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Tunisia’s ‘legmi’ palm drink is pouring from one generation to another

At the busy Ain Slam roundabout in the centre of Gabes, people cluster around sipping from jugs of legmi palm drink

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Tunisia's 'legmi' palm drink is pouring from one generation to another
A customer buys bottles of legmi from a street vendor, a coveted date palm drink, in the southwestern Tunisian town of Gabes. (Photo by Mourad MJAIED / AFP)

As soon as the sun is up, people in southern Tunisia rush out to buy a glass or bottle of legmi, a coveted date palm drink that is too delicate to be sold far from the oasis.

At 7:00 am, at the busy Ain Slam roundabout in the centre of the coastal city of Gabes, bicycles, cars and military vehicles are clustered around three men seated on plastic chairs.

Next to them are jugs brimming with the precious juice, a testament to the Gabes saying:

“Even if the legmi attracts mosquitos, people will stick around.”

Favoured particularly during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for its high sugar content, this drink, typical of Saharan oases, is primarily consumed from March to October.

READ: Restored peace raises hope for the return of “Garden of Congo”

Many Tunisians enjoy legmi for breakfast, such as Akram, who has walked to the roundabout for the morning rush.

“We were born with legmi,” he said.

“My grandfather and my father produced it, my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter has already drunk it, and me, I have even written a song about legmi,” said the singer, in his thirties.

Another customer, Haithem, 30, described the drink as “part of our identity”.

“It’s something rare, it’s a gift,” he said. 

A producer must have an expert hand and not be too greedy to draw the sap from the palm without killing it, he said.

‘Prince’ of palm tree –

At the Ain Slam roundabout, a 1.5-litre bottle sells for around 2.5 dinars ($0.87).

One of the producers is Ridha Omrane Moussa, who describes himself as the “prince of the palm tree”.

Now in his sixties, he has harvested the nectar since learning the technique aged 14 from a relative in the Gabes oasis of Nahal.

READ: South Africa’s adoption crisis blown open by baby box

“He who doesn’t love the palm tree is not Gabesian. After God, there is the palm tree,” he said.

Tunisia's 'legmi' palm drink is pouring from one generation to another
A man picks fruits from a palm tree, to be used for making legmi, a coveted date palm drink, in the southwestern Tunisian town of Gabes on July 18, 2019. (Photo by Mourad MJAIED / AFP)

Perched atop an eight-metre palm, cigarette between his lips, Moussa had just finished his harvest for the day. 

To extract a daily take of 15 litres, he climbs the palms barefoot, using nothing but notches he made in their trunks.

He carefully cuts the bark to cause a reaction from the palm that makes its sap rise. 

But “one must not touch the heart of the palm, otherwise, it dies,” Moussa warned.

He has 25 palm trees but harvests from each for just two and a half years before letting them rest for four years, producing around 8,000 litres annually. 

READ: Poo Power: How dung biodigester is supercharging farming in Kenya

‘Young people’s game’ –

Other than fresh, or “living” legmi, a fermented, alcoholic version of the drink is produced, called “dead” legmi.

Back at the Gabes roundabout, Haithem described the alcoholic drink as “a young people’s game”.

“They don’t have a lot of money to get drunk, so you pay one dinar and get dead legmi… but it’s not good at all.”

In his youth, Haithem and others fermented living legmi for hours in a hut to produce their own alcohol.

Tunisia's 'legmi' palm drink is pouring from one generation to another
A customer buys a glass of legmi from a street vendor, a coveted date palm drink, in the southwestern Tunisian town of Gabes. (Photo by Mourad MJAIED / AFP)

“Everyday, we tested it. We added herbs, mint…Until today, we don’t know which one was the best because nobody agreed. Those are good memories.”

Along with the harvesting, storing the drink is complex as it turns rapidly into vinegar.

To keep it fresh, bottles of ice are placed in the can that the sap flows into overnight, then the juice is immediately frozen until it’s poured for sale.

This fragile process limits the consumption of legmi. 

“Even in Sfax, there is none,” Haithem said, of the coastal city to the north. 

“It has stayed organic, without any chemicals or ingredients for preservation, nothing.”

Some residents see its fragility and limited reach as a positive.

Haithem said that some were afraid:

“If there is a lot of demand, what’s going to happen? They’re going to cut a lot of palms and risk losing the oases.” 

Moussa, the legmi producer, warned that “chemical pollution from factories is a threat to the oases.”

State-owned Tunisian Chemical Group has been processing phosphate in the area since the 1970s and has been blamed for putting the oases at risk.

READ: Ethiopia’s “Green Legacy Initiative” goes big on tree planting

But for now, the future of legmi producers is assured.

“I taught my son this work so that this tradition stays in Gabes forever,” Moussa said.

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners

Teni emerged the biggest winner with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners | News Central

The 2019 Headies award, one of Nigeria’s biggest music award shows, kicked off with a red carpet at about 7 pm W.A.T with the main event starting at exactly 9 pm W.A.T at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday, October 19, 2019.

The event featured exhilarating musical performances from some of Nigeria’s older and new age musicians who kept the audience up on their feet almost throughout the show.

Nigerian actress and TV host, Nancy Isime and rap star, Reminisce hosted the award show where over 20 awards were won by individuals that excelled in their respective categories in the year under review.

Pop sensation, Teni emerged the biggest winner at the event with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively.

Here are the winners of the 13th edition of the Headies.

1.  BEST RECORDING OF THE YEAR (Non-voting category)

  • Adekunle Gold – Ire
  • Patoranking – Heal D World
  • Brymo – Olanrewaju
  • Teni – Uyo Meyo (Winner)
  • Burna Boy – Ye

2.      BEST POP SINGLE

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni (Winner)
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy

3.      PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

  • Phantom – ‘Ye’ b Burna Boy
  • Ozedikus – ‘Dumebi’ by Rema
  • Spellz – ‘Askamaya’ by Teni
  • Killertunes – ‘Fake Love’ by Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty and Wizkid ( Winner)
  • Kel-P Vibes – ‘Killing Dem’ by Burna Boy featuring Zlatan

4.      BEST RAP ALBUM (Non-voting)

  • ‘Moral Instruction’ – Falz (Winner)
  • ‘Crown’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon
  • ‘A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl’ – M.I Abaga
  • ‘Clone Wars, Vol. IV (These Buhari Times)’ – Show Dem Camp

5.      BEST R&B/ POP ALBUM

  • Rare – Odunsi (The Engine)
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel
  • Mayor of Lagos – Mayorkun (Winner)
  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold

6.      BEST MUSIC VIDEO

  • ‘Dangote’ (Burna Boy) – Clarence Peters(Winner)
  • ‘Available’ (Patoranking) – Clarence Peters
  • ‘Ire’ (Adekunle Gold) – Aje Films
  • ‘Talk’ (Falz) – Prodigeezy
  • ‘Jaiye’ (Ladipoe) – 88 Factor

7.      BEST R&B SINGLE

  • ‘Tipsy’ – Odunsi ft. RAYE
  • ‘Serenade’ – Funbi
  • ‘Uyo Meyo’ – Teni
  •  ‘Wishes and Butterflies’ – Wurld
  • ‘Gimme Love’ – Seyi Shay featuring Runtown (Winner)

8.      BEST COLLABO

  • ‘Like’ – Reekado Banks featuring Tiwa Savage, Fiokee
  • ‘One Ticket’ – Kiss Daniel featuring Davido
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Killin’ Dem’ – Burna Boy featuring Zlatan (Winner)
  • ‘Amaka’ – 2baba featuring Peruzzi

9.      BEST RAP SINGLE

  • ‘Talk’ – Falz ( Winner)
  • ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ – Hotyce
  • ‘40ft Container’ – Ill Bliss featuring Olamide
  • ‘Sacrifice’ – Payper Corleone featuring Alpha Ojini
  •  ‘Gang Gang’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon

10.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE(MALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Tay Iwar – ‘Utero’
  • Johnny Drille – ‘Finding Efe’
  • Nonso Bassey – ‘411’
  • Funbi – ‘Serenade’
  • Wurld – ‘Wishes & Butterfly’ ( Winner)

11.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Good Girl LA – ‘Bless me’
  • Waje – ‘Udue’
  • Teni – ‘Uyo Meyo’ (Winner)
  • Tems – ‘Mr Rebel’
  • Falana – ‘Repeat’

12.  NEXT RATED

This category is a voting category and the award is given to the most performing and promising act in the year under review.

  • Rema (Winner)
  • Joeboy
  • Fireboy DML
  • Victor AD
  • Lyta
  • Zlatan

13.  HIP HOP WORLD REVELATION

  • Odunsi
  • Mayorkun (Winner)
  • Wurld
  • Humblesmith

15.  BEST STREET-HOP ARTISTE

  • Erigga – ‘Motivation’ 
  • Chinko Ekun – ‘Able God’ (Winner)
  • Zlatan – ‘Leg Work’
  • Barry Jhay – ‘Aiye’
  • Lyta – ‘Time’

16.  BEST ‘ALTERNATIVE’ SONG

  • ‘Cash’ – Lady Donli
  • ‘Mr Rebel’ – Tems
  • ‘Finding Efe’ – Johnny Drille ( Winner)
  • ‘Heya’ – Brymo
  • ‘Ire’ – Adekunle Gold

17.  ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • Moral Instruction – Falz (Winner)
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel

18.  ARTISTE OF THE YEAR

  • Burna Boy (Winner)
  • Wizkid
  • Davido
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Falz

19.  SONG OF THE YEAR

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy (Winner)
  • ‘Dumebi’ – Rema
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni
  • ‘Leg work’ – Zlatan
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML

20.  HEADIES’ VIEWER’S CHOICE

  • Mr Eazi
  • Burna Boy
  • Teni (Winner)
  • Fireboy DML
  • Rema
  • Joe Boy
  • Wizkid
  • Davido

21.  BEST PERFORMER (Non-voting category)

  • Falz
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Brymo
  • Yemi Alade (Winner)
  • Adekunle Gold

22.  ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Crayon
  • Buju
  • Barry Jhay ( Winner)
  • Oxlade

23. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD

Paul Okoye

23.  AFRICAN ARTISTE RECOGNITION

  • Master KG – Skeleton Moves (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Afro B – Drogba (Joanna) (IVORY COAST)
  • Sauti Sol – Melanin (KENYA)
  • King Promise – CCTV (GHANA) (WINNER)
  • DJ Maphoriza – iWalk Ye Phara (SOUTH AFRICA)

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Morocco’s renowned “Critical” cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrids

While Morocco’s cannabis cultivation is falling, the adoption of hybrids means hashish production has remained stable

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Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"

Morocco’s rugged Rif Mountains have long been renowned for their cannabis but traditional varieties are being smoked out by foreign hybrids offering higher yields and greater potency.

The local strain of marijuana, known as Beldiya, is coveted by afficionados but is gradually disappearing from the fields in the kingdom.

Nowadays in Ketama, a region in the heart of the northern Rif, a strain called “Critical” is king.

Hicham, a 27-year-old cannabis farmer, says that he grows Critical because “the new imported seeds give a much higher yield.”

Major cannabis producers decide what to plant and “hybrid plants have become a market all on their own,” said Moroccan anthropologist Khalid Mouna, who has written a thesis on the economics of Ketama’s cannabis production.

READ: Morocco’s last woman-potters hope on social media for survival

Critical, which Mouna said comes from the Netherlands, is the latest hybrid created in laboratories in Europe or North America to be introduced to Morocco.

With names like “Pakistana”, “Amnesia” and “Gorilla”, hybrids are popular for their potency and affordability. 

Critical sells for 2,500 dirhams per kilo, while Beldiya goes for up to 10,000 dirhams per kilo, local sources told reporters. 

Buoying production – 

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Morocco has long been a leading producer and exporter of hashish — refined cannabis resin — even though the production, sale and consumption of drugs is illegal in the country.

READ: Sand Miners threaten Morocco’s coastline

A quarter of hashish seizures worldwide originated from Morocco between 2013 and 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

While Morocco’s cannabis cultivation is falling, the adoption of hybrids means hashish production has remained stable.

In 2003, 134,000 hectares were under cannabis cultivation, falling to 47,500 hectares by 2011 under a large official reconversion programme, according to a 2015 study by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT).

But modern hybrid strains produce five to 10 kilos (11 to 22 pounds) of hashish per quintal, a traditional unit of weight equivalent to 100 kilos, compared to a single kilo for kif, as local cannabis is known.

“The substitution of hybrids for kif might explain why the production of Moroccan hashish has barely decreased,” the study said.

Livelihood –

In Ketama, kif is part of the culture.

Producing it and smoking it are tolerated by the authorities and its cultivation provides a livelihood for 90,000 to 140,000 people in an otherwise deprived region known for its poor soil.

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

People in the area told reporters that it was mostly traffickers or intermediaries who bought the cannabis harvest for smuggling to Europe or other Moroccan towns.

READ: Lesotho is pioneering Africa’s medical cannabis industry

Hicham divides his time between his cannabis field and a cafe, where he and his friends smoke joints and watch satellite TV — a distraction from unemployment, he says.

In this rural region, job prospects are rare, with one in four young people unemployed, according to official figures.

Hicham and his friends all left school early to support their families, and many have left for Europe in search of work.

Those who stay mostly work seasonally for large cannabis growers, earning about 100 dirhams per day for a month or two at a time.

Most lack the money to get set up and work for themselves.

Environmental cost –

The high yields of imported hybrid cannabis plants come at a cost, however.

The strains require heavy fertilization, which can damage the soil. And their insatiable thirst threatens the region’s water supplies, according to the OFDT.

Critical grows in the dry summer, requiring heavy irrigation, while Beldiya is planted in winter, depending only on rainfall.

Some locals complain that major producers enforce the planting of hybrids even in arid areas. 

“The traffickers impose it and the people don’t have any other choice,” says Mohamed Benyahya, a local community figure.

To water their plantations, major producers install solar pumps on the roofs of their mansions.

Not far from Hicham’s local cafe, a vast terraced cannabis plantation sprawls up a nearby mountain. 

Rows of carefully maintained plants are watered by drip irrigation via a network of pipes connected to a reservoir.

To legalise, or not –

Hybrids like Critical are notable also for high levels of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical. 

The adoption of hybrids explains the “rapid and significant increase in the average THC content” of seized Moroccan hashish, according to the OFDT.

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

For smokers, the effect compared to Beldiya is pronounced. “One makes you think, the other makes you paranoid,” says Mohamed, a friend of Hicham.

READ: Kenya denies it has given a US company licence to produce cannabis

“European consumers no longer want hybrid cannabis on account of its high THC levels,” Mouna said. 

“Traditional Moroccan cannabis remains highly coveted, particularly by advocates of legalisation.”

Cannabis decriminalisation remains controversial in the conservative country. 

Proposals to legalise cannabis have so far met fierce political opposition.

For Mouna, legalisation could help regulate cannabis consumption while also preserving the more traditional and environmentally friendly Beldiya.

And, while Hicham may have switched to growing Critical, he still only smokes Beldiya.

“The modern varieties,” he says, “are mediocre.”

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Culture & Tourism

Wizkid News: Four latest news on Wizkid you probably missed

Wizkid has not only been on the news for music but also for the many controversies hanging around his name

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portrait of singer and songwriter Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly called Wizkid
People sit beside portrait of singer and songwriter Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly called Wizkid painted on a pillar under the bridge at Ojuelegba in Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The famous Afro Pop sensation, Ayo Balogun popularly known as Wizkid has had his fair share of celebrity controversies. Ranging from his cold relationships with his baby mamas to his alleged affair with Tiwa Savage, the list is endless. It will be safe for anybody to conclude that he has not only been on the news for music but also for the many controversies hanging around his name.

Wizkid and Tiwa Savage

Relationship rumours sparked off between the star boy and the ‘kelekele love’ crooner, Tiwa Savage as the two started attending events and appearing on music videos together all of a sudden. With many bashing Tiwa Savage for dating a much younger guy. But the interesting thing is, since the rumours started making waves, neither Wizkid nor Tiwa Savage has come out to refute the many claims of amorous relationship between them. In the usual Wizkid manner, he has greeted these rumours with absolute  silence. 

Pay Attention: A musical tribute to Nigerian mothers

It got to a point where Tiwa Savage’s ex husband, Tee Bills had to come in on the matter and made it clear to anybody who cared to listen that, Wizkid could not have anything to do with the mother of his child, as according to him, Wizkid respects him just so much to ruin such a wonderful relationship they have. But what is interesting is, Tiwa Savage has opened up on their relationship during a recent interview with Beats FM, saying that they are ‘friends with benefits’ because they accompany each other to events.

Joro – Wizkid’s latest jam

Wizkid’s latest single ‘Joro’ has attracted a lot of reactions. Both positive and negative. While some said it’s a spiritual song that goes straight to one’s soul, others have trashed the song as being lyrically empty. It has been further criticized on the basis of the timing of its release as many said it’s insensitive to release such a song at the time Nigeria was celebrating her independence, which should be a time of sober reflection for Nigerians.

The artist Wizkid during the MAMA 2016,
The artist Wizkid during the MAMA 2016, in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 22nd, 2016

However, since the release, the song has enjoyed hundreds of views and downloads on various music sites and platforms. it garnered 1.7 million views on YouTube just after 4 days of its release.

Wizkid and Jada Pollock

Recall that a few months ago Wizkid’s third baby mama and manager Jada Pollock announced on instagram that she has called it quits with the singer on the basis of domestic violence. She announced that she would no longer be working with the father of her baby as things would no longer flow well between them, courtesy of Wizkid’s abusive nature. 

Pay Attention: Nigeria’s apex bank partners Lagos on ₦22 billion national theatre renovation

However,in a funny twist of events, Jada Pollock completely denied ever making such accusation against Wizkid. She claimed the accusation which was made via her Instagram account @_jada.p did not come from her as she alleged her account was hacked by an intruder. Her subsequent denial of authoring the post  amused as well as infuriated a lot of Instagram users who were of the opinion that she was such an unintelligent liar!

‘Starboyfest’

The much anticipated StarBoy Fest is barely 2 weeks away. The event which is expected to record large turn out of fans and music lovers all over England, will take place on the 18th and 19th of October 2019  in Manchester and London consecutively. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster

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