Yesterday, I went to a show at Tropicalia (On U &14th). It’s an ok spot, in a somewhat small basement location with a global music focus. Most of their performances are Latin inspired (including the one last night) but they do have some Africana nights. I’ve been to one, which relied heavily on the DJ Cleo trance/house beats that were quite popular when I first visited South Africa in 2005.
The ‘Africa encounter’ of the night came in the form of the pizza spot where I grabbed a quick bite to eat before checking out the show. Jumbo Slice, with locations in two of DC’s top nightlife areas, U Street and Adams Morgan, is something of an institution for late night party goers. Shortly after moving to DC, I had heard from my former Peace Corps Niger colleagues that the U street Jumbo Slice had Hausa speaking staff from Niger. I regularly meet Nigerians in DC, but very few speak any substantive Hausa (the only native Hausa speakers I’ve ever stumbled across in the DMV were a SAIS student on campus and another student at Dulles airport, both from Nigeria).
My first visit to Jumbo Slice came after I had been in DC for a year and a half. On that occasion, no Hausa speakers were present, but our order was taken by a Burkinabe who couldn’t possibly have been older than 18. Although aside from living in Burkina Faso and DC in his young life, he had also spent some time in Ghana.
Yesterday however, I finally connected with at least one of the Nigeriens behind Jumbo Slice. He came to the US just before 9/11 and although he was a Zarmaphone, Niamey was a sufficiently cosmopolitan location as a youth that he spoke very good Hausa. Intriguingly, even the pizza was better following our conversation.