Five years ago, Ben Herson travelled to Senegal and was blown away by the skills of the local hip hop talent. He returned with his ‘mobile guerrilla-style’ production techniques and has just released a great album on his own label, Nomadic Wax. We have had words.
Why is hip hop so popular in Africa? How does it relate to local culture?
Hip hop is popular for a number reasons: on a cultural level, the idea of speaking, singing and rhyming over a raw beat is not a foreign idea for most countries in Africa.
In 2000, the rappers helped to oust Abdou Diouf in the first peaceful democratic election ever in Senegal
Generally speaking, most African counties have some sort of oral tradition which is accompanied by a beat and little else. Because of this, it has led to a much more widespread acceptance and intergration of American hip hop in Africa. In Senegal, for example, they have an oral spoken word poetry called Tallif which has been around for 1,000 years!
Hip hop has also been used as a tool for the youth of Senegal to engage in a meaningful dialogue with their elders and politicians about their displeasure with their country’s political and religious leaders.
Prior to the emergence of a hip hop culture in Senegal, it was not quite acceptable to use music as a form of political protest especially for the youth.
With the rise in popularity of local, socially-concious hip hop groups, the MCs have become more outspoken than any other musical movement in Senegalese history. The result was overwhelming when, in 2000, the rappers helped to oust Abdou Diouf in the first peaceful democratic election ever in Senegal.
What does African hip hop have to teach everyone else?
It teaches us that music does not have to be merely entertainment or an escape from reality. Nor does it have to be pretentions and didactic.
Music can challenge power, educate and awaken minds as well as entertain.
Africans have gone though so many struggles from the beginning of the Middle Passage to the present. In spite of the wreckage that colonization wrought, as well as the subsequent dictatorships, civil wars and AIDS, Africans have learned to use hip hop as a tool to express themselves and create their own unique subcultures.
Hip hop in Africa is more than just entertainment, it is a tool for self expression and cultural survival.
How are you going to top Vol. 1? (Senegal is surely unique?)
Senegal is unique! However, there are incredible hip hop scenes all over Africa. Tanzania and Kenya have an incredibly developed music scene with hip hop dominating. South Africa also has a notable hip hop scene.
We have plans to work in a number of different countries over the next few years and hopefully we will have a number for different African Underground series available by the end of 2005.
We’ve already finished our follow-up session for Senegal and we have over 50 tracks recorded and ready to be picked for our next Hip-Hop Senegal!
African Underground Vol 1 – Hip Hop – Senegal was released on Nomadic Wax August 11, 2004 and will be available for download this autumn.
2. BMG 44 “44”
3. Omzo “Missalu Aduna”
4. Shiffai “Shiffai”
5. Las MC “Africans Don’t Wanna Understand”
6. Shiffai “Never Forget”
7. Simon “Chagga”
8. Sul Suli Klan “Mbedd Bama Woo”
9. Slam Revolution and BMG 44 “Begguma”
10. Sen Kumpa “Deglu Xel”
11. Abass “Abass”
12. Slam Revolution “Wax Degg”
13. Real Fight “Ndax Sa Melo”
14. Yat Fu “Art Attandan”
–Image © Nomadic Wax LLC 2003/2004–