Temi Dollface’s ‘Beep Beep’ has me vexing – Ruona Agbroko-Meyer

Temi Dollface’s ‘Beep Beep’ has me vexing – Ruona Agbroko-Meyer

Ruona listened to and loved Temi Dollface’s new single ‘Beep Beep’, but then the reference to ‘The Joy Division’ just spoilt the feast. ‘The Joy Division’ was the term the Nazi’s used during WW2 for a camp where women whom they had forced into sexual slavery were kept and used as play things by men and scientists. These ‘comfort women’ suffered untold indignities. Ruona, who lives in Germany thinks that refrain ‘The Joy Division’ comes with a huge payload of pain and historical weight. Read her 3-way convo with herself.

Me: So…deep breaths, and tell us what happened that’s got you frazzled.

Myself: I woke up early on Saturday, to see a friend had posted a video of Temi Dollface’s latest song, called Beep Beep.

I: Oh Temi Dollafce! That fine girl who supported Mary J Blige at the “Sisters with Soul’‘ concert in 2003, and has opened shows for Chris Brown, Femi Kuti, Keziah Jones, Somi, Bez, and other accomplished artists, Right. If I remember well, she was one of the first Nigerian artistes to be invited to Coca Cola’s music TV show, “Coke Studio.” Which reminds me…shall we grab a Coke?

Me: Yes, that’s her. And no Coke yet – there’s gist. This song seems to have riled you, yet everyone else is raving about Beep Beep, calling it eclectic, cabaret-themed, etc. What is your problem exactly?

Myself: My problem is with the opening line of the song, which tends to set the tone for the visuals, in my opinion. And this line is repeated as it progresses. The line is: “Welcome to the Joy Division.”

I: And then? What is wrong with the line? Is it your Joy Division? You are just a killjoy. Let me even go and find the video and watch.

Me: Answer the question. What is this Joy Division, and why has it made you get your Primark knickers in a twist?

Myself: Sigh. The Joy Division is… the loose English term for the sex slavery Nazi camps during the Hitler era, where women were forced to have sex with soldiers and men. They were called that, the Freudenabteilung, at the command of the troops and prisoner workers. I mean…some had “camp whore” branded all over their chests, with prisoner numbers to boot. Many were used forexperiments, tortured, contracted diseases…where do you start with a “self-love” anthem that repeatedly hits you with throaty moans of “Welcome to the Joy Division?” Seriously?

I: Calm down. Angry black woman. Me, I like her costumes in this video, see how hot she is looking. Temi Dollface always represents. Don’t go and face your work o, hater. They will soon ask you: have you eaten?

Beep_Beep-1

Me: What I like is the hint of Afro beat (not afro beats) laced through the entire song. Her voice has really matured and she can hold her own on any stage. Do you not see things you like about Beep Beep?

Myself: Well, I like her reference to Marilyn Monroe – you know ‘Some Like It Hot’ is one of our favourite movies. I also like some of her lines, like:

Allow me to summarise what you’ve learnt already/Blow my trumpet in three-part harmony/Like tell you about the simplicity of my complexities/My artful dexterity/Cheekbones like geometry…

I: Yeah, she legit killed it with “cheekbones like geometry!”  She always looks like God handed the ruler heused to measure her cheekbones to her make-up  artist. For that perfect contour tinz.

Me: Hang on a minute…here you are reciting lines from Beep Beep already! Why can you not just realise this is art…she is interpreting her art? Like one of our friends said: maybe she wanted to play out a contradiction portraying liberation?

Myself: I am reciting the lines because I actually wanted to be sure I was not missing a thing, so I had to listen to it repeatedly. Indeed; Temi Dollface is free to interpret her art and I am also free, as a viewer, to interpret and react to what she serves up. I am struggling totally with the image/concept of the Joy Division…and the empowering, flowing prose and lyrics. The two do not mix. The Joy Division connoted many negatives of the Nazi era for women who were subjugated and raped. Let me unpack this video frame by frame. Because…

I: Uh-oh. Wait, let me just go and grab some popcorn for this work you want to send yourself.

Me: Go ahead. Let’s hear your take. I am trying to be objective here.

Myself: Thanks. In the opening scene, a lady is walking to serve people. Men and women are in there, quite like a brothel. A man announces a show, and the next thing we hear is “Welcome to the Joy Division.”

As those feelings of horror flash across your mind’s eye, you hope her lyrics will erase them. But frame after frame, I could only think of those poor women.  Her empowerment lyrics are interspersed with things like: “Have you seen my back alone?” I think of the women who were targeted for their looks, to sleep with men non-stop.

When she says: It’s me, the acquisition that will pay you dividends for years to come…

“Years to come” makes me think of how the Joy Division was put to work from 1942 to 1945, in camps across Germany, Poland and Austria.

“The gift that keeps on giving…” reminds me of the exhibition in 2007 where documents, photographs and paintings showed the women were first tricked with promises of freedom into working as prostitutes, then forced to remain in these situations – some were called to work from their sick beds. Women who have managed to break the stigma and come out say they slept with up to ten men in two hours, and were looked at by guards who jeered at them all through.

Pregnancies were always aborted so there was no respite. These women were the gift that kept on giving until they died of hunger, torture, sickness or diseases on the job. Others were then captured to continue the work as sex slaves.

While I am digesting all this…in 2016, in front of a computer screen, girls who call themselves “The Joy Division” are in glossy lipstick, surrounding Temi Dollface. They follow her lead, all gyrating sensually, in corset outfits.

And then just before they remind me again that I am “Welcome to the Joy Division,” the same Nigeria-accent announcer guy comes on at the interlude with the words that go something like: The beggar as we know/Spoon in hand and a plate to match/Is never well fed.

All that pops up in my head is the image of begging, impoverished women.

After the war, many forced labourers fought for and received compensation, but the Freudenabteilung – the Joy Division Temi Dollface is referencing – these women used in brothels were not entitled to anything. The few who dared to seek retribution were told their work was “voluntary,” as Germany tried to hush up aspects of its past. Majority of the women who were already the stigmatised in camps, kept silent about this part of their lives.  Not one of these women has been compensated. Till date.

Me: Phewww…that was a long one. Okay, are you happy now you’ve let it all out?

 Myself: Nope! …There’s more, actually.

I: What do you mean there’s more. Let me ask you what anybody who hears this conversation will ask you at this point…have you eaten?

Me: I swear!

 Myself: Don’t get me wrong o. Because this whole thing reminds me of when Ms Ajayi of Awesomely Luvvie said she would not watch Orange Is The New Black again because of how they treated a fictional character.  Many people thought she was over-reacting because it was fiction but I new she was reacting from her real-life experiences as a black woman in America. This is real-life, happening in real-time we are talking about here. People died on top of this matter. I have never written about an artiste, and never disliked a Temi Dollface song…until now. In much the same way she has a right to use her experiences to put out whatever type of music, I have a right to filter this music with my innate experiences or bias. I guess I just expected better from her. I would not be surprised if this came from someone else…but Temi Dollface? Sigh. Germany is still sentencing nonagenarians to jail for crimes related to the inhuman treatment of Nazi-era prisoners, which includes members of The Joy Division so this is one of the most offensive things I have ever seen, and I am ashamed it had to be from a Nigerian.  I am even more ashamed because clearly a lot of Nigerians have no idea, even the bloggers.

I: Facepalm for them. But you are still on your own with this ranting sha. I am not among.  Abeg who styled this Temi Dollface shoot? She has some Penelope Pitstop chic going on.

Me: Yeah, the girls had signature headscarf and racing-goggles-plus-hand-gloves look down to a T.

Myself: Can we focus? It is just like when Davido wore a jacket with the Confederate flag to sub Linda Ikeji; he had no idea the flag would raise angry reactions from people. I’m really disturbed about ‘Beep Beep’ because she said those words, and there was that whole thing about: “You want a little taste of this behind/Let’s be honest babe/You want to touch it baby.”

For goodness’ sake you cannot mention Hitler, use the Swastika to promote Nazi beliefs or even make Nazi signs or gestures without running foul of the law in Germany. I would probably get arrested if I went around town, with my earphones in my ears, loudly saying: “Welcome to the Joy Division!”

Me: But let’s admit one thing. Can it be you are taking it this serious because you live in Germany? It’s just a song after all.

Myself: It isn’t just a song, when you regularly see and read first-hand the destruction caused in the lives of the survivors of the Joy Division and their offspring – even the men who used the Joy Division report trauma and shame. Decades after, these elements of subjugation continue to be used by fascists and racists to commit hate crimes and acts of terrorism against races.  I strongly feel Temi Dollface had no idea the depth of The Joy Division issue. Anything she tries to come up with is after the fact., as far as I am concerned, and using that lovely crutch for the truly disabled called “artistic license.”

If she’d engaged herself in research (or paid someone to do it), they would tell her that the punk rock band who named themselves Joy Division spent their existence periodically defending themselves against the negative connotations of that name. In fact, band-member Bernard Sumner was apologetic over their choice of a name, blaming the punk zeitgeist at the time for the “dodgy” name. “In my more mature years, I probably wouldn’t pick it, because I know it would offend and hurt people,” he said circa 1977.

I: Na wa o. See vexing. I am asking seriously – have you eaten?

Me: I am just imagining how it would be if Beyonce had started one of her numerous liberation “self-love” songs with “Welcome to the Tennessee Slave Plantation” and repeated that line at least four more times in said song. Or Ghanaian singer Becca chanted: “Welcome to the Elmina Castle Slave Whore Division” or Tiwa Savage said: “Welcome to the Badagry Female Slave Division” and called it empowerment or…

Myself: Exactly. Say no more. Responsible artists and broadcasters remain cognisant of elements of Nazi rule and steer clear of things that needlessly dredge up the bad aspects of that period. For instance, the BBC recently announced it would not remake the World War 2 classic ‘Allo ‘Allo because of the Nazi characters and symbols in the original.

Something Temi Dollface once said was: “I stand for something different, outside of the box.” But she has managed to do what Luvvy rightfully accused OITNB creatives of doing with the Poussay murder storyline – raise an issue that affects a section of humanity, but treat it so weirdly, that the “cause” would have been better left alone. And in doing this, Temi Dollface has somehow reiterated the status quo. The Beep Beep video left me feeling I had just seen an exhibition of great ignorance of the severity of the same well-documented, world events being latched on to.

I: Chineke! I think it is best you keep these thoughts to yourself. And have some bacon now. Because #BaconIsBae

Feature image source

Second image source

 

Read more from Ruona

NAIJA BABES: THIS IS HOW TO MARRY OYINBO MAN by Ruona Agbroko-Meyer

Arik, Nigerians in Diaspora say, Thank you!!! by Ruona Agbroko Meyer

 

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