Sunday, July 11, 2010

Speakers and Specialists

Can rap music possibly be considered oral history? On Monday, 7-12-10, after an informative morning lecture given by Mr. Lamine Kane about the Senegalese educational system (which I will elaborate on in a later post), we heard from three significant personalities about Contemporary Youth Culture and Practices in Senegal. That is to say that these folks are in the creative arts, have been for some time, and can comment on what they are seeing with regard to similarities to traditional customs and whether or not any positive changes are coming. Above is Fatou Kande Senghor, a film maker and photographer from Nigeria. She has worked with the hip hop community since she was young. Her interests are in the shifts in youth culture at different ages and she has done research that concludes that hip hop isn't anything new. It's been around since the days of traditional and indiginous cultural practices. Senghor visited a village in the south and found similar rhythms, vibrations, and energy in the rites of passage gatherings. She has documented, on video, many hours of hip hop performed by various groups and makes the assertion that hip hop and traditional practices are related.
Duggy Tee (The power has just gone out again. This doesn't surprise me anymore. It happens a couple of times a day on average.) Anyway, Duggy Tee of Positive Black Soul (I think), or PBS spoke to us as well. Since 1989, he has been rapping, but his evolution is interesting. At first he just admired other rappers and wanted to be like them. Friends told him he had the talent to step up and start his own group. He then decided that he was different than many rap groups because he wanted to have a positive message, AND he wanted to stay in Senegal. His songs focus on the health, security, education, and similar themes. You can look him up on You Tube. What I like about his rap, besides the lyrics, is that he actually breaks into melody and sings as well as raps. Duggy Tee raps in English, Wolof, and French. A short video clip can be seen here.

Fou Malade has been rapping since 1996. He also uses positive messages as lyrics. He started rapping as a way to speak out. Malade grew up thinking that young people didn't have a voice. He saw rap as the only way to speak out on important issues. He works with prisoners and former prisoners to help them become productive and resonsible through rap.
Souley Mane Keita allowed us into his home and studio to show us his artwork and describe what he draws inspiration from as he continues his long and successful career. Note the blue art piece that he describes as "baggy pants". Fulani men, he says, wear baggy pants and carry a pole which they place their arms over. (So sorry, I can't remember why...)
Colle Sow Ardo has been a Senegalese fashion designer long enough that she has seen the marginalization of African designers in national clothing shows. That, however, is changing slowly. See her website at
This scene from a video highlights a couple of pieces from Colle Sow Ardo's collection. Penda Mbow, you can tell by this photo, is a dynamic and animated speaker. She is a historian and an expert on gender issues, political reform, and the social structure of African cultures. She lectured twice this day (7-8-10). The first lecture cited many struggles that are facing Senegalese people. Women were important in folk tales and the social structure before outside influences arrived. the French, Portugese, Europeans, and Americans brought a patriarchal society. Islamization also brought a shift in the place of women in society. Lecture number two focused on the things that give her and others hope for a good future for Senegal. As I said in an earlier post, West African issues cannot be addressed in categories. Religion, politics, the economy, geography, and the movement of people from rural areas to the city are complicated and intertwined. Mbow is up to the, very likely, long road ahead as she speaks out for reform in Senegal.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's fascinating about the rap music. It would be great to have the music of some of these rap artists to play for our students, especially if we were able to translate the lyrics.