More than 30 years after its release, Prince’s cult classic Purple Rain has been reimagined as a Nigerien film named Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, often shortened to simply Akounak. The title literally translates to “Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red In It,” as the Tuareg language has no word for purple. Director Christopher Kirkley describes the film, set in the Saharan city of Agadez, as “a revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cell phones – and the music of a new generation.”
While the heart of the movie remains the same, a few minor changes have been made to reflect the region and culture. The guitar-playing, purple-robe-wearing, motorcycle-riding protagonist clashes with his devout Muslim father, who is against his son being a musician. The final scene takes place in a local cultural center instead of First Avenue. Despite this, the father-to-son and musician-to-musician conflicts remain.
The film screened at the Sound Unseen festival this past weekend. In an interview with the The Current’s Morning Show, festival director Jim Brunzell called it a “one-of-a-kind” movie that “you’re not going to see anything like… anywhere else.” Akounak has also been screened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City this past May and in London and Portland.
Kirkley is a musicologist and the creator of Sahelsounds.com, a blog and music label that explores the music and culture of the Sahel region in West Africa. As he told the Ethnomusicology Review, he originally visited West Africa to record music. Kirkley brought a field recorder to see what he could capture and ended up fascinated by the music and culture and felt it was not well represented on the Internet. He discovered Mdou Moctar, a Tuareg musician who’s now on tour, while in Africa and was inspired to make an homage to Purple Rain. Kirkley then set up a Kickstarter to aid in the making of the film.
The film continues to screen at select venues across the country, but no wide theatrical or home video release has yet been announced.
Emily Raffesberger is a freshman at the University of St. Thomas, studying music business.