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As Hip-Hop Turns 48, Here Is A Brief History of African Hip-Hop

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The economic paralysis of New York City, particularly the neglected black and Latino areas in the Bronx, spawned the cultural shockwave that would become known as hip hop in the mid to late 1970s. While hip hop music originated in the Bronx, it is a part of and refers to a long line of African diasporic and black American cultural traditions. Much of the literature on hip hop recounts the culture’s evolution from a music-and-dance-focused phenomenon developed for and by “on the block” to a dominant global youth culture. Many people link rap to the West African griot heritage, which is the art of roaming storytellers who are noted for their understanding of local contexts and outstanding vocal abilities.

The black church has had a huge influence on rap music, something many people might not expect. To captivate the audience and bring their lectures to life, black preachers and clergy used a combination of testimonials and parables. The “call and response,” in which the preacher cries out a term or phrase to which the congregation responds, creating a link between speaker and listener, is a key strategy of black clergymen and women (and one that practically all music historians and critics point to in black music.

Between the 1980s and the early 1990s, hip-hop music and culture made their way to Africa. It has expanded with the vigor and zeal of a musical and cultural revolution since then. Millions of African youngsters, who related to the themes and tales being presented, were transformed by the frustration, fury, poverty, joy, and spirit exhibited by young African American rappers.

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Poverty, criminality, violence, and corruption were all part of the urban African youth’s story. Because of the societal significance of his lyrics, American rapper 2Pac became a legend across Africa. In the late 1990s, no major African city could be visited without seeing photos of 2Pac or hearing kids recite his lyrics.

Hip hop was more than simply another type of music to African youth, who identified with all parts of this new musical revolution. It was also a subculture and a transmitter of political and social commentary. Many young performers who would have previously joined the music market through the Afropop or traditional music genres have evolved into hip hop artists, contributing to Africa’s musical growth.

Some Africans have said that those who embrace hip hop culture are no longer African since hip hop is not African and that they have become Americanized as a result. In the early 1990s, when young Africans were merely replicating the beats and patterns of popular American rap, this criticism was quite fair. Many of the early emcees were even rapping totally in English, even though it wasn’t their first language. However, the hip-hop scene has evolved since then. It hasn’t developed evenly across Africa, and given the continent’s vastness, events rarely occur at the same time, but African hip hop, like other music genres, is indisputably indigenous.

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The tendency of Africanizing hip hop dates back to the mid to late 1990s. There were several causes for this: first, African artists began to feel the heat from the United States over copyright restrictions, placing pressure on them to start creating their own rhythms. Two, there appeared to be a pushback in some places from hip hop enthusiasts who felt left out of the new music industry due to the predominantly English and French lyrics. This was especially true in Tanzania, where radio DJs were forced to broadcast solely Tanzanian rap from musicians who performed in Swahili due to public demand.

Ghana, where the highlife music industry has mixed with hip hop to create hiplife, has produced some of the most innovative and dynamic hip hop scenes and musicians. With U.S. performers like Young Joc, Chamillionaire, and Ne-Yo, Nigeria, the continent’s largest population, has developed a substantial Nigerian hip hop scene and a strong Nigerian hip hop diaspora. Many believe Senegal ranks third in the hip hop globe, with the young representing Africa’s most politically radical voice.

Kenya is home to numerous notable rap “crews,” which are the reigning kings and queens of East Africa’s mainstream rap scene. Tanzania’s ujamaa and Swahili have earned the country a lot of recognition in the international rap arena, as has Uganda’s Lugaflow. Then there’s South Africa, where post-apartheid youth in large groups in both Cape Town and Johannesburg are expressing themselves through hip hop and struggling in their lyrics.

Hip hop isn’t just a craze for the young; it’s also a vocation for young Africans who are active in recording, producing, marketing and distributing to an increasingly prominent and profitable market.

The way hip hop will take Africa’s young is yet to be seen. In most countries, culture is a mass movement, and people who participate in it are evolving as well. Others have not learned from the faults of the American rap scene.

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CULTURE

Netflix and UNESCO Are Looking For The Next Generation of African Filmmakers  

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Netflix and UNESCO have teamed up to establish an innovative short film competition in Sub-Saharan Africa called “African Folktales, Reimagined.” The competition’s winners will receive industry training and mentoring, as well as a US$75,000 production budget, to create short films that will premiere on Netflix in 2022 as a “Anthology of African Folktales.”

One of the competition’s main goals is to find fresh perspectives and provide young filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa global exposure. We want to identify the most daring, witty, and surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most beloved folktales and share them with entertainment enthusiasts in over 190 countries across the world.

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It is important that the film sector acts to ensure the voices of Africa are heard, by supporting the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, putting forth new ideas and emotions, and creating opportunities for creators to contribute to global dialogue for peace, culture and development.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

The tournament, which will be run by Dalberg, will run from October 14th until November 14th, 2021. Each of the six winners will get a US$75,000 production grant (via a local production firm) to create, shoot, and post-produce their films with the help of Netflix and industry mentors, ensuring that everyone engaged in the production is fairly compensated. In addition, each of the six winners will get a cash prize of $25,000 apiece.

APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN: ANIMATION TRAINING FOR EAST AFRICAN WOMEN

Both UNESCO and Netflix agree on the importance of promoting and sharing varied local stories with the rest of the globe. They recognize that many aspiring filmmakers struggle to get the resources and exposure they need to fully realize their potential and advance their creative careers. This competition aims to address these difficulties and provide a platform for African storytellers to showcase their work to a worldwide audience.

This alliance will also assist to create long-term jobs and stimulate economic growth, contributing to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a set of goals aimed at ending global poverty in all of its forms by the end of this decade. This film festival will also contribute to the reduction of disparities by allowing access to global markets and ensuring decent working conditions. All of these are important targets for the 2030 Agenda.

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Afrotape to Focus on it’s Community

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Today marks 3 years since Afrotape was formed. What began as a platform for artists’ services has evolved into a youth brand that will be the leading voice on African culture. It’s been a fascinating and challenging journey, full of invaluable experiences and life lessons that have shaped us into the people we are today. (more…)

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APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN: ANIMATION TRAINING FOR EAST AFRICAN WOMEN

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The Ladima Foundation announced earlier this year a cooperation with Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA) and the Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF) to provide training, development, and professional opportunities to women working in the animation industry in East Africa. (more…)

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