Last night on the television in Kaolack, Senegal, I saw a music video by a Togolese group for a new song called, "Dance Kangana." Kangana is an evil spirit who stars in a popular Indian soap opera called "Shree." Each night when it airs, children throughout West Africa sing along with the theme song, taxi drivers use it as their ring tones and radios blast the popular beats.
Indian fashion and television series are exceptionally popular in West Africa. Shree is the latest craze to sweep the region but it is not the first. Perhaps the most popular series so far was "Vaida." The markets were filled with Vaida printed wax fabric and pirated DVDs. When the series ended last year, it was marked by a television special featuring Senegalese stars singing popular Indian songs, while wearing Indian clothing and dancing Indian dances. The original Vaida cast came to Dakar for the event. The strangest of the Indian television series craze is a Brazilian program entitled "An Indian Love Story" that features Brazilian actors dressed in Indian clothing and make-up. It is filmed in a sort of technicolor and just doesn't make any sense to me.
I have also bought into the frenzy, buying Indian "Punjab" fabric and making my own outfits that blend Indian and African styles. There is really an East meets West cultural convergence taking place right now throughout West Africa. I, for one, am fascinated and I wonder how far it will go.... Is it long before samosas and chai are sold on street corners? Will women in the villages start wearing pants? Will Indian music videos find a market here or will "Dance Kangana" be the beginning of the end?