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How Senegal’s artists are altering the system with a mic and spray paint : NPR

Babacar Niang, generally known as Matador, raps at a recording studio at one in every of Africulturban’s amenities in Pikine, Senegal on April 26, 2018.

Ricci Shryock for NPR

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Ricci Shryock for NPR

Babacar Niang, generally known as Matador, raps at a recording studio at one in every of Africulturban’s amenities in Pikine, Senegal on April 26, 2018.

Ricci Shryock for NPR

In 2005, heavy rains flooded neighborhoods round Dakar, Senegal, forcing tens of 1000’s of individuals out of their properties.

It was the worst downpour in many years and Babacar Niang, a rapper also referred to as Matador, witnessed the devastation.

“Folks’s faces learn fear first, then worry,” reads one line from his music, “Disaster.”

However he could not simply sit there and write songs about it, he wished to do extra.

In 2006, he based Africulturban, a cultural heart the place younger folks go to create music and artwork.

The middle feeds into a big and full of life hip-hop scene that’s typically socially acutely aware.

Hearken to our full report by clicking or tapping the play button above.


Local weather change creates plenty of issues. In Senegal, it is forcing folks to go away for Europe. We’re about to satisfy a person who has give you a grassroots resolution. In a neighborhood of Dakar known as Pikine, sidewalk distributors promote peanuts, watermelons and chicory espresso. Horses pull rickety carts. You should purchase sneakers laid out on tarps on the sidewalk. Life takes place exterior on these streets, streets that may be inundated with water in heavy floods.

BABACAR NIANG: (Via interpreter) I stated to myself, as an artist, I ought to do one thing about it.

SHAPIRO: That is Babacar Niang, however nobody calls him that. He is a rapper who goes by Matador, and he is a legend in Senegal’s hip-hop scene. He is additionally an activist. In 2005, when an particularly unhealthy flood hit this a part of Dakar, he threw a live performance to fundraise.

NIANG: (Via interpreter) So it began with local weather change.

SHAPIRO: That fundraiser grew into a corporation which grew into this place, a cultural heart in Pikine known as Africulturban. I requested Matador about one in every of his finest recognized songs, “Disaster,” or “Disaster,” and he begins reciting the lyrics.

NIANG: (Non-English language spoken).

SHAPIRO: “Clouds piling up from the north announce the rain to return,” he says. “Folks’s faces learn fear first, then worry. With the primary rains come the primary wave of exits. Those that prayed for rain certain bought their prayers answered.”


NIANG: (Rapping in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: Whenever you carry out that, how do folks reply?

NIANG: (Via interpreter) They discover themselves in what I am singing as a result of they encounter these difficulties, too.

SHAPIRO: If “Disaster” describes the best way local weather is altering folks’s lives right here, the music “Tukki” talks about the best way younger individuals are responding to these adjustments. They depart on boats for Europe.


NIANG: (Rapping in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: The music lists the international locations – France, Belgium, Italy, Spain.


NIANG: (Singing) Sudan, China, Japan, Portugal (rapping in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: All these locations are nice to earn a residing, he sings. However after you journey, come again. Senegal remains to be your private home.

Whenever you carry out “Tukki” and also you say journey is sweet, nevertheless it’s higher to return residence, do folks imagine that additionally?

NIANG: (Via interpreter) Yeah, as a result of I am an instance of that. Each time I journey, I am going, I do what I’ve to do, after which I come again.

SHAPIRO: Within the late ’90s, Matador was a part of a preferred Senegalese hip-hop group known as BMG 44.


BMG 44: (Rapping in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: They toured throughout Europe. Everybody else within the group stayed there, however Matador got here again to Senegal and began this group. Now, it is a buzzing hive of inventive exercise. There’s breakdancing lessons, rap battles. Matador factors out a stage they’re constructing in an empty lot.

NIANG: (Talking French).

SHAPIRO: Behind us is a brightly-colored mural painted by one other one of many heart’s stars. Dieynaba Sidibe goes by Zeinixx. Inside Africulturban, we go a music studio and artwork gallery and an open-air corridor the place chairs are arrange for an occasion in a while. And we enter the graphic design room the place we discover Zeinixx herself. She’s 32 and began tagging when she was simply 18. On the time, she says, there have been no different ladies in Senegal doing graffiti.

DIEYNABA SIDIBE: They’d response like, whoa, a woman who portray graffiti.

SHAPIRO: A whole bunch of cans of spray paint are sorted by coloration alongside the wall.

SIDIBE: My dream was to be a globetrotter with my beret and my spray and…

SHAPIRO: You have got the beret, and you’ve got the spray.

NIANG: Yeah, now. And yeah, touring so much and sharing my artwork.

SHAPIRO: And also you now journey the world?

SIDIBE: Somewhat bit.



SHAPIRO: And do you need to keep in Senegal, or would you prefer to go dwell in Europe?

SIDIBE: Senegal is my nation, is my past love. I am going to keep in Senegal.

SHAPIRO: Numerous younger folks don’t see a future for themselves in Senegal. Why do you suppose you are feeling otherwise?

SIDIBE: For me, youth is the longer term. I’m younger. And for me, I can change many things. We journey, and we return right here. We come again. We’re at all times attempting to point out them how they’ll keep and work and to only create, by themself, what I can do. However we’re at all times attempting.

SHAPIRO: Asking folks right here whether or not they know anybody who’s left Senegal for Europe is like asking folks in Hollywood whether or not they know anyone who works in leisure. Like, duh.

CHEIKH SEYE: Yeah. Most of my childhood pals usually are not in Senegal.

SHAPIRO: Cheikh Seye, or Kingbeat, is a producer on the Africulturban music studio.

Why did you keep?

SEYE: I do not know. Perhaps due to the music. I used to be educated right here, and now I am right here. I work with many artists – Sumbaga Mbaye (ph), Iswe Sa (ph), Jeeba (ph), Matador.

SHAPIRO: Oh, I’ve heard of him.


SHAPIRO: He is solely been producing for 4 years, and already he is working with a few of the largest names in Senegalese hip-hop. He pulls up a music video for a music he produced. It is bought 13 million views.


ISS 814: (Singing in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: Matador seems on, smiling like a proud father or mother.

NIANG: (Via interpreter) Yeah, yeah. Fifteen years in the past, I created this group to provide this era this opportunity and alternative.


ISS 814: (Singing in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: Again within the courtyard, I noticed that, in our hours collectively, there was one thing I hadn’t requested him about. All people right here has a stage title – Zeinixx, Kingbeat. So how did he get the title Matador?

NIANG: I do not know. (Talking French).

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

NIANG: (Via interpreter) After I get on stage, I turn out to be a unique individual.

SHAPIRO: The killer – the Matador is the killer – (talking French). It is humorous. The Matador (talking French) – the Matador is a killer. You might be saving lives. You are serving to folks keep right here and make artwork and discover a place for themselves. That is the other of a matador.

NIANG: (Via interpreter) The matador fights the bete noire – the black beast. The black beast, for us, is the system. So I am combating the system, however I do not combat it alone. I give younger folks weapons to fight the system, to fight poverty. These alternatives are their weapons.

SHAPIRO: The matador is sharpening his blade.


SHAPIRO: We have been speaking about individuals who depart Africa for Europe, however 80% of African migration is inside the continent. So Senegal isn’t just a departure nation, it is also a vacation spot. Tomorrow, we meet individuals who got here right here fleeing local weather change in different components of Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Really, there isn’t any place like residence. It doesn’t matter what, I really feel to be residence.

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