Just a day or two after the vote which kept Macky Sall in power in Senegal, it’s worth revisiting one of the anthems of the movement Y’en a Marre, Faux! Pas Forcé. Y’en a Marre, which translates to “we’re fed up” in French, was a democratic civil society movement that was one of the key protest actors responsible for defeating Abdulaye Wade in the 2012 elections after Wade attempted to compromise Senegal’s democratic institutions. Macky Sall won in large parts thanks to the manifestations of the youth and Y’en a Marre, not because Y’en a Marre necessarily supported his policies but because he was not Wade. Faux! Pas Forcé became an anthem within the Y’en a Marre movement.
The video opens on a scene showcasing neighborhood life, placing the music in an everyday context—this is not a video that aggrandizes the artist. the scenes before the music starts—attach, seeking the elder mother’s blessing, and gathering on a stoop—are all quotidian, non-elite spaces that most Senegalese would be familiar with. The visuals aren’t identifiably dakarois either, freeing the song from an overly-urban milieu. The video is both general and specific in setting; identifiably Senegalese but not tied to a specific town.
There is an overall sense of community and grassroots movement throughout the movement. The artists stand in front of a seemingly endlessly deep supporting crowd in identical “Faux! Pas Forcé” T-shirts. The establishing montage at the beginning focuses on the artists going through their neighborhood, gathering a growing following to deliver their message.
Like many Senegalese conversations, the lyrics are mixed French and Wolof; the biggest take away from the language choice is that it reflects the reality of language in Senegal today. While there are legitimate critiques about the continuation of colonial mentalities carried through language, in research in Senegal I found that protest movements in Dakar do not focus on decolonization of language, instead choosing to focus on dismantling international and internal power structures of exploitation—Faux! Pas Forcé is an excellent example of this. The lyrics are explicitly political, telling Wade that he will not force his will through the elections.
The anti-establishment themes of the Senegalese hip-hop community has been a long-established constant: the hip hop community helped develop the youth contingent that brought Wade to power in 2000 also coalesced to remove him in 2012. The community’s political power, when agglomerated, is a formidable force to counter. While analyzing Senegalese artists through the lens of the griot tradition is perhaps overwrought, there is a potent connection between the historical role of the griot and the role of the Senegalese hip-hop artists in bringing the anger and disappointment of the people to a singular discursive point in popular culture and manifesting change through this coalition.
As Macky Sall remained in power through this last election, it is worth reflecting on what is different from 2012. Unlike in 2012, there were not similar mass protests against Sall, who did not commit blunders such as elevating his son or trying to alter the constitution; while there is widespread dissatisfaction, there is not the same spark that existed in 2012. While the establishment may have won re-election, Faux! Pas Forcé remains a potent anthem for the power of the Senegalese people.
For a more in-depth and academic analysis of Faux! Pas Forcé along with other songs and y’en a marre, please see Marame Gueye’s excellent article.
The artist page for Y’en a Marre can be found here.