Keur Gui is Fed Up with the Status Quo

Keur Gui holds a special type of power in Senegal. Neither economic nor political, Keur Gui has a valuable type: influence of the youth. As one of the founding members of the “Y’en a Marre” movement in 2011 to inspire and mobilize Senegal’s youth against then President Abdoulaye Wade, the group secured its foothold in political activism. Wade was attempting to seek a third presidential term, a move that most considered unconstitutional and a step towards the authoritarian tendencies that plague the region.

In a nation where the average age is under 25 and over half of the population lives in rural areas, Keur Gui, along with other musician-activists, truly brought their movement to the people – all of them. They drove across the country and performed from the back of their flatbed truck with the goal of building a grassroots movement, not just one for the city dwellers. The movement helped fuel the campaign and subsequent election of Wade’s competitor, Macky Sall, in 2012, and brought renewed hope for democracy and peace to the West African nation. Lead rappers Thiat and Kilifeu didn’t stop their activism after Sall’s election. Instead of passing the baton to others, they continued to help encourage and support musician activism and the resulting social movements across the continent.

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After the lights of the election faded, Keur Gui became frustrated with the lack of change by President Sall. In 2014 they released the song ‘Diogoufi,’ which translates to ‘nothing has changed’. The lyrics speak to the failure of Sall to do what he was elected to do; be a change from previous governmental. They speak of the “broken promises and lies” fed to the population by a “lazy regime [with] no vision”. Keur Gui manages to eloquently express the disappointment of the Senegalese people in a government that failed to change old practices of the previous government, that they themselves had kicked out. Keur Gui is “fed up with all of [the] nonsense” spread by the regime, and continues to use their music to mobilize the population in the pursuit of democracy, peace and prosperity.

 

 

 

 

A Positive Vibe Brought to the Early Beginnings of Senegal’s Hip Hop Scene

Positive Black Soul, otherwise known as PBS, arose out of Dakar, Senegal in the late 1980s. After growing up in the bustling capital, PBS had the capacity to speak the truth about the hardships local Senegalese experienced, and had people listen. After all, their melodious chords, invigorated with fast-paced rap verses, are hard to forget. As is the case in many former colonies, much of their Senegalese identity was based on their country’s colonial legacy, and the group struggled to create a sense of self outside of this. However, PBS was able to use their fluid and poetic lyrics to speak about the issue; they raised awareness of important social and political issues thanks to their mellow beats and rhythmic tunes.

 

 

When tasked to find the “éternelle étoile brillante” of their works, one song stands out in particular. “Président d’Afrique” is an anthem f

 

illed with history lessons, a variety of cultures, and a smooth infusion of jazz. Much like the continent of Africa itself, “Président d’Afrique” showcases the vast diversity of landscapes, cultures and religions that it holds. Opening with a speech made by Nelson Mandela, where he speaks to the great variation of peoples and viewpoints, the beginning of the track sets the stage for another beginning; one of a collective, African identity free of continuing colonial restraints and influence. An interesting choice, however, was that to use the french language. As something that is often associated with elitist, colonial powers, it seems to be a peculiar choice. One interpretation of this decision is PBS worked within the system to fight back against this and other forms of colonialism. Maybe the best way to bring down a system is to be on the inside.

Whether through beginning verses with the Arabic word ‘salaam,’ speaking to the strength of Ethiopia, or using Mandela’s distinctive voice, PBS is able to draw on the variety of identities that help form the collective African identity. Using analysis of the colors of the Senegalese flag – red for the innocent blood spilled, green for the disrespected land, and yellow for the stolen resources, PBS crafts a tool for cathartic release. A release of the hatred and the pain so many millions experienced. With this release comes the capacity to fill the newly empty space with their own African history, not colonial history. The space to free the mind from the social constraints and mental slavery they are still subjected to. To work together to take back the power that was once stolen, and to use it to craft an identity that helps Africa become the brilliant, eternal star they have always known it was.

 

PBS’ Facebook can be found here. Their YouTube channel here.

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The Writah Raps

Hip-hop is as much a literary genre as it is a musical one, and as a means of storytelling the medium of hip-hop has lent its ability to convey meaning to both traditional and modern aspects of African society. And with a mic as his pen, P.P.S. the Writah crafts lyrical masterpieces that connect Senegal’s proud traditional history with it’s push toward the future. Continue reading “The Writah Raps”

Sister Fa: A Human Rights Activist

Sister Fa, formerly known as Fatou Diatta, was born in Dakar, Senegal. She debuted her first demo tape in 2000 and officially entered the stage or West African rap. Her songs are meant to expose the realities of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Continue reading “Sister Fa: A Human Rights Activist”

Excuse my Wolof

My last article discussed Youssoupha’s album NGRTD. While reading the lyrics of his song entourage, I realized Youssoupha discussed many of the same themes MC Solaar touches on in his early albums produced some 20 years ago. While you could write a novel on the thematic similarities of African hip hop produced two decades apart, there was one distinguishing factor of Youssoupha’s newer music that, hopefully, is indicative of improvements in African communities at home and abroad: the in-your-face nature of NGRTD across a top-5 album in the French music charts. Continue reading “Excuse my Wolof”

HHAP Episode 22: Thiat of Keur Gui on Hip Hop and Activism Beyond Senegal

In a time when hip hop culture has been under heavy criticism for the lack of political content in commercial hip hop, Keur Gui reminds us of what hip hop culture is capable of, in terms of both social commentary and political action. As founding members of the social and political movement Y’en A Marre (Enough is Enough), Keur Gui has provided heavy social commentary in their music for over 20 years. Coming out of Senegal, which is perhaps one of the most political hip hop scenes in the world, Keur Gui has used hip hop culture to engage with their audiences and to confront the state. Y’en A Marre is one of the only social movements deeply rooted in hip hop culture to effect political change. In Senegal, Y’en A Marre was involvement in mass mobilization campaigns, helped register voters, engaged in social protest, and promoted an ideology known as New Type of Senegalese (NTS). The idea behind NTS is that calls for social change go beyond requests for government action, but also rests in responsible citizenship. While the people may call for government-led development, the people also need to take responsibility for their contributions to environmental and social problems.Y’en A Marre is an ongoing movement, which has focused on Senegalese helping Senegalese. One of the projects Keur Gui is currently working on is a fundraiser to build a recording studio in their hometown Kaolack. The fundraiser can be found at http://projects.keurgui.net.
Follow Up with Keur Gui
Facebook: /KEUR-GUI-53925096450/
Twitter: @KEURGUIOFFICIEL
SoundCloud: /keurguicrewofficiel
Keur Gui on iTunes: /keur-gui/275586170
In this interview we speak with Thiat, one of the MCs in Keur Gui. Thiat discusses Keur Gui’s involvement in Y’en A Marre, the spread of the movement outside of Senegal, revised perspectives on Pan Africanism, the role of MCs in civil society, and more.
Episode Breakdown
6:33: “Nothing to Prove”, f/Kokayi (https://twitter.com/kokayi)
9:50: History of Keur Gui & their involvement in politics
20:49: Hip hop in Senegal
23:46: The rise of Y’en a Marre
27:57: New Type of Senegalese (NTS)
31:10: The spread of activism outside of Senegal
36:28: A new type of Pan Africanism
41:22: Hip Hop in East Africa
43:33: MCs as politicians and MCs as part of civil society
45:13: Upcoming music projects
47:28: Their fundraiser for the Kaolack studio
49:43: “Marginaux”
Scholarship on Y’en A Marre and Keur Gui
Berktay, Aligul. (2014). Pikine’s Hip Hop Youth Say “Enough is Enough” and Pave the Way for Continuous Social Change. Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati.
Fredericks, Rosalind. (2014). “The old man is dead”: hip hop and the arts of citizenship of Senegalese youth. Antipode, 46(1), 130-148.
Gueye, Marame. (2013). Urban guerrilla poetry: The movement Y’en a Marre and the socio-political influences of hip hop in Senegal. Journal of Pan African Studies, 8 (3), 22-42.
Lo, Sheba. (2014). Building our nation: Hip hop artists as agents of social and political change. Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati.
Prause, Lousia. (2013). Mit Rap zur Revolte: Die Bewegung Y’en a marre. Prokla, 43(1), 23-41.
Senghor, Fatou Kande. (2015). Wala Bok: Une histoire orale du hip hop au Senegal. Amalion Publishing.

Continue reading “HHAP Episode 22: Thiat of Keur Gui on Hip Hop and Activism Beyond Senegal”

Représentez Représentez

Growing up all around the French capital and hailing from all parts of francophone Africa, the Parisian hip-hop collective Sexion d’Assaut has proven that there is power in diversity. The variety of styles present in a given track mixed in with their individual lyrical collaborations combine to form a hypnotically rhythmic creation often imparting a good deal of knowledge as well. And in keeping with their powerful lyrical presence and melodious accompaniment, their track “Africain” does not disappoint. Continue reading “Représentez Représentez”

Diaspora Rappers

Diaspora based artists like K’Naan, Blitz the Ambassador, M3nsa, Wale, and French Montana, and Tabi Bonney have been covered heavily in this blog. There are several other first and second generation African MCs around the world who have not been covered as much in this blog. As students in the Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa course this semester are discussing Diaspora based artists, here are some of the artists those students are looking at. In the coming week students will be putting up posts on these and other African MCs that are based outside of the continent. Continue reading “Diaspora Rappers”

Toussa

Toussa is an up and coming female rapper in Senegal. Hailing from Dakar, she is one of the few female hip-hop artists that have gotten recognition. She resists patriarchy in many ways, including the way she dresses. She resists the stereotype that women should dress in a “respectable” manner. She created Gotal (which is a women’s group dedicated to promoting women in hip hop). The video showcases Toussa’s rap skills. One important thing Toussa says is that rap is something that one does, while hip-hop is something that you live. In the video, you get to see Dakar through Gotal’s eyes. We get a glimpse at the skills of all these women when they rap. One of Toussa’s rap songs called “Trompreur” describes that rap is not a game, but a rebellion. The best line, in my opinion, is “the rapper must speak between the people and the state line”. This is very important because women need to use their platforms to speak out for themselves and for those who do not have a voice. Toussa advocates for freedom of speech and for democracy. Another song that Toussa has written is called “The Life” where she talks about the difficulty in succeeding. There is definitely a challenge in succeeding in Senegal, but more so for women. She says that the people need a female rapper. I think the world needs female rappers. They overcome stereotypes and pursue their dreams that were previously unavailable. Gotal is collaborating with non-profit to promote women’s success and leadership. One woman in the group is the first female producer in Senegal. The video also takes care to show them in their communities like at the beach and in the Dakar streets. It is clear that Toussa is a key member of her community despite her rising fame and success.

 

Dakar’s Female MCs and the Power of the Cyp(her)

In a hip-hop scene as developed and competitive as Senegal’s, the cypher continues to act as a platform by which talented, young rappers make their debut. The fast-paced intensity of a hip-hop cypher is the perfect way for new artists on the scene to prove to their worth to the public. And in a society where women must give it their all to make an impression in the musical community, the cypher allows female MCs to show everyone that they are just as lyrically passionate and complex than their male counterparts— if not more. Continue reading “Dakar’s Female MCs and the Power of the Cyp(her)”