Daara J Family and “Tchékoulé”

Since bursting onto the scene in Senegal in 1997, Daara J has been a staple of the country’s prominent hip hop movement. Originally a trio made up of Faada Freddy, N’Dongo DJ, and Lord Alajiiman, the group quickly gained success and recognition in their home country following the release of their eponymous debut album Daara-J. The following year they built on their success, dropping Xalima (English for quill and ink), which featured heavy political commentary. In 2003, the group released their third album, Boomerang, which saw them diverge from their reggae roots to a more hip hop centric sound. Through the years, the members of Daara J have done their part in promoting social change in Africa. They actively speak out against corruption and even helped write speeches for an anti-corruption campaign in 2000. Unfortunately in 2008, Lord Alajiiman left the group. Since then, Faada Freddy and N’Dongo DJ have put out three more albums together, under the new name Daara J Family. The most recent release came in 2020 and was headlined by the track “Tchékoulé.”

One of the first African hip hop songs I ever listened to, I instantly vibed to “Tchékoulé.” The melody, beat, and harmonized vocals combine for a warm and laid-back track. Unlike a good portion of Senegalese hip hop, the track is not in French, but in the artists’ native Wolof. In fact, Daara J (Family) is different from other groups from their country in this aspect, rapping in Wolof in a majority of their tracks. I decided to research Senegalese hip hop because I’m conversational in French, however finding tracks in Wolof was a pleasant surprise. The music video for the song only added to its appeal for me. Full of bright neon colors and traditional Senegalese attire, the visuals provided by the video go perfectly with the fun and funky rhythm and singing of the artists.

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