“Journal Rappé:” Social criticism wrapped in hip-hop
Post-colonialism, identity, environmental protection, politics, and development in Africa – these are just a few of the subjects addressed in the ten “Journal Rappé” episodes presented at this year’s Munich Biennale. The Senegalese hip hop stars Keyti and Xuman released one video episode per day 15-24 May. “Journal Rappé” was submitted to the festival for new music theater through a partnership between the Music In Africa Foundation, Siemens Stiftung, and Goethe-Institut.
“What we want is to change Africa’s narrative when it comes to how the rest of the world sees the continent,” Keyti explains in an interview with our online platform Music In Africa. “We want to paint a picture of the Africa we know. We will not sugar-coat anything, it will be the reality we experience. Africa has its difficulties but Africa also has its promises of great things to come.” In Francophone West Africa, the hip hop duo is well known for their satirical news program “Journal Rappé,” which they launched in 2013.
Episode 1: Once upon a time was the future
Set to the music of “Independence Cha Cha,” the first of the Biennale episodes delves into 150 years of colonial history in Africa and asks what has become of the initial euphoria that came with independence. “The colonizer is gone, but every day he is ever-present,” explains Xuman. Since then, the dream of a strong Africa has been soured by dictators, corruption, Western influence, and alienation.
Episode 2: Who we are
Keyti and Xuman continue paging through the history books in episode two as they explore the concept of an African identity. They rap about cultures, kingdoms, and people that are barely mentioned in the global rendering of history, but who are essential to Africa’s self-perception.
Episode 3: Home is where dignity is
“Open the borders!” The third episode focuses on migration and exodus, describing the arduous and often deadly path of Africans who flee to Europe. In the past 20 years, more than 23,000 people have lost their lives making the journey. Keyti and Xuman are critical of African politicians who often fail in creating opportunities for people to lead dignified lives in their home countries.
Episode 4: Postcard
Despite the name of the episode, Xuman and Keyti write more than just a postcard: in fact, they write an entire love letter to the African continent. In addition to rapping about African icons from pop culture, politics, and sports, the duo also addresses the lifestyles and everyday values of the people, creating a positive image of Africa.
Episode 5: Creativity First
Fighting back against the cliché of Africa as a poor, underdeveloped continent, episode five highlights Africa’s wealth of ideas and creativity. Xuman and Keyti rap about technical, medical, and creative achievements while also calling for better education and vocational opportunities.
Episode 6: African Love
Like many aspects of private life, love in Africa has become politicized. The sixth episode of “Journal Rappé” explores the influence of societal expectations and cultural shifts on relationships, and how gender roles have changed over the past decades.
Episode 7: Afro Immune System
The problems facing African nations due to the coronavirus pandemic are depicted quite clearly in episode seven. Among the issues are a poorly-equipped healthcare system, unaffordable medication, and a lack of trust in Western medicine. At the same time, African countries are patronized or even viewed as test labs for pharmaceutical companies.
Episode 8: Stereotypes and myths, not facts!
The hip hop news show “Journal Rappé” becomes a digital talk show for episode eight, which addresses stereotypes about African women, African youth, and Africans in general. Senegalese rapper Moonaya and Kenyan hip hop artist Sembe join as guests.
Episode 9: Ecoresponsibility
The ninth episode is an urgent appeal for climate protection and responsible African environmental policies. Against the backdrop of countless natural disasters, Xuman and Keyti rap about how industrial emissions and waste are mishandled, and the European practice of outsourcing environmental problems to African countries.
Episode 10: New Future
In the tenth episode, “Journal Rappé” takes the audience on a trip to the future – to a strong Africa, united as a federation under its original name, “Alkebulan.” Xuman raps about the “endless possibilities” to come, while calling on viewers to take part in shaping and improving the future.
The Music in Africa project aims to give artists the space and opportunity to reflect on social change and take part in shaping their societies. The project relies on international exchange, networking, and capacity building.