Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the mixtape of revolution

NYTimes | DEF JAM will probably never sign them, but Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré, from a small town about 100 miles southeast of Dakar, Senegal, and Hamada Ben Amor, a 22-year-old man from a port city 170 miles southeast of Tunis, may be two of the most influential rappers in the history of hip-hop.

Mr. Touré, a k a Thiat (“Junior”), and Mr. Ben Amor, a k a El Général, both wrote protest songs that led to their arrests and generated powerful political movements. “We are drowning in hunger and unemployment,” spits Thiat on “Coup 2 Gueule” (from a phrase meaning “rant”) with the Keurgui Crew. El Général’s song “Head of State” addresses the now-deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali over a plaintive background beat. “A lot of money was pledged for projects and infrastructure/Schools, hospitals, buildings, houses/but the sons of dogs swallowed it in their big bellies.” Later, he rhymes, “I know people have a lot to say in their hearts, but no way to convey it.” The song acted as sluice gates for the release of anger that until then was being expressed clandestinely, if at all.

During the recent wave of revolutions across the Arab world and the protests against illegitimate presidents in African countries like Guinea and Djibouti, rap music has played a critical role in articulating citizen discontent over poverty, rising food prices, blackouts, unemployment, police repression and political corruption. Rap songs in Arabic in particular — the new lingua franca of the hip-hop world — have spread through YouTube, Facebook, mixtapes, ringtones and MP3s from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and Algeria, helping to disseminate ideas and anthems as the insurrections progressed. El Général, for example, was featured on a mixtape put out by the dissident group Khalas (Enough) in Libya, which also included songs like “Tripoli Is Calling” and “Dirty Colonel.”

Why has rap — an American music that in its early global spread was associated with thuggery and violence — come to be so highly influential in these regions? After all, rappers are not the only musicians involved in politics. Late last week, protests erupted when Youssou N’Dour, a Senegalese singer of mbalax, a fusion of traditional music with Latin, pop and jazz, was barred by a constitutional court from pursuing a run for president. But mbalax singers are typically seen as older entertainers who often support the government in power. In contrast, rappers, according to the Senegalese rapper Keyti, “are closer to the streets and can bring into their music the general feeling of frustration among people.”

Another reason is the oratorical style rap employs: rappers report in a direct manner that cuts through political subterfuge. Rapping can simulate a political speech or address, rhetorical conventions that are generally inaccessible to the marginal youth who form the base of this movement. And in places like Senegal, rap follows in the oral traditions of West African griots, who often used rhyming verse to evaluate their political leaders. “M.C.’s are the modern griot,” Papa Moussa Lo, a k a Waterflow, told me in an interview a few weeks ago. “They are taking over the role of representing the people.”

2 comments:

nanakwame said...

Talking about Metaphors and Language, Thank you Doc yet are you saying no political lines no good? This has been a tradition in the Afro-Americana legacies in the Region btw 

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/uk-tourists-turned-back-from-us-over-twitter-joke-to-destroy-america-and-dig-up-marilyn-monroes-grave-20120131-1qqsy.html 

CNu said...

I'm saying that while the third world rhymes and poses its discontent, Iran braces to fight for its life and sovereignty, Northrup Grumman is delivering SkyNet class autonomous death drones to handle the empire's bidnis...,

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