The Darkness in Senegal

The mixing of popular protest and music in protests over electricity cuts in Senegal.

Image Serigne Diagne. Via Flickr CC.

My Ph.D. adviser, David Styan, pointed me to the mixing of popular protest and music in Senegal:  Both old school crooner, Youssou N’Dour, and Senegalese rap pioneer, Didier Awadi, have just released songs (for free download and for play on Senegalese radio) laying into the government over electricity cuts.  The blackouts are the blamed on floods in the region in the last two months, resulting in water and electricity cuts that are leaving people frustrated. But as protesters in Dakar point out, this is also a consequence of lack of investment in public infrastructures as well as years of corrosion from corruption.

First, here’s  Awadi’s “Da Foy Doi,” credited to his legendary group Positive Black Soul. The title means “that is enough,” the slogan of the youth movement Y’en a Marre.

Awadi is no stranger to hip hip fans. He started the Positive Black Soul with another MC, Doug E Tee (government name: Amadou Barry) in the late 1980s. The name of the group was also a play on on the name of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais, the Senegalese Democratic Party of Andoulaye Wade which came into power in 2000. Young people, and rappers in particular, had a big role in Wade’s rise to power. Their protests against Abdou Diouf’s regime led to Wade’s popularity and winning elections. PBS’s early raps is clearly influenced by US East Coast consciousness and black power rap like Public Enemy. The beat for the new song is more Senegalese. This reflects, like elsewhere, how African rappers have localized the genre.  PBS later split in the 1990s and Awadi became a solo act, so it is interesting to see the song credited as PBS.

“Da Foy Doi” is, of course, not the first time Awadi comments directly on politics in Senegal. Four years ago Awadi made a song and video commenting on the fateful emigration by young Senegalese. That video turned viral.

As for Youssou N’dour, his contribution to the music of the movement for electricity is “Leep le Lendem.” If the melody for the song sounds familiar, it is basically the Beatles’ “Obla di, Obla da”.


Further Reading