Africa mixtape: political dissent and critique in hip hop in Dakar, Senegal

Africa Mixtape: Political Dissent and Critique in Hip Hop in Dakar, Senegal

The Africa Mixtape is an ongoing collection of songs handpicked by SIT Study Abroad students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Today’s post is by Dylan McDonnell, an alumnus of SIT Study Abroad Senegal.

During the spring of 2014, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Senegal, living primarily in Dakar, the administrative and economic capital. I studied music in several settings, most importantly at Guédiawaye Hip Hop, a community center dedicated to educating young people about the history and aesthetic elements of hip hop culture and production, as well as its potential for mobilizing local civic responsibility.

Senegal boasts the third largest hip hop network in the world (after the United States and France), which has grown from cohorts of break-dancers in the mid-1980s into a much broader network of participants. Though most hip hop artists in Senegal perform solely in local contexts, some groups and individual artists have achieved international recognition.

Senegalese rappers draw on a variety of linguistic and aesthetic influences from local and foreign sources, often performing in French, English, and Wolof, the most widely spoken indigenous language in the country.

Furthermore, rappers have been involved in national politics on a grassroots level since at least 2000. In 2011, a coalition of rappers and journalists self-identifying as Y en a Marre (French; “Fed up” or “Enough is enough”) organized voter drives and staged concert-demonstrations in downtown Dakar in order to contest the administration of then-president Abdoulaye Wade. In 2014, one of the rappers I worked with, Malal Talla, aka Fou Malade, director of Guédiawaye Hip Hop and member of Y en a Marre, released a single and video called “Dama Feebar” (Wolof; “I’m crazy/sick”), a multi-layered critique of Senegal’s under-equipped public health institutions. Watch and listen below (complete with English subtitles):

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