This episode features the music of several MCs from across Africa. We depart from the interview format and bring you music from some of our favorite (women) MCs. This is essentially a mixtape of diverse female voices in African hip hop. These MCs live in different countries, seek different languages, and speak on diverse topics. In each of these songs, the artists performing deliver strong, hard hitting lyrics that are both classic hip hop and representative of African styles of hip hop. See the artists’ social media pages for more information. Additionally, some of the artists have their work on iTunes. Those links are provided.
From my own search conducted online, I would like to discuss a hip hop video by Senegalese rapper, Sister Fa titled Milyamba. Sister Fa is casually deemed the queen of rap in Senegal so when I came across her video I was almost immediately drawn to the 90’s vibe of it and also how the video was edited due to the warm graphics. The artist is speaking in her native language so you cannot understand anything until you come across the chorus but due to a small description, she is mostly speaking about the hard life of women in her native land of Senegal then the video shows visuals of women working and carrying baskets on their heads. Sister Fa is a representation of all the strong women in Senegal because she is bringing awareness to what is going on in her surroundings and wants a change. Sister Fa wears a head wrap, khaki pants and shirt and a small pendant chain which is fairly different from other female rappers in other countries. Sister Fa portrays herself as a soldier ready for war and ready to take on any action that may come about for speaking out against problems that women, particularly those that live in villages, face. It is very hard for women to have such courage in those countries. She can get her message across to different outlets without over-sexualizing herself or be half naked in her videos because that isn’t the message she is trying to send to her viewers. Sister Fa’s deliverance is consistent and smooth, sometimes causing her to rap faster in some verses when she is getting passionate about some critical issues that are more meaningful to her. Sister Fa sings the chorus making it known that although women are going through a struggle right now, she wants them to know that everything will be alright.
Ghanaian artist: C-Real
Senegalese artist: Didier Awadi
Instantly I could detect differences between these two artist. C-Real has the ” harder ” sound though he is trying to spread a positive message just like Awadi. C-Real’s song title, “Hewale”, in the link that I have attached translates to strength. “Hewale” is about being strong and staying strong and follows the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. In summary, “Hewale” is about not letting your bad experiences or struggles define or break you, but rather growing from them as a person. This can be taking politically because he’s probably referring to his environment or possibly those power being the forces trying to break him. Although some of the lyrics and even the video do not so much reflect that. Awadi’s song, on the other hand, is clearly for the people and is about making a stand. In the video you can see him traveling through the town and interacting with the civilians like a “man of the people”. Although Awadi does not rap in English, based on the title we know that he is rapping about a revolution, a revolt by the population against authority causing a change in political power usually occurring in a short time. His video doesn’t really express this idea in an extreme way but subtly him showcasing where he is from, the conditions the people are living in and how close they are supports his message. In conclusion, C-Real’s song is a good representative of a lot of Ghanaian hip hop music. It’s political, however, it also focuses on other topics and isn’t as direct. Whereas Awadi, the Senegalese artist, makes music about his people and the progression of his home. The Senegalese music seems to be more religiously-inclined in some ways. Both artists touch on social struggle, but lyrically and in terms of the videos they have two clearly different approaches.
Gaston’s Bay Jëwriñ music video was very hardcore. I felt like I understood his intent without hearing his message. The video concentrated on the artist’s face and the entourage in the video , which leads me to believe that attention grabber was the message he was delivering.His delivery made me believe that he was passionate about what he was saying. The video stood out to me because unlike many famous hip hop artist, it gave no attention to materialism, instead the setting was rough to to match his hardcore lyrics.
Gaston, from Senegalese, not only speaks french, but actually went to live in France with his mother. I read it was there he was introduced to Hip Hop, before he returned to Senegal. Through research I was also very pleased to find out that since the start of Gaston’s music career he has had a sort of political agenda. In a biography post written on Gaston, he stated he believed, “The world is in a state of moral, spiritual, and social crisis.” He even dedicated an album that focused on issues present in the Senegalese community. I believe that Gaston’s early exposure to the music world along with the perspective he may have acquired from living in France for a few years enabled him to be the artist he is. I am reminded of the New Type of Senegalese as Gaston is also seeking to change the mentality of those who listen to his music. Gaston being a mainstream artist comes to no surprise as the Senagal rap culture is to be conscious, as he is.
There are many types of hip hop songs: some sample old songs, some create their own back track, some tell a story and some send a message. In many African countries, the voice that hip hop artists have due to their popularity has been used to speak to it’s community of listeners (typically the youth) to send positive and political messages. Protest and Combat type hip hop songs have been ways of stressing an issue that is affecting the lives of many. An example of this is the Senegalese group named Y’en a Marre who took their talents and urged the large population of young people to vote against corrupt actions that were taking place by the government. Besides these common characteristics, there are also songs with a message to the people that are simply enlightening.
Ghanaian hip hop/ hiplife artist m3nsa has a song that speaks to his audience in a way to reassure them about life’s doubts called No One Knows. The video begins with a young girl in a yellow rain jacket and red boots lip-syncing to the song No One Knows by Asa about the uncertainties in life with a big smile on her face. M3nsa then enters with his positive verses. The big picture that the entire music video as well as his lyrics were trying to convey was that despite the constant fear of the unknown, it’s okay to not know what will happen, just trust in yourself and live each day one step at a time. This song’s message and visual imagery conveys positive energy and reassurance to it’s audience.
There are many hip hop songs that are similar to M3nsa’s that bring comfort to a common fear that many have. On the other hand, there are times when an artist makes a song that comforts an audience who are experience a certain situation. The Senegalese hip hop group Wagëblë has the perfect example for that with their song titled Message of Hope. This song is not in English but there are many elements within it (and obviously the title) that are clear signs of a song with a message. The first thing the audience sees and hears is a clip from a news report explaining how despite the great poverty in Senegal, there are young musicians who are developing a “unique brand of hip hop, sending a message of hope to the country’s younger generation”. This sets the mood and theme for the video. Wagëblë are those artists and they want to bring that message of hope. Throughout the music video you see them performing live which shows not only their connection with their fans but their influence. There isn’t much imagery or any theatrics in this video like in m3nsa’s but I believe it’s for the simple goal of the audience having their focus on the lyrics. This is also hinted during part of the video that only show their lips mouthing the lyrics.
Both these songs come from different artists from different countries and yet despite their differences they both have a common goal of getting a message across. The message doesn’t always have to be about politics and it doesn’t always have to be about mundane anxieties but what does matter is that the audience can understand and relate. Hip hop will continue to change, warp, and evolve but one thing that keeps it alive is what makes us human: empathy.
Keur Gui Senegal and Kokayi “Nothing to Prove” is an example of the social reform in Senegal, and how Hip Hop artists used their platforms to bring attention to this reform. In the first verse of the song he says ” Straight out the ghetto, our raps are nor for the sons of the upper class instead we spit medicine for those in real need. I think that this verse speaks directly to this theme of social reform, and specifies a group of people that they are hoping to resonate with. In terms of the visuals I think that the video is an example of “Doing it for the culture” which to me means putting on for where your from. Rather than an overly commercialized video with fancy clothes, and cars, and women it is kept simple and features them in all Black can represent strength, and solidarity as well as what looks to be excerpts from a concert, or some type of celebration that bought everyone together. The lack of extreme commercialization speaks to the authenticity of the message and the video combined, as well as the authenticity of hip hop in Senegal which may have been inspired by the progression of social reform their. The delivery was very raw, and the beat was simple so it did not drown out the actual lyrics. The fact that they are rapping in their native language also speaks to the idea of “doing it for the culture” and developing in your craft while staying true to your culture.
For this blog post, I examined “SEFYU – Suis-je le garden de mon frère?” I am my brothers keeper. I believe the story was well developed throughout the video. Although I do not think it depicted Senegalese culture very well. Majority of the video reminded me of every day American culture in the ghetto. From the clothes and living conditions, nothing screamed, “this is Senegal.”
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the video as a whole. The production and the structure of the plot was properly put together. I couldn’t tell if the lyrics were describing each words, but the repetition of the title “Suis-je le garden de mon frère?” reassured me that the film matched the song.
SEFYU himself, is a shadow artist, in terms of the fact that he keeps himself hidden. He seldom shows his face throughout his performances or any visual projects that he produces. His clothing style also does not give away his style as a person. He typically dressed with baggy jeans, athletic gear, and fitted caps.
I was first introduced to Keur Gui in Chapter two of Dr. Clark’s book, Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati. Dr. Clark discussed the youth-led protest movement, Y’en a Marre, which was spearheaded by hip hop artists journalists, and other civic organizations whose mission was to register young people to vote and oppose the reelection of president Wade. Keur Gui, a Hip Hop duo, helped lead the resistance campaign. To the government, their music epitomizes rebellion. To the people, their lyrics are an urgent battle cry for freedom.
“Diogoufi,” a Keur Gui single, challenges the assertion that economic progress has been made in Senegal since the election of its new president. Translated from Wolof, Diogoufi means “nothing has changed.” It is a sober portrayal of poverty and oppression.
The music video opens with a scene from a local market. The falling cords of a somber piano is heard in the background. A member of Keur Gui is seen in front of the store, passionately reading the news paper, and narrating in a French/Wolof blend. He begins by saying, “Même chat yi, Même chien yi. . .Même promesse électorale” which, from French, translates to: “Same cats, same dogs. . . Same electoral promises.” I don’t understand the rest of what was said (I also couldn’t find an English translation of the lyrics). However, by examining how the the music video utilized cut scenes from a village, the market place, and the Keur Gui member reading the news paper, I can assume the narrator is listing the broken promises made to the people by their government. At 1:30 the narration stops and another man sings the chorus Wolof which was briefly interrupted by a rap.
As structure, cadence, tone, melody, and rhyme-scheme is concerned, this song appears to stretch our understanding of Hip Hop. Most of Diogoufi is dialogue and melody. However, it still carries certain elements of Hip Hop culture which was masterfully blended with Wolof.
I wish I spoke Wolof and French so that I could understand what appears to be a powerfully crafted message. Diogoufi is a work of art. The singing is beautiful and the message seems poignant and timely.
Hip Hop requires authenticity. No matter how you define authenticity it is the central element to hip hop. As stated in The Struggle for Authenticity and Against Commercialization in Tanzania “to be considered hip hop you need to stay true to the origins of hip hop as a tool of resistance and a voice of the people. For some authenticity is about skill, staying true to hip hop’s emphasis on lyrical skill and creativity, even if one is not overtly politically or socially conscious.” Ghanian and Senegalese hip hop is a form of art used to promote a message of social and political change. The hip hop artists produced from Ghana and Senegal infuse in their music a message of resistance and a voice for the people. Hip Hop is just one of many tools used to incite change for the people of Africa.
Senegalese hip hop group Positive Black Soul is a demonstration of how hip hop music is a form of art used to make a political statement. Their name alone, Positive Black Soul, is an affirmation of deconstructing the derogatory view of blackness. One of their songs with a political message is “Respect the Nubians”. The song is a rally cry to respect everyone especially black women and men. The songs seeks to reinforce the positive image of what it means to be Nubian, dispel the negativity associated with Nubians, and display the beauty of Nubians. In the last verse of “Resect the Nubians” they rap, “Sometimes I wonder, under the sun/ I used to ponder ‘cos we’re in the same situation/Here and yonder, there just trying to divide to rule/Takin’ us for fools, teach us lies from the early school/Don’t let no one put the blame on your brotherman/That’s a sham, you’re a true nubian, damn”. Positive Black Soul outwardly speaks to the common struggle that is faced by black people no matter where one is on the map. Black people share a common struggle of being divided for the sake of greed and being taught a one-sided story of black history. They tell their listening audience don’t allow your blackness to be the blame. Blackness being used for self-interest is part of a bigger scheme and “you’re a true nubian,” not just a commodity. The song is a message of resistance and a cry for a change in the treatment of Nubians.
Positive Black Soul incorporates activism in their music. The song “Respect the Nubians” is a demonstration of resistance. Positive Black Soul is using their music to change the dialogue surrounding blackness and to disprove the western aesthetic. Black people and black culture is often deemed inferior to that of whiteness. Using hip hop as a weapon to change black inferiority and promote black empowerment can change the white/black binary. Positive Black Soul and other artists out of Senegal are ensuring that hip hop remain authentic and remain a platform to be a voice for the people.
For the purposes of today’s post I analyzed “Ma Revolution” by Senegalese artist Didier Awadi. Award’s video was not outside the norms for Senegalese artist. His video was “woke” and called for a change. The first thing I noticed about Awadi was his laid-back and conversational style. He seems like an artist that you could walk up to on the street and casually have a conversation with. Awadi was not flashy or flamboyant. He did not have million dollar jewelry, cars, or clothes. In fact, his video seems to be filmed in common areas of the city. I believe Awadi is using his environment to help convey his message. The song “Ma Revolution” is essentially a tribute to all that has inspired Didier Awadi’s revolution. Although the song is not in English, many factors led to my conclusion. First, Awadi’s video begins flashing pictures of prominent heroes in the black community such as Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Samora, etc. After each image is displayed Awadi repeats the words “Ma Revolution,” signaling these individuals were influential in his revolution, his change. Then, throughout the course of the video it seems as though Awadi is describing things in his environment that have also fueled his passion for change. One thing that really stood out was Awadi’s effort to highlight the work of some graffiti artist in Senegal. Because graffiti is used as a form of expressing defiance and rebellion, I believe is trying to show that the people are fed up. The need for change has peaked and the people are demanding results. Awadi’s video shows that the ancestors of the black community have paved the way for us to demand change and revolution when it is necessary, and apparently Didier Awadi believes the time is now (or whenever he made the video).