In my last article, I wrote a profile of Matador, one of Senegal’s most important figures at the intersection of civil society and hip-hop. This week, we will be looking at Makhtar Fall, aka Gunman Xuman, a towering figure in the Senegalese hip-hop scene who has also broken into the international spotlight with an innovative platform: turning the news into music.
Xuman, born in Cote d’Ivoire but raised in Senegal, started his career in the early 90s, rapping in French and Wolof on his first album, Wala Wala Bok. This album opened the doors to the international music scene for Xuman, and he soon became one of the most prolific artists in the country; he has performed Senegalese festivals, European concerts, Chinese expositions, and produced online. But the people (or, more accurately, I) know him best through his immensely popular “Journal Rappé” project, through which Xuman and Keyti, another famous Senegalese hip-hop artist, bring the latest news on Senegalese, African, and world society to the people through rap. Much of this news focuses on holding governments accountable for corruption and mismanagement and on raising awareness about foreign interference in African affairs. For example, in one edition of the show released in 2014, Xuman deftly critiques the “pouvoir” around the world, from decrying NATO’s neglect of Libya after the 2011 bombings to criticizing the Senegalese government for failing to spread enough awareness about the Ebola epidemic.
One of their latest projects, produced in 2020, is a 10-part series which takes the viewer through African history systematically, from the Berlin Conference to a hopeful future united African federation, which the Journal Rappé duo call “Alkebulan.” This series, in addition to Xuman’s larger work on Journal Rappé, both raises awareness about African issues in an accessible and entertaining way *and* serves as a call to action. It is not enough to care about the future of Africa; the people must realize that the future has “limitless possibilities” and “take control of [their] own imagination.” Xuman is a consciousness-raiser, and his contribution to the pan-African project is invaluable.