On the Other Side of the Tracks with Gokh-Bi System’s “Pikine”

New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit— name a city in America and there’s sure to be artists that represent the vibrant hip-hop culture that inhabits it. The same holds true across the Atlantic in the West African nation of Senegal, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another city that embodies hip-hop culture as much as the capital city of Dakar. And while Dakar possesses some of the most well-known and widely celebrated names in Senegalese hip-hop, the poverty stricken suburbs on the outskirts of the city have produced some of the most talented and impassioned emcees, chief among them is Gokh-Bi System. A group of friends from the dusty suburb of Pikine, the crew began their careers as musicians in a section of the town known as Guinaw Rail— a Wolof name literally meaning “behind the rails.”

Gokh-Bi System’s upbringing in the often flood-plagued suburb of Pikine forged an unbreakable bond between the friends and their local community. This is undoubtedly the inspiration for their track and accompanying video that borrows the name of their hometown: Pikine. The track and video possess characteristics of a distinctly hip-hop style, borrowing the flow and body language of any conscious rap artists while retaining a uniquely Senegalese musical overtone. Delivered in Wolof, the verses embody Gokh-Bi’s pride for their community in emotionally driven rhetoric with a traditional flare. The video follows suit, showing the group reminiscing about life in Pikine, which represented by shots of symbols of the community, such as car-rapides full of commuters and hip-hop centric graffiti. These scenes are juxtaposed with shots of the group in their adopted country of the United States, which is accompanied by expressions that they still feel a close connection to their hometown. The video clearly displays Gokh-Bi’s reverence for the city that shaped them and strongly reinforces their position as both children and representatives of their community. Or as Gokh-Bi’s collaborator on ‘Pikine’, the late Ndongo Lo aptly puts it, “You are an ocean away from your mothers, your fathers, your sisters, and your brothers, but you carry their mark on your sleeve and give voices to the voiceless.”

Here’s the video with English subtitles (and some pretty funny outtakes):

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