Y’en a marre and Coronavirus: Not just the opposition

Y'En A Marre's stream

Senegal’s Y’en a Marre movement, which roughly translates in casual French to “fed up,” was formed first in 2011 during broad-based protests against the regime of the former President Abdoulaye Wade. This group’s initial concern was to protest against rising electricity prices in Dakar, but their scope quickly expanded to become a mass mobilization movement to take down President Wade, which they succeeded in doing in 2012. Y’en a Marre as an organization was and is comprised of high-profile journalists and hip-hop artists particularly active in Senegalese civil society; this clout allowed the organization to have a huge effect on the trajectory, focus, and most of all popularity of the protest movement, a fact which leads many scholars to credit the organization with the success of Abdoulaye Wade’s ouster.

Y’en a Marre is not, however, purely a protest or opposition movement. In March of 2020, shortly after the seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic was confirmed across the international community, Y’en a Marre approached the Senegalese Health Ministry to produce a hip-hop video meant to spread awareness about the fatal, contagious nature of the disease, as well as inform the public about ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, including advocating wearing masks and washing hands regularly. The song, called “Fagaru Ci Coronavirus” or “Shield Against Coronavirus,” features Dakar emcees Fou Malade, Thiat, and Kilifeu, among others, and is performed in Wolof and French.

The track is aggressively pro-science, and encourages the public to listen to the medical community before conspiracy theories. This is exhibited in lines like (translated from the French):

“We are talking about millions of human lives / the Senegalese is an expert in everything, but to each his own domain.”

Hip-hop in Senegal is not just a tool for political opposition, but also for political construction; organizations like Y’en a Marre’s collaborations with government institutions for good causes is evidence of that fact.

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