The Hip Hop Movement in Senegal: A ‘Revolution’ from Below?

Seminar date: 
30 September 2010
Speaker(s): Abdoulaye Niang

Abdoulaye Niang is a visiting fellow at the ASC.

Registration is compulsory

Since its arrival in Senegal in the mid-1980s, hip hop culture has become well established despite its initial rejection by those who saw it as a passing fad or simple mimicry of North American youth. Inspired by both local and global models, those involved in hip hop in Senegal have sought to reconcile its 'revolutionary' orientation with local values and its fraught internal oppositions (hardcore versus commercial; underground versus mainstream). Bboys (hip hop performers or fans) have tried to use their rising popularity to influence Senegalese society, its culture and even politics. For example, with the credo of being 'on a mission' as 'the voice of the voiceless', they sometimes dare to break certain social and political taboos. Some bboys have been harassed, beaten up and imprisoned after criticizing politicians or powerful Sufi leaders (marabouts), while others have had their political critique censored. Given its marked social and political engagement and today's larger audiences, the Senegalese hip hop movement has become increasingly important to civil-society organizations and NGOs aiming to communicate with the masses, for example, in campaigns against AIDS, malaria and illegal migration.