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”

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”

Hip Hop for Social Change

Both Ghanaian and Senegalese forms of hip hop are used in order to present a message whether social or political in their countries. According to The Organic Globalizer: The Political Development of Hip-Hop and the Prospects for Global Transformation, “Music is a potent form of communication that crosses cultural and linguistic barriers through various information networks.” Music specifically Hip Hop came out of people’s struggle, originating in New York during the 1970’s.

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Senegal is a 99% Muslim country and majority of their hip hop content is about being conscience and bringing awareness. Y’en A Marre is french for we’ve had enough and it is also one of the social political movements that occurred in Senegal. The goal of the movement was NTS A new Type of Senegalese. The rappers and journalist came together to urge citizens to be more involved in the political system and to take responsibility for their impact in the community. The song i chose from Senegal was Awadi  The Roots . I enjoyed this song for one because it was in French and English and it’s always interesting to hear French rap since I am a minor. The message of this song came across very strong in French, English or just looking at the video. The first couple of seconds is video of Malcolm X and narration saying, “You cannot hate the roots and not hate the origin.” Then the part that the artist raps in English says, “I ain’t a black man I’m an African, you can’t separate the skin.” I appreciate this because so many time black americans forget our roots are in Africa. The video is a large group of people rocking back and forth to the music and overall I think the song and the video brings a message of togetherness and understanding your heritage fully not as a black American but African american and knowing the root in that difference.

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Ghana is a country that is mixed in religious makeup and the music is more influenced by the diaspora meaning less conscious than Senegalese rap. For my Ghanaian Hip Hop artist I chose M3NSA, “No One Knows’’ https://youtu.be/SC2Ra2_3do0. This song embodies having a positive outlook on life. The overall message through the lyrics is live for today because tomorrow isn’t promised and not to take life for granted. The video begins with a young girl singing as she walks through the rain this is a reinforced image to be thankful and happy about each day. The artists shows his daily routine from trials and tribulations but he still remembers that you can turn your storms into sunshine. He does discuss peace, equality and truth which is not overly political but it is important as things he wants for his world. I enjoyed both songs from the artists and the messages were both great although different.

Rebel Music

Rebel Music is described as music used by the youth activist  in Senegal to express their feeling and views on society, mostly politically. The beginning of “Rebel Music” was in the late 1980s when their economy collapsed and when the government invalidated the 1988 school year, due to the youths’ protest of the government officials tasked with making sure stuff like this doesn’t happen. After all of this the youth found their voice though Hip-Hop. From there on Rebel Music would grow more then those students in the late 1980s ever expected.After listening to a couple of “Rebel Music” songs and watching the music videos one in particular stood out the most to me,”Nothing to prove” by Keur Gui. Keur Gui is a hip hop group that was formed in 1996 in the middle of a student strike in Senegal. Most of the song was in their native Language but the chorus was in english but the video did have subtitles. The video started off with footage of a Keur Gui concert then when the rappers were actually rapping the camera would be a close up on the artist, but though out the music video they would go back and forward to the concert and the artist. The style of the video was very familiar to me, or pretty much anyone else who’s seen a Hip Hop music video in the past ten years. I like the way they incorporated both a concert vibe and a in your face personal type vibe  in one video. The concert scenes  showed the large fan base and all the love their fans have for them. In both scenes you could see the passion in the artist whether it was in the concert scene, when the crowd is going crazy and they’re moving around with high energy on the stage or in the close ups when they seemed to be very close to the camera talking with their hands. I think that the overall message of the sing was that their gout has been there for the people, they been was trying to change things in there country and they have nothing to prove about there loyalty to them.Because of musical groups like Keur Gui the peoples’ voices have been heard and of changes have been made for the bettering of the country.

 

Keur Gui “Nothing to Prove’

Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati

by Msia Kibona Clark and Mickie Mwanzia Koster

Now available in paperback & on Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Hip-Hop-Social-Change-Africa/dp/1498505805

This book examines social change in Africa through the lens of hip hop music and culture. Artists engage their African communities in a variety of ways that confront established social structures, using coded language and symbols to inform, question, and challenge. Through lyrical expression, dance, and graffiti, hip hop is used to challenge social inequality and to push for social change. The study looks across Africa and explores how hip hop is being used in different places, spaces, and moments to foster change. In this edited work, authors from a wide range of fields, including history, sociology, African and African American studies, and political science explore the transformative impact that hip hop has had on African youth, who have in turn emerged to push for social change on the continent. The powerful moment in which those that want change decide to consciously and collectively take a stand is rooted in an awareness that has much to do with time. Therefore, the book centers on African hip hop around the context of “it’s time” for change, Ni Wakati.

Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati

by Msia Kibona Clark and Mickie Mwanzia Koster

Now available in paperback & on Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Hip-Hop-Social-Change-Africa/dp/1498505805

This book examines social change in Africa through the lens of hip hop music and culture. Artists engage their African communities in a variety of ways that confront established social structures, using coded language and symbols to inform, question, and challenge. Through lyrical expression, dance, and graffiti, hip hop is used to challenge social inequality and to push for social change. The study looks across Africa and explores how hip hop is being used in different places, spaces, and moments to foster change. In this edited work, authors from a wide range of fields, including history, sociology, African and African American studies, and political science explore the transformative impact that hip hop has had on African youth, who have in turn emerged to push for social change on the continent. The powerful moment in which those that want change decide to consciously and collectively take a stand is rooted in an awareness that has much to do with time. Therefore, the book centers on African hip hop around the context of “it’s time” for change, Ni Wakati.

Continue reading “Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa: Ni Wakati”

The Fight for Economic Patritotism

 

First created in 2011, Y’en A Marre, which translates to ‘Fed Up’, was created by a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists  in order overthrow the current president Abdoulaye Wade, through protest, increasing civic engagement, voting campaigns, and youth initiatives. The group was created by  rappers Fou Malade , Thiat, Kilifeu and journalists Sheikh Fadel Barro, Aliou Sane and Denise Sow.

During the presidency of Wade , many issue arose as a result of the decisions made by politicians and others in position of power. In 2000, Wade initiated the use of Senegalese rappers in order to aim to reach the youth population, which was heavily involved in hip hop culture. However, in 2012 the youth displayed their disapproval of the decisions made my Wade during his presidency including the distribution of wealth among the members of the community.

This anger and interest in the current presidency resulted in an uprising of social engagement with local journalist and rappers to try to make a change. Through door to door campaigns to register voters, educational seminars, and rallying a network of support, ‘”The Spirit of Y’en A Marre” was created as an addition to the general movement. The group advocated for embracing a new type of thinking and attitude toward Senegalese politics. In the late months of 2011, The Spirit of Y’en A Marre released a single entitled ”Faux! Pas Force” as a united cry exhibiting the frustration with President Wade and his son and presumed successor.

The movement has not died down, yet there is still work to be done. Recently, they released a petition to establish transparency and lower the toll prices on the Marathon Eiffage turnpike in Dakar, Senegal. The group is aiming to meet three goals with this petition:

1. The publication of the conditions under which the toll highway was sold to Eiffage Group operating for 30 years while there has invested 61 billion CFA, or about 15% of the cost, where the Government of Senegal has invested nearly 380 billion FCFA;

2. Reducing the toll rate after auditing pricing for why a journey of less than 20KM is charged at 1,400 FCFA in Senegal while with the same amount can travel nearly 90KM on Highway Casablanca-Rabat Morocco;

3. Marathon name change if it is to continue for years to come, calling it “Marathon Dakar” rather than Marathon Eiffage

There is still a great need for reform in Senegal, and the best way to reach the next generation of game changers is to aim for the youth through music. Out of the use of rappers and hip hop, Y’en A Marre has become a evolutionary group in Dakar, aiming to make the change they want to see. It’s time we stop talking about the issues, and actually do something about it.

To stand in solidarity and support the people of Dakar, Senegal in lowering their toll prices, visit: https://www.change.org/p/un-million-de-citoyens-pour-la-transparence-et-la-baisse-des-prix-sur-l-autoroute-%C3%A0-p%C3%A9age

Journal of Pan African Studies: Hip Hop in Africa

I’ve recently edited a special edition of the Journal of Pan African Studies on hip hop in Africa. With articles by myself and a diversity of other scholars writing on Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

● The Struggle for Hip Hop Authenticity and Against Commercialization in Tanzania  by Msia Kibona Clark

● Urban Guerrilla Poetry: The Movement Y’ en a Marre and the Socio-Political Influences of Hip Hop in Senegal by Marame Gueye

● “Chant Down the System ‘till Babylon Falls”: The Political Dimensions of Underground Hip Hop and Urban Grooves in Zimbabwe by Katja Kellerer

● From Compton to Cape Town: Black(faceless)ness and the Appropriation of Gangsta Rap in Die Antwoord’s “Fok Julle Naaiers” by Lanisa Kitchiner

The Hip Hop Revolution in Kenya: Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, Youth Politics and Memory, 1990-2012 by Mickie Mwanzia Koster

● Swag’ and ‘cred’: Representing Hip-hop in the African City by Caroline Mos

● Hip Hop Music as a Youth Medium for Cultural Struggle in Zanzibar by Shani Omari

● Troubling the Trope of “Rapper as Modern Griot” by Damon Sajnani

● “The Blueprint: The Gift and The Curse” of American Hip Hop Culture for Nigeria’s Millennial Youth by Stephanie Shonekan

Check out the issue: http://www.jpanafrican.org/archive_issues/vol6no3.htm
Cover photo is Thiat from the Senegalese group Keur Gui performing at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival. Photo by Msia Kibona Clark. jc_vol6no3_big