Posted in Tanzania

Hip Hop in Bongo

In the article titled Hooligans and Heroes: Youth Identity and Hip-Hop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Alex Perullo explores the many ways that hip hop has affected the the lives of Tanzanian youth. Although many older Tanzanians regard hip hop with contempt and label its followers as “wahuni” (hooligans), there is no mistaking the fact that the music has gained an intense amount of popularity over the years. Hip hop music has been called the “voice of the youth” because it provides young people with a way to voice their opinions and concerns. In Tanzania, hip hop has been used as a means to educate people about important issues, “For Tanzanian youth, this means altering the popular conception of themselves as hooligans and allowing youth to become knowledge holders and educators within urban contexts”. There are many Tanzanian artists who have written songs addressing a wide variety of topics, and many of the lyrics are thought-provoking and clever. Perullo mentions the fact that strict censorship in the 70’s did not prevent hip hop artists to voice their disapproval of the government. Many bands found their way around bans and censorship by using double entendres and hidden meanings in the lyrics, a practice that “has a long history in Swahili poetry”. This challenges the common misconception that hip hop is vulgar and hateful. Many of the messages of these young Tanzanian artists represent the common struggle of the average person in Tanzania.

Perullo’s research focuses on many popular and influential artists such as Mr II and Professor Jay. He includes song lyrics in Swahili with an English translation on the side. One of the songs that he includes is one by Mr. II, titled “Hali Halisi” (“The Real Situation”). This song focuses on the political corruption in Tanzania, “Our lives are hard, even the president knows/And we still have our smiles in ever situation…everyday it’s us and the police”. This song was popular because it expressed the anger and frustration of the youth. Many of the bands that are played in the radio have clean lyrics and are politically and socially conscious. They educate the youth on important issues.

CSULA students can access the article through JSTOR:

This video is of Professor Jay’s song “Ndio Mzee” (“Yes Elder”)

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