This article, AFRICAN HIP HOP IN TANZANIA, is consisted of highlights from an interview with a prominent scholar, Alex Perullo who studies East African popular musicians. Among many things covered discussed in the interview, he talked about Hip Hop history in Tanzania, the socialist influence in Tanzania & censorship, and comparison between the hip hop of scene in senegal from Dar Es Salaam, the hip hop youth, music tradition vs a poetic tradition. He also explored the relationship among nationalism, politics and rap today, the conflict between rural and urban culture in the realm of women, hip hop cultural imperism, and changing status of rappers in Tanzania.
In the article titled Hooligans and Heroes: Youth Identity and Hip-Hop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Alex Perullo explores the many ways that hip hop has affected the the lives of Tanzanian youth. Although many older Tanzanians regard hip hop with contempt and label its followers as “wahuni” (hooligans), there is no mistaking the fact that the music has gained an intense amount of popularity over the years. Hip hop music has been called the “voice of the youth” because it provides young people with a way to voice their opinions and concerns. In Tanzania, hip hop has been used as a means to educate people about important issues, “For Tanzanian youth, this means altering the popular conception of themselves as hooligans and allowing youth to become knowledge holders and educators within urban contexts”. There are many Tanzanian artists who have written songs addressing a wide variety of topics, and many of the lyrics are thought-provoking and clever. Perullo mentions the fact that strict censorship in the 70’s did not prevent hip hop artists to voice their disapproval of the government. Many bands found their way around bans and censorship by using double entendres and hidden meanings in the lyrics, a practice that “has a long history in Swahili poetry”. This challenges the common misconception that hip hop is vulgar and hateful. Many of the messages of these young Tanzanian artists represent the common struggle of the average person in Tanzania.
Perullo’s research focuses on many popular and influential artists such as Mr II and Professor Jay. He includes song lyrics in Swahili with an English translation on the side. One of the songs that he includes is one by Mr. II, titled “Hali Halisi” (“The Real Situation”). This song focuses on the political corruption in Tanzania, “Our lives are hard, even the president knows/And we still have our smiles in ever situation…everyday it’s us and the police”. This song was popular because it expressed the anger and frustration of the youth. Many of the bands that are played in the radio have clean lyrics and are politically and socially conscious. They educate the youth on important issues.
This is an essay written by, Alex Perullo and John Fenn which can be found in the book Global Pop, Local Language by, Harris M. Berger and Michael Thomas Carroll. Since Hip Hop’s emergence in North America during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Hip Hop has become a global way for the youth to express their own local styles. This is no different in Tanzania and Malawi, two neighboring African countries. Both countries use English in their hip hop music, but Tanzania uses also Swahili and the Malawian youth use the language Chichewa. Author, Alex Perullo, states that Tanzanian hip hop in English reflects American hip hop in talking about the pleasure’s of life for example, parties, friends, and praise of the artist. Perullo then says that when the musicians use Swahili, the hip hop artist is usually conveying a message to the Tanzanian people about important social issues like lack of employment, corruption in the government, police brutality, and HIV/AIDS. Tanzanian hip hop artists have stayed away from some American themes found in rap music like violence, because it is seen as disrespectful by the Tanzanian people. Although English is the dominant political and economic language in Tanzania, it is only spoken by five percent of the population, so Swahili has become the most dominant language in the Tanzanian hip hop scene. Many Tanzanian hip hop artists use American rappers such as Tupac Shakur to learn the flow of hip hop music and once they have acquired the skills they develop themselves as Tanzanian hip hop artists. The creation of new words and the changing of the meaning of old Tanzanian words is core to the hip hop scene because this creates a common culture the youth of Tanzania are able to identify with. In Malawi, English is all over rap and hip hop music, but it is usually accompanied simultaneously by the language Chichewa. Much of the conversation about hip hop music in Malawi is done in English including newspapers, radio, and face to face dialogue, but the young hip hop artists of Malawi realize the importance of using the local Chichewa language when trying to convey certain messages in their music. The Malawian youth see hip hop as having important social functions as well as a way to effectively transmit meaning.