African Underground: Depths Of Dakar (Senegal)

Originally posted on Fat Planet.


some time ago, the u.s.-based label nomadic wax dropped ‘african underground vol.1 – hip hop senegal’ – the first, and to my mind still the only compilation of senegalese hip hop to hit international soil.

in order to capture the raw essence of local african hip hop, nomadic wax founder ben herson took to the road with a mobile studio and set up shop in towns and villages around the country. the result was a record that was rarely off the fat planet stereo. herson captured something that was unequivocally unique about african MCs – a dark, deep and overtly political strand of hip hop that once again proved the point that the genre remains the voice of musical protest around the world.

fast forward two years – ben and the nomads hit senegal once again for the follow up, ‘african underground: depths of dakar’, currently available to download from calabashmusic.com (although a retail release is also due may 15). thanks to nomadic wax, we have a special fat planet preview – the track ‘niawal’ by sen kumpa can be downloaded above. you can also check the video for this clip at brightcove.com.

the album is a companion to a fascinating online documentary series titled ‘democracy in dakar‘. when former oppostion leader abdoulaye wade came to power in 2000, many believed that the voices in the senegalese hip hop movement assisted greatly in his victory. in the absence of critical media and western blog culture, hip hop filled the vacuum – many groups specifically putting their voices behind wade’s election campaign. seven years later, those same voices come together in this documentary series to question wade’s effectiveness in the run-up to the next round of elections.

filmed over the last month in dakar, with videos posted weekly online at africanunderground.com, the series has a crucial real-time perspective – the latest episode, posted on monday, shows the reaction to the news that wade was returned to power last week with an unexpected, and allegedly dubious, 56% share of the vote. the absence of joy on the streets of dakar is profoundly disturbing and makes for compelling viewing.

view all the clips at africanunderground.com. for more information on nomadic wax projects and artists, head to nomadicwax.com. you can also read the ‘depths of dakar’ sleeve notes at african underground.