Several African artists are known to have used their platforms to impact change in their different societies
We are talking big names like Salif Keita in Mali, Senegal’s Youssou N’dour, Benin’s Angelique Kidjo, Mama Africa, the late Miriam Makeba, Nigeria’s Fela Kuti among other artists. They addressed issues plaguing the continent, and the impact of their lyrics can still be heard and felt today. Fela Kuti for example called music ‘a weapon’ and Nigeria‘s military a troop of ‘zombies’ as he encouraged the country’s people to speak out against their corrupt government.
Within the same time period, Miriam Makeba and Salif Keita used their platforms to bring awareness to cultural injustices in South Africa and Mali, respectively.
The most widely used music genre used by modern day artists to speak out against societal evils is hip hop music. As we know hip hop has been popular in Africa since the early 1980s due to widespread American influence. And a very good example of artists expressing themselves through rap music come from Senegal. This West African country has quite a number of rap artists using their talent in sensitising the populations.
Y’en a marre is a group of Senegalese rappers working together with some journalists and activists. Through their music, they have been able to address different issues affecting the country especially when it comes to politics. According to them, they were “fed up” with an array of problems in the Senegalese society, hence coming up with the movement.
Serge Bambara alias Smockey is yet another artist but this time from Burkina Faso. He has continued to perform despite enormous threats. He co-founded Le Balai Citoyen (“The Citizen’s Broom”), a grassroots political movement, which took part in the protests on October 31, 2014 that forced Burkina Faso’s President Compaoré to resign and flee the country.
Unfortunately for most of these artists, they have faced the wrath of their governments forcing them to go into exile or suffer major losses. Smockey’s studio for example was burnt down twice during his country’s democratic transition.
Tanzanian rapper Emmanuel Elibariki also known as “ Nay wa Mitego” was also recently arrested for releasing a song deemed insulting to the Tanzanian government.
Fatoumata Diawara is yet another singer from Mali. She takes the lead in a musical bid to emancipate her country and rescue its traditions. She’s also keen to break a cycle of oppressive custom. She also uses her voice to fight against al-Qaeda linked organisations causing great damage in the country especially in the northern part. In this song, she talks about her land, her Timbuktu.
Of course there are numerous artists that we haven’t talked about today who have sown the seeds of social and political transformation in various parts of Africa.
Time won’t allow me to do that but be sure to stick around as we’ll definitely talk about them.