Documentary film: Du piment sur les lèvres (Chili on the lips)

In Africa, particularly in francophone West Africa, the aspirations of the young generations for a better life are translated in new cultural movements. Hip hop has become an important form of expression of the young people, who form 75% of the population of the continent. Several films have been made to document this new movement. The ASCL library recently acquired the documentary film Du piment sur les lèvres, made by the young French filmmaker Laurène Lepeytre. The film follows Cameroonian rapper Gaston Abe, better known as Général Valséro, who has become a leader of his generation.


Valséro decided to make a career for himself in music after he experienced what a lot of his contemporaries have lived through: trained as a telecom electrician he couldn't find a job. Now Valséro expresses his personal experiences in a way a lot of fellow Cameroonians can relate to. Valséro sees himself as a political rapper, who attacks and denounces the way President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 33 years now, runs the country. For songs like Çe pays tue les jeunes (This country kills the youth) or Lettre au president (Letter to the President) he earned both the anger of the regime and the love and respect of his audience. While he has been arrested several times and his concerts have been prohibited, Valséro has also toured the country with an NGO, Fondation Conseil Jeune, in order to raise awareness among young people to make use of their right to vote with a song entitled Va voter (Go and vote). This led to critics accusing Valséro of having sold himself to the regime. Listen to his latest song Motion de Soutien (Motion of Support), which is a response to the recent wave of 'motions of support' from militants of Cameroon’s ruling party RDPC asking the 83-year-old Biya to seek another presidential mandate in 2018. Valséro also features in the film 'Le président', by Jean-Pierre Bekolo.


In rap music the problems and frustrations of the youth (poverty, massive unemployment) are voiced. Rap music is not only an expression of youth culture, it has become a popular form of protest in countries where the political system is not able to deal with social discontent. Rap musicians have become the spokesmen of the younger generation, who are tired of the stagnation and the corruption of a political elite which does not allow for change. Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary Marxist president of Burkina Faso who advocated pan-africanism, assassinated in 1987, is a role model for many of them.

More films and a book

Didier Awadi, a rapper from Senegal, is maybe the most visible figure of Francophone West African hip hop. He is one of the musicians interviewed in the recently published overview of Senegal's hip hop movement: Wala Bok. Awadi's motivation and inspiration stands in Thomas Sankara's phrase: "Let's dare invent our future!" . The documentary film The United States of Africa, beyond hip hop follows Awadi as he crafts an album that pays tribute to the great black revolutionary leaders. His musical journey takes him to some 40 countries and results in a profound meditation on the power of music and the need for political change.

FangAfrika, la voix des sans-voix (2007), is probably the first documentary about the West African hip hop scene. It  documents the festival 'Ouaga (ou Waga) Hip Hop' which is held in Burkina Faso. Interviews were held with leading rap musicians from Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger,  Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Click here to see all the titles available in the ASCL library on hip hop and rap in Africa.

Elvire Eijkman