April 17, 2007

African Underground: Democracy In Dakar

Dakar.jpgBack in 2000, the West African nation of Senegal witnessed something that it had not seen in the four decades of its independence Ė a change of government. Up until then, power had been held by the Socialist Party, which had grown increasingly moribund and corrupt as the decades passed. In the 2000 elections, it was finally defeated by the liberal Senegalese Democratic Party under Abdoulaye Wade, who specifically courted the youth vote. Along the way, he was helped immeasurably by the support of artists in the burgeoning Senegalese hip hop scene.

Back in February this year, after seven years of failed promises and concerted crackdowns on opposition (including rappers), Wade faced the voters in another election, so the hip hop label Nomadic Wax sent a camera crew to Dakar to engage in a unique form of election coverage Ė a series of short documentaries focusing on local hip hop and its potential role in the political scene this time around.

The results of the teamís efforts have been posted on the Calabash Music site in four parts (Here are the links for 1, 2, 3 and 4) and provided they can get the funding, it will eventually be turned into a full length documentary. As it stands, itís an interesting profile of the pressures facing politically-vocal artists in a democratic but still authoritarian regime, and it includes some great performances, both on the street and in the studio, by local rappers.

Posted by Warren at April 17, 2007 10:14 PM | Hip Hop