing to watch.

    Bamako is much more cultural, vibrant, talented and genuinely happy than shown in that awful video. ‘Happy’ is part of a global trend that started with Pharrell Williams, and last week i heard people in cote d’ivoire say that trends go to Mali to die. this video is an example of just that. the trend is dying and if anyone sees the bko version, they’re not going to be inspired like Dakar or other countries managed to inspire and show a positive side of their urban life.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      I couldn’t disagree more, anonymous commenter. And I wonder on what evidence you base your declaration that “most would agree that the Bamakois version is terrible.” I suspect there’s something else going on behind that statement, something that has nothing to do with this video. Have you seen the ones from Marrakech or Cape Town? And if you don’t like Abamako.com’s version, why not make your own?

  5. Susan Cummings Maroni says:

    Hi Bruce, I am so glad your blog is still alive and active. I loved my time in Bamako and have been grateful for your updates. hope you and your family are doing well.

  6. Ashak says:

    unfortunately i no longer live there. I love Bamako and lived there for 5 years. I saw great talent and creativity there. This is why i’m frustrated. I find it hard to believe that you’re asking me to justify that ‘most people would think it’s terrible’ (unless you’re asking me if i did an actual survey, which i didn’t). i’m saying this in defense of Mali as i find it patronizing to say that something is good simply because it’s coming out of Mali. the video is awful (in the context of this trend – just go on youtube) and Malian artists can do much better.

    perhaps this makes more sense: i shared the Dakar version with my friends in north america and the feedback was wonderful. There’s NO WAY i would share the bamako version because i would feel like it doesn’t represent Bamako positively.

    My apologies if i offended anyone, especially you, Bruce. your work on Mali has been of tremendous help with my own work and i have alot of respect and admiration for you.

    Ashak Sheriff.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      I’m sure you have sincere reasons for disliking the video, Ashak. It still surprises me that this video could arouse pain or even anger in anyone. You seem to feel that it has to be compared to other videos in the “Happy” category to be appreciated or judged, and I big to differ. I didn’t find it good because it came from Mali; I found it good because it made me feel good. It almost brought me to tears, it made me feel so good. And it appears that I am not the only viewer to have a positive response to it.

      Isn’t there enough juguya, fitna and nafigiya in the world already? Is it really necessary to generate more negativity?

  7. Carin Wall says:

    Dear Bruce, I join you in disagreeing. And I welcome that you are back on Bridges… which I continue to follow, now from Algiers (we met while I was the Swedish ambassador to Mali).

  8. Adam Ouologuem says:

    Yes indeed! Thanks, Adam

  9. Ashak says:

    Dear Bruce, here’s another version that did bring a happy tear to my eye. hope you enjoy it and much love to everyone near or far from Bamako.

    • Laura says:

      This is another great version! Thanks for sharing it here 🙂

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      What an awful version–there aren’t enough garibous or bridge scenes in it!!!

      JUST KIDDING 🙂 It’s fantastic, thanks for telling us about it. I will add it to the original blog post above.

  10. Ashak says:

    hahaha you have a fantastic sense of humor. actually laughed out loud.

  11. Cassady says:

    Bruce – these made my day! Thank you!

  12. Jordan says:

    Very nice video, Professor 🙂

  13. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting these videos – seeing people smiling and dancing and singing around the world is a welcome antidote to the usual scenes we see on our screens.

    Since you hadn’t found one from East Africa, I thought I would post one I found. This one features young students at the School of St. Jude in Arusha, Tanzania. Most of the kids are poor or disadvantaged. Their joy is contagious. Check it out:

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