Friday, September 2, 2016

African Underground: Hip Hop in Senegal (2008 documentary with a transcript)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video of a 2008 documentary about Senegalese Hip Hop. In addition to this video, this post includes my transcription of the English words that were spoken and the English language subtitles that were given on the screen.

Selected comments from that video's discussion thread are also included in this post.

[Update 9/2/2016 4:00 PM] An excerpt of a 2015 article about Senegalese Hip Hop is included in the Addendum to this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this documentary, and all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the producers of this documentary and its publisher on YouTube.

SHOWCASE VIDEO - African Underground: Hip Hop in Senegal

mediathatmatters Uploaded on Jun 4, 2008

Step into the African Underground and listen to a new voice inspired by religion, politics, old school Hip Hop and Senegalese culture.

Pancocojams Editor - This is my transcription of that video. Sentences or parts of sentences given in italics mean that I'm not sure of that transcription. Additions and corrections are welcome.

Aziz Ndiaye- old school rapper
[speaking in English] “I said ah hip hop the hippy
the hippy to the hip hop
you don’t stop the rockin to the bang bang”

[English sub-titles] “Really these were my biggest influences”.

[screen titles] Nomadic Wax and Sol Productions presents An Underground Projic
African Underground: Democracy In Dakar
Filmed on location in Dakar

Aziz Ndiaye
[English subtitles] “I remember, Didier Awadi and I, back in the day, we were copying Kurtis Blow, and Grandmaster Flash, and Grandmaster Melle Mel.”

Dakar All Stars
[English subtitles] – That is the force of America. It is not just rap that has come like that.

Ndongo d
[English subtitles] Public Enemy Fight the power, that influenced me so much. That’s when I began to write lyrics in Wolof.

[Speaking in English] – “I didn’t understand English. And he translate “Fight The Power” for us. And when we heard “Fight the power”, we wanted to do the same, you know.”

[English sub- titles- several speakers] – It was a form of expression that we soon realized could really educate people. So it was because we wanted to exteriorize what we had inside our hearts. What we really felt about this country. It wasn’t to copy the Americans, but we somehow were obliged in the beginning because it is a culture from the States.

[speaking in English] When we say we rapping, when we making Hip Hop, definitely, we have a western way of the American experience. In the beginning, for me for instance, I was like “Okay. I was like wearing American people Nikes, big, big chains. I’m rhyming in English, talking about stuff that I didn’t really, um, understand the sense.

Aziz Ndiaye
[English subtitles]- They rapped in English and we did the same thing in Wolof. We were lucky to be able to go to learn English at school. So that is how we knew what they were talking about and it was then that real Senegalese Hip Hop began.

[speaking in English] So when you talk about Hip Hop culture definitely you got a big influence from the U. S. But we start to um to flip this influence.

djiby daddy & bakhaw
[English subtitles] It is because of where we are from, because where we are from, the realities cannot be the same.
[speaking English subtitles] Africa is a ghetto.
Dakar is a ghetto.
The city of Dakar is a ghetto.
But it is not like BK, Brooklyn, Harlem.
It is not the same thing.
We don’t live the same way.

[rapping – with English sub-titles]
We give love to the fans
through the M-I-C.
We will never forget you.
We will always respect you.
We will never disrespect you.
We will never minimalize you.

[speaking- English subtitles]-We were born in this country- Senegal.
For example, we are Muslims. We are believers. We practice. We believe in God and we are young. We are messengers. Therefore there are certain things we cannot say to these young guys listening to our music.

[rapping- English subtitles]
So get closer, get closer.
Da Brains are back.
We will never fight with you.
There is mutual respect between us.
For more than 10 years, you have been good Muslims.
Only because of the love of God.
In the name of God, we can pay you back.

[speaking English] In Senegalese Hip Hop, you have not the right church because now here it’s more- Islam influences more of the people than you know in the Western or you know whenever in the UK.

p- blow
[speaking English] For example, we respect the old people, you know. We respect the rule of Islam, you know. And we cannot in how we say say whatever we want
We don’t use to, for example, [English subtitle- misogynistic text]. -end of subtitle.
We never do this. You know. In our images, we never, for example [English sub-titles] we never have young girls and young women wearing sexy clothes.
-end of subtitle-

We never do this. Yeah, ‘cause we believe in something, you know. We must. We believe in God and we must respect the rule of Islam.

Gen kumbe
[rapping – English subtitle]
Thanks be to God.
You gave it to us.
You took it back from us.
Thanks be to God.
Would never refuse working hard.
Thanks be to God.
Even if you gave it and took it back.
Thanks be to God.

[Speaking in English] Yeah, I’m a gangster. I kill. I kill people for fun. I sell drugs- No.
We can not do stuff like this. No. Never.
So our culture, we definitely must be conscious. We must be tough for the future.

Jo jo
[Rapping- English sub-titles]
Globalization reminds me of balkanization.
Just like during colonization,
we call for our debts to be erased.
Liberation of the nations of the third world.
The system is a total shame.
Life in the ghetto is filthy.
Manipulation and pressure on the population.
The Question:
Why so much tension?
And hatred leads to violence, desolation, division,
genocide and concentration camps.
Uncle Sam has dirty hands.
The world’s elite in his back room.
Holdings, trusts, and multinationals.

[English subtitles- unidentified speaker]- In Africa, we have our own realities, our own culture,
and we are trying to export this culture.

[Speaking in English] – We have a lot of different influences – from the Europe, from um France, from the U.S. And, ah, still our country is not that strong that we can not lose it.

djiby daddy & bakhaw
[English subtitles]- Heere, when we are on stage we just put on regular clothes, but when we are on tour, we get dressed in African attire.

[A video clip of gokb-bi-system dancing to djembe drums is playing in the background.]

We are obliged to because we represent Senegal. We represent the Red, Yellow, and Green. We represent Africa.

We do not rap in English or French. We rap in Wolof because we are Senegalese.
[other men speaking in English] – If we go down to USA to export our music, we just tell what we believe. We don’t do like them because we are not the same.

These comments from the video African Underground: Hip Hop in Senegal are given in relative chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, except for replies.

These comments aren’t meant to be taken as fact but rather to document the bloggers’ knowledge and/or lack of knowledge about the nation of Senegal and Senegalese Hip Hop and the bloggers' opinions about American Hip Hop and Senegalese Hip Hop.

"Holy Jesus, Rap with a point!"

"its seems like its got more points than the rap i hear in the U.S"

"This is the kind of hip-hop that should be on mainstream in the US... No im not saying in their language, but I'm saying rap/hip-hop that has meaning"

UpwardFalls8 years ago
"Sick" is an African American Vernacular English word that means "very very good".


"We use rap as a blunt instrument they use it as a surgical tool"

"What language are they speaking in? It sounds like french but I know it's not..right?"

"in the video are speking mostly wolof, french or english;) real hip hop !"

"they speak french and wolof^^"

"wolof what is that"

"one of the THOUSANDS of languages spoken in Africa, more specifically, I believe of Senegal...correct me if I'm wrong"

"I didn't know they spoke French in Senegal."

"i speak hatian creole so i kinda understand i never knew the people of senegal speak french....................there hot but i like todays hip-hop!!!!!!"

From Hip-hop in Senegal
Feb 09, 2015 • by In-house Senegal, By Keyti
"Senegalese rap music is considered today as a genre of its own; a genre with such a persuasion and mobilization power that it is often feared.

In the history of music in Senegal, the meteoric rise of rap music is probably one of the most interesting phenomena to witness. For several decades, rap music has become the true voice of the youth and is now accepted as an art. Furthermore, it has proven to be a powerful force capable of persuading and mobilizing the masses. This makes it the most controversial music genre in Senegal.

Thousands of young people are using this musical genre to express their creativity, struggles and dreams of a better life, from the depths of the Fouta region in the north to the remotest village of Casamance in the south and from the border with Mali to Dakar, the capital city...

In the early 1980s, Dakar was booming and changing. In its early days, Dakar had been home to mostly middle-class neighborhoods. As the city expanded, suburbs emerged for more disadvantaged people coming from other parts of the country, often fleeing a severe drought that lasted for decades. These new demographic and economic factors, combined with a strong tradition of immigration, opened the city of Dakar to the rest of the world and thus to new lifestyles, clothing fashions and music trends....

In this context, hip-hop began to take over Dakar. Dances like ‘smurf’, popping and breakdancing inspired the creation of hundreds of dance groups across the city. The growing Americanization trend of Senegalese youth through these dances opened the doors to rap in the mid-1980s. Indeed many of the early rappers’ careers started with dance. Most of them plunged back into anonymity, with the exception of Duggy Tee and Matador, who enjoyed successful music careers.

One of the greatest paradoxes of the introduction of hip-hop music in Senegal is that unlike the United States, where it originated, or Europe, it was the privileged class that first adopted and promoted its lifestyle...This is simply because the wealthier youth had the opportunity to travel abroad and were returning with albums, movies and VHS tapes of rap videos. These tapes were copied and exchanged throughout the city....

Despite its popularity at live events, it was only in 1991 that the first rap single from a Senegalese artist was released. It was a single by MC Lida, a rapper unknown on the local scene because he was living in Italy at that time. His maxi-album Teubeul Ma Teub opened the way for local rap production. Many people consider Positive Black Soul’s album released in 1992 Boul FalĂ© as the first Senegalese rap album because of the aura of the rap group at the time and the fact that they were living in Senegal. After these early releases, so many albums have been recorded that it has become very difficult for the public to follow and keep up with all of them.

Hip-Hop in Senegal Today

Today, 25 years after its emergence, the Senegalese rap industry is undoubtedly one of the most prolific of the continent, with artists coming from all over the country as well as Dakar. They have also managed to retain a solid audience over time. However...Albums come out one after another but most of them face the same fate - they are commercial flops because of issues like a lack of distribution networks, which often makes them inaccessible to the public, a lack of proper promotion and a lack of live performances. Today only a handful of hip-hop artists are able to live off their craft and the only artists who tour regularly including outside of the country are Matador, Didier Awadi and Daara J Family...

The other major issue facing Senegalese rap is that most songs are performed mainly Wolof. This makes it difficult to have an international career, unlike artists from other parts of west Africa, who rap mostly in French and can therefore sell themselves internationally...

The strength of Senegalese hip-hop is the political commitment of the rappers, which has helped them maintain an international presence. Since its inception, Senegalese rap has been strongly influenced by politics. Most rappers denounce poor living conditions and the abuse of political power - almost to the point that every rapper feels obligated to address politics in order to be heard"."....

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