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”

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)”

Toussa, or all-inclusive

Who is Astou Gaye, and how did she set the contemporary precedent for aspiring female rappers in the banlieus surrounding Dakar?

Better known by her stage name Toussa Senerap, Astou began her career calling out a highly-patriarchal Senegalese culture that withholds respect for women in both marriage and the hip-hop industry. There is no questioning Astou’s commitment to overturning society’s status-quo: her first experience with rap was in 50 Cent’s international banger, “In da Club” – a testament to selling drugs and pimping women that Astou transformed into a struggle for women’s emancipation. Continue reading “Toussa, or all-inclusive”

“Comment pouvez vous dormir?”

“How can you sleep?” was just one of the many jabs Senegalese rapper Eyewitness took at then president Abdoulaye Wade in his 2012 track “Message au President” or “Message to the President.”

Continue reading ““Comment pouvez vous dormir?””

L’argot de Sénégal

“Senegal slang” signifies more than its catchy nature would insinuate.

It is impossible to watch this “Y’en a marre” (enough is enough)  video without recollecting Golden-Age American hip hop artists discuss social progression some 20 to 30 years after the civil rights movement. The video begins with Senegalese rapper Djily Baghdad discussing crumbling social and political institutions contemporary with the 2011 Arab Spring movements. Continue reading “L’argot de Sénégal”

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

MHD en sa Patrie

Mohammed Sylla (MHD) performed in front of thousands of Senegalese in Dakar in December 2017. This concert, staged in front of the 49-meter-tall African Renaissance Monument,  united the international phenomenon MHD with domestically-popular Senegalese hip-hop artists in an evening ripe with music, dance, and humor.  Continue reading “MHD en sa Patrie”

Hewale and Revolution

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.

 

 

Ghana & Senegal: Letters to the People

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.

m3nsa

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.

wageble

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.

“Ma Revolution”

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).

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