Mohammed Sylla (MHD) performed in front of thousands of Senegalese in Dakar in December 2017. This concert, staged in front of the 49-meter-tall African Renaissance Monument, united the international phenomenon MHD with domestically-popular Senegalese hip-hop artists in an evening ripe with music, dance, and humor. The title of this post is French for “MHD in his homeland.” Although Sylla was born in the banlieues of Paris, his parents from Senegal & Guinea, and he considers Senegal an integral component of his persona and music.
The location of the concert is indicative of the movement the concert embodies. Although construction of a $27 million statue was met with criticism in a country facing stark socio-economic struggles, its significance overwhelms the price tag. The African Renaissance Movement originated from Cheikh Anta Diop’s 1960’s work Towards an African Renaissance; essays in culture and development 1946-1960. The movement emphasizes cultural, economic, and scientific renewal following centuries of colonial & post-colonial stagnation. Science aside, hip hop is a clear-cut facet of Senegalese cultural and economic development. The artists sing, chant, and drum about their identities, beliefs, and quotidienne (french for day to day life), all while leaving an economic wake that follows concert and music production. That does not account for popular inspiration generated by these artists; a priceless and immeasurable externality associated with cultural icons.
The event united French and Senegalese artists on the stage with MHD. Here are a few artist who sang alongside the banlieusard:
- Aya Nakamura
Born into a Griot family of Malian origins, Aya immigrated to France and studied fashion. Her music blends popular French cultural references with her story-telling Griot origins. Love d’un voyou – Aya
- Omzo Dollar
Omzo is an accomplished Senegalese artist. His music combines youthful cockiness with societal realities. Yarr – Omzo Dollar
Canabasse takes American trap and spins it with a Senegalese twist. His video’s discuss his struggles with the bling and mumbling people can’t seem to get enough of. Gadaay – Canabasse
The concert proved an overwhelming success. MHD performed his international hits, while local artists capitalized on his presence to gain exposure to a wider audience. In front of a monument dedicated to African development, MHD and his cohorts meshed their Senegalese origins with hip hop beats to execute a concert Dakar will not soon forget.
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