Unw(RAP)ping African Revolution

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The Arab spring, started in the African countries of Tunisia and Egypt, came and have yet to leave. While the spring continues to struggle in the Middle East, they seem to just be budding in sub-saharan Africa. Needless to say, there were many stakeholders involved in all the revolutions from scholars to activists to business people to the military. Then, there are the artistes, especially the Rap and Hip Hop artistes. The years 2011 and 2012 have shone strong light on how this art form of rapping is being skillfully utilized by the young generation in mobilizing the “streets” and giving a voice to the frustrations of the everyday wo/man in Africa. Of course, rap has not been the only musical expression of the various revolutions on the continent. The greater soundtrack would certainly include Egyptian poetry in song, e.g. "Egyptian Intifada” by the poet Ahmed Fouad Negm and Sheikh Imam (below), and traditional mainstream music like “Le Vote” by Ousmane "Ouza" Diallo in Senegal.

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However, on a continent with individuals under 30 years of age accounting for the largest age group, rap artists seem to have struck a chord with this large demography. This revolution period also seems to have solidified a bourgeoning genre of rap - Conscious rap/hiphop that focuses on social and political issues (usually dissenting). Conscientious/Conscious rappers are to be found all over the continent from El General (above) who was the voice of the people in the Tunisian Revolution to Y’en A Marre who mobilized and stared the authority in the face to protect the constitution of Senegal from being hijacked by a long term president. While there is no concrete definition of this genre of rappers, as one person’s social issues might be another’s repressive issues, these revolutionary times have honed some attributes that one can identify in conscious rappers:

- Dissenting voice against a long term ruling elite in the country

- Diminishing number of media outlets to express art form in country of origin

- Constant threats, arrests and, sometimes, beatings and tortures by the local authorities

- A consistent string of tunes that touch on shared social experiences nationwide

*above rapper Kab II Seus recording in a studio in Dakar, Senegal. Shot by 'kola.

Conscientious rappers being currently persecuted on the continent include MCK in Angola and Mouad Belghouat in Morocco, usually for no other reason than giving a voice to what others are thinking but are afraid to say. These are examples of internationally known conscious rappers. Majority of them are local and have no international media or benefactors to speak about their plights. Authorities who persecute these artists depend on the apathy of the international community to the plight of these artists, unless some major event like the shooting of mass demonstrators takes place. Most people outside the countries also never hear of these rappers because many of these countries close outlets and sources of independent information constantly. In the age of social networking and new media, hope might not be dead. Various twitter handles and blogs, like GlobalVoices, are filling the gap and providing some information about these artists.

Included here is a draft mapping of conscious rappers around the continent. This mapping is still in its infancy and hopes to crowd-source information from readers in and outside Africa with which to populate it. This will eventually be used as a means to know and track these young people who are using their voices and talents in the service of their countries and humanity; and hopefully discourage ruling authorities from persecuting them. Please, feel free to submit the names and locations of conscious rappers in your neighborhood on the continent. The voices of these talented and conscious young people must not be silenced.

View Unw-Rapping Politics in a larger map

Image via Wikimedia.

Moroccan Rapper, Gnawi, Has Been Sentenced to a Year In Prison for Criticizing the Police

The rapper was reportedly targeted after releasing a viral music video that spoke out against government corruption.

Moroccan rapper Mohamed Mounir, better known by his stage name Gnawi has been sentenced to a year in prison for a social media post in which he criticized the police, Al Jazeera reports.

The 31-year-old rapper reportedly became a target of Moroccan law enforcement after releasing the song "Aach al Chaab," which he co-wrote with fellow rappers Lz3er and Weld L'Griya. Though the government claims his arrest was not linked to the music video, and was solely based on a video showing him "swearing" the police.

The song's title translates to "long live the people" and it openly discusses the plight of Moroccan people by criticizing corruption, unemployment and abuse by the government. The song's music video currently has over 16 million views on YouTube and Gnawi was arrested just two days after its release.

Weld l'Griya 09 ft. LZ3ER , GNAWI - عاش الشعب (Prod by 88.YounG)

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The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

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