African Underground


One of the most interesting and worthwhile “lectures” I have ever been to at Amherst was African Underground: Democracy in Dakar, a groundbreaking documentary film about hip-hop, youth, and politics in Dakar Senegal. The film follows young rappers, artists, teachers, and locals around the time of the 2007 presidential election in Senegal.  The election was an extremely controversial time in Senegal and the creation and distribution of music played a major role in responding to the events.

The film was followed by an extremely interesting panel of speakers.  Two of the filmmakers/producers, two of the featured artists, and two female artists from a group called Poetic Pilgrimage.  I found the controversy over the 2007 election and the debate over the elected leader,  Abdoulaye Wade, very poignant in relation to the class discussion on Last King of Scotland.  There was so much hope for Wade’s 1st presidency in 2000 and his ability to fix many of the problems in Dakar.  Unfortunately, the public believed he had done very little for the country in his first term, yet he was elected again amongst controversy and talks of cheating in 2007.  A couple of the audience members and panelists discussed their concern and unhappiness regarding Wade as a leader.  He simply did not have a good grasp of the major problems that affected Senegal, he barely even lived and spent time there according to one audience member.  Amongst all this controversy, music was a major way of expressing the angst and unhappiness with the government.  Unlike America, hip-hop artists did not rap about misogyny, drugs, and killing.  Instead, they are inspired by artists like NWA and the song “Fight the Power” to use hip-hop as a vehicle for social commentary.  One of my favorite quotes from the presentation was “But we have our voice and it is a powerful weapon.”

View the trailer of African Underground: Democracy in Dakar.



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