The Bieber Has Landed

It always comes in waves, and before you know it, it has grown in strength and spread to the far reaches of the country. Initially, it’s a did-I-just-hear-what-I-think-I-just-heard kind of moment, walking home from the market. You brush it off and keep going, blaming it on the dehydration or the Mefloquine. A few days later, it happens again. “Yep, that is definitely what I’m hearing,” you think as the volume swells and the number of hearings increases with every passing day.

Of course, I am talking about BIEBER. The shaggy-haired American tween heartthrob has finally made his way across the pond. Not to England, where the locals are used to screaming girls holding glittery “I LOVE YOU” signs and swooning (The Beatles, anyone?). I’m talking about Senegal, my lovely country of residence.

When I first came to Senegal, Rihanna was Miss Hot Stuff 2010. A day did not go by where “Rude Boy” wasn’t stuck in my head at some point due to excess of unwanted listens. The Senegalese love her. To this day, a typical first-time conversation with someone still goes something like this (translated from the Wolof):

Beggar on the street: Are you French?
Me: No, I’m an American.
Guy: You’re American? Do you know Rihanna?
Me: Yep. We’re biffles. It was MY frozen bag of peas that kept the swelling down after Chris Brown was done with her.

Obviously, I’m paraphrasing. The Senegalese people think all Americans know each other. In reality, I tell them America is big place with lots of people, and that the odds of me personally knowing Rihanna are slim. Of course, they still ask. Initially, I thought they meant if I knew OF Rihanna, but after being corrected several dozen times, their real question finally surfaces, although usually it’s more of a statement than a question (“You DO know her, don’t you?”).

After the Rihanna wave came the JoJo wave (remember her? 12-year-old, white R&B artist signed by Diddy who sang WAY too much about true love considering her age?). I would rather not discuss this period for personal reasons. To sum up: I about pulled a van Gogh on several occasions just to make it stop.

After JoJo came Bieber (obviously the locals’ taste is rapidly deteriorating; I cringe to think what could possibly be worse), and here we are.

I especially find it odd that more men than women listen to these, and I use this term loosely, “artists”. I hear Bieber, and a look of disgust appears on my face; I turn, and I see a group of high school boys singing along in an unrecognizable English Adjacent language.

Of course, all of these American hits are interspersed with obscure local artists who rap in Wolof. Example: Nit Doff (translated as “Crazy Person” in Wolof). Most Senegalese songs have English words thrown in, too. One song’s chorus is “I love you” over and over again. Although that’s not the only English being thrown around here. The Senegalese also love saying “Dafa NICE” (“It’s nice”), although my host family thinks “nice” means “beautiful”. I have told them several times that this is simply incorrect, but everything is still “nice”: clothes, jewelry, people, goats.

Television has also been influenced greatly by America. I find it hilarious when I come home and my host family is watching dubbed-in-French episodes of Friends and Dirty Sexy Money. The latter I find especially odd considering A) it was cancelled after less than a season, and B) one of the leading characters is a transvestite. It is illegal to be homosexual in this country, yet my 50-year-old host Dad is unphased by the woman on the TV seducing Alec Baldwin’s brother for political gain.

Obviously, these shows were dubbed in France, but I still find it interesting how popular they are in West Africa. I’m sure my Senegalese family, as well as the rest of the Nation of Islam, wasn’t the expected demographic when NBC decided to air these shows in America.

After living here for so long, I still find it strange to hear/see American pop culture in my small Senegalese town. Perhaps everything American slowly trickles down until it has reached the far corners of the world. Perhaps it is inevitable. Regardless of the how and why, when I joined the Peace Corps, they gave me medicine to prevent malaria. What they failed to provide, unfortunately, were the pills to prevent Bieber Fever.

    • Sca-rah
    • March 11th, 2011

    Well then I shall plan to rock out with them to the bieber. Oh and if they ask if I know Rihanna I’m gonna tell them I AM RIHANNA!

    • Mama
    • March 12th, 2011

    Maybe a Bieber calendar would be a good gift from America – at least for the young’uns? Maybe you should introduce some artists and see if something catches on?

    • Lindsey
    • March 13th, 2011

    Is Rhianna even American? I thought she was from Barbados or similar? You could at least start that rumor in Senegal. Also BIEBER FEVER needs to be tagged. Just sayin.

    • fenella
    • March 15th, 2011

    I have yet to hear Bieber. Know of him, heard of him, but haven’t heard his voice ( that I’m aware of).

    Check out this article:

    And an email forward i received today that might amuse you:

    Dear Icebergs,
    Sorry to hear about the global warming. Karma’s a bitch.
    Sincerely, The Titanic
    Dear America,
    You produced Miley Cyrus. Bieber is your punishment.
    Sincerely, Canada

    Dear Yahoo,
    I’ve never heard anyone say, “I don’t know, let’s Yahoo! it…” just saying…
    Sincerely, Google

    Dear Justin Bieber,
    Ariel would really love her voice back.
    Sincerely, King Triton

    Dear Rose,
    There was definitely room on that raft for the both of us.
    Sincerely, Jack

    Dear Windshield Wipers,
    Can’t touch this.
    Sincerely, That Little Triangle

    Dear Saturn,
    I liked it, so I put a ring on it.
    Sincerely, God

    Dear Martin Luther King Jr.,
    I have a dream within a dream within a dream within another dream… What now?
    Sincerely, Leonardo DiCaprio

    Dear Edward,
    I really hope that one day, I can find my way into your heart.
    Sincerely, a stake

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