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Friday, August 22, 2008

Many Lessons: Islamic Hip Hop in Africa

For me, the African Hip Hop Compilation Many Lessons is a great way to hear new tracks from some of my favorite West African Hip Hop artists.

I've had the chance to DJ for the group Gokh-Bi System who are now based out of Western Massachusetts (Myspace/Buy), and love their track featured on this album.

Gokh-Bi System-In God We Trust



As English speakers can tell by the refrain in the chorus, there is a profound spirituality in the music of this compilation. The idea behind this album is songs that unify Islam and Hip Hop in Africa. When I was in college I attended the Hip Hop Generation Conference at the University of Wisconsin. I remember being really moved by an essay written by a fellow student about his experience as a Muslim hip hop head of Middle Eastern descent in the U.S. He also wrote about the historical connection between Hip Hop and Islam, and how it helped him feel more comfortable and find identity in U.S. society. I searched for this article online and couldn't find it, but there are others who have reflected on the same subject.

This album takes the connection of Hip Hop and Islam and places it back in the context of places where Islam is a big influence on everyday life. I loved witnessing prayer time on Friday afternoon in downtown Dakar, when all the banks closed and the downtown city streets filled with people of all backgrounds and races and their prayer mats, all kneeling and praying in unison. Not to get too Malcolm X visits Mecca on ya'll, but Islam is a religion that I have a great respect for.
These rappers have managed to integrate the love of their religion into their music and although Freeway, a Muslim rappers in the U.S. talks about being conflicted between his job and his spirituality, these rappers do not worry about the struggle between the orthodoxy of their religion and their position in the greater society.

You can pick these tracks up at the label website Piranha Records, Calabash Music, or I'm sure elsewhere on the Webernet.

Here's another favorite (with a Mbalax twist):

Gaston featuring Niagass-Jeuf Jel Leu

2 comments:

Rachel said...

word. lots of great songs on that mix. I really dig sister fa's breezy chorus and the dub-y islam/gospel'n'b track by the MidNight Shems.

Anonymous said...

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