"Many Lessons" - Bantu, Sister Fa, Docta, General Snipe and various artists
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- Artist:Bantu, Sister Fa, Docta, General Snipe and various artists
- release year:2008
- Hip Hop
- catalogue numberPIR2112
A World Music Charts Europe top album for 2008
Bored with those Yankee rappers? Then go east, young man. Prominent American Muslim rappers Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def or Jurassic 5 are often asked about their beliefs and how these conflict with hip-hop. Orthodox Muslims, on the other hand, are generally suspicious of pop culture - especially of American hip-hop culture which often celebrates materialism and openly flaunts sexuality.
But in Western Africa, hip-hop and Islam aren't at odds with one another. Hip-hop is the major musical form among the young in West Africa, but precious little has been available in the West. Here, positive lyrics and Islamic slant go hand in hand with African instruments and rhythms, although both American and French influence loom large in the background. The music is both raggedly beautiful and richly melodic, and when they go into a mix of R&B and rap they conjure up one of the hippest pieces of sacred music around. Some artists combine devoutness with social criticism, others criticize using religion to achieve political aims.
"Many Lessons" offers a new, different and young approach to Islam and its topics. Soulful and enticing, this is religion with plenty of invention and spicy surprises. Relish the flow and let the spirit move you.
Press Quotes"I suspect many world music aficionados are still dubious about African rap. If so, this set could be the one to change opinions. The islamic element is extremly important here, and is frequently evident in the vocals (...); so too are the traditional elements of West Africa (...). The Opener, by Bantu, is truly stunning, blending funk, hip-hop, reggae and African sounds. Sister Fa's stupendous outing (the CD also contains a video interview with her) is a rare female representation and the very traditional sounding number from Mali's Les Escrocs should please all lovers of African music (...). One of those CDs to return to, again and again, discovering something new each time."
Rating: Special - 4 stars
Norman Darwen, Rock'n'Reel
"Don't let the religious nature of this album out you off... it's an inspired and long overdue compilation."
Songlines, July 2008
"Fascinating Hip Hop from the motherland!"
"For all the Islamic and African music influences, Many Lessons remains recognisably a hip-hop more than world music album, or rather one that teaches us that hip-hop is world music in the most literal sense of the term."
"This overview of current trends shows that younger artists are developing hip-hop forms that are much more African than the American models they borrow from."
The Daily Telegraph
"Even tunes that rely on programmed beats rather than koras hint at ancient harmonies."
„Importantly, this clearly isn’t a case of opportunists thinking “Let’s take hip-hop and graft some Islamic concepts onto it.” Instead, it’s West African kids rapping about their lives, in which Islam happens to occupy a significant place. This should not surprise anyone: kids worldwide use hip-hop’s tool kit to express daily life in all its multilayered complexity.
One of the takeaways of Many Lessons is that rap production – with its pluralistic, cut-and-paste mentality – can erase the barriers between traditional and contemporary just as easily at it melts traditional dividing lines between sacred and secular forms. That kora or talking drum your father taught you how to play? Now you can sample it – or play it in the studio over a sample of someone else’s beat, as Lamine Kouyaté does here. The Muslim statement of faith known as Shahadah? Reciting it in a pop song can be a form of worship – just listen to Backa’s Ya Rassulilah.
Populist, ecumenical, Muslim, fun: Many Lessons is good, right? Yes. This album feels fresh. Earnest. Even when the beats rock, there’s an underlying gentleness. Hip-hop in West Africa has more in common with the up-the-the-people vibe of early US hip-hop than the corporate juggernaut it has become. And don’t worry if you can’t understand the words: the good-natured spirit transmits itself via the music too.“ Jace Clayton. The National. 10.10.2008
Artist Biographies1. Bantu feat. Ayuba (Nigeria/Germany)
German-Nigerian rapper Adé Odukoya was a pioneer in German hiphop and is best known as one of the founders of the Afro-German rapper collective "Brothers Keepers". "Bantu" is the name of his own project, short for "Brotherhood Alliance Navigating Towards Unity". Adewale Ayuba from Lagos is considered a master of Nigeria's Fuji music - a mix of ragga and Afrobeat that combines the traditional Yoruba rhythms with Afro-American funk. In Lagos, the two musicians met in the studio to record their pulsing album "Fuji Satisfaction". A plea for African unity that begins with a muezzin's call to prayer, "Many Lessons" is one of the results of that session.
Ade Bantu: lead vocals / Adewale Ayuba: lead vocals / Blain Pawlos: lead vocals / Ben Abarbanel-Wolff: saxophones / Reiner Wtzel: flute / Azeez Allabi: sakara / Basiru Olayori: apala / Ganiyu Olusola, Taiwo Boaji: omele apala / Jelili Ayanrinde: iga ilu / Mudasiru Ayansina: bata
From CD: Bantu feat. Ayuba "Fuji Satisfaction". P 2005 Piranha (Germany) - www.bantucrew.com
2. African Akhlou Bi (Senegal/USA)
The band's name is of Arabic origin and has religious significance - it refers to God's creation of mankind. Akhlou Bi is made up of MC Rasnarone and singer Sang B, who grew up in the same slum in the Senegalese capital Dakar as their colleagues from Gokh-Bi System. In musical terms, the group's songs seem more heavily influenced by the raw toasting chants of Jamaican dancehall/reggae than they are by classic hiphop. With a basic message that people must learn to come together in spite of their differences, the song "Andando" shows how hymns of praise and social criticism can go hand-in-hand. After all, as Akhlou Bi sings in the chorus, "God loves to see us together".
Rasnarone: MC / Sang B: vocals / Laye Diagne: bass/drums/keyboards
From cassette: African Akhlou Bi "Dem Waar Ya" P 2006 Siga Records/AMU Music(Senegal)
Management: Pape "Bathie" Pouye. Phone: +1 413.204.9086 (US). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Keur Gui (Senegal)
The boys from Keur Gui don't mince words - they call their music 'gangsta rap'. "Liye Raam" denounces the hand-in-glove relationship between religion and politics, the corruption among religious leaders, and the competition between religious sects in Senegal. Keur Gui's refusal to compromise has won the band both respect and enemies far beyond the borders of the hiphop scene. Several years ago, its members were beaten severely by a gang of thugs, apparently for political reasons. The incident only contributed to the band's reputation as a group whose music is a form of political rebellion.
Kilifeu aka Landing Mbessane Seck: rap/arrangement / Thiat aka Oumar Ciryl Touré: rap/arrangement / Morgun aka Mouhamadou Niass: rap/arrangement / Mabye Diouf: DJ/arrangement/percussion
From CD Keur Gui "Liye Raam" P 2004 (Senegal)
Management Mbaye Diouf: 221 77 650 31 29
4. Sister Fa (Senegal/Germany)
After contributing to several albums produced by other musicians, Sister Fa's debut album "HipHop Yaw La Fal", which translates as "HipHop Chose You", was released in mid-2005 in Senegal. Since then she has been a guest on a number of radio and television programmes, her videos have been in the standard rotation on music video channels, and she has received the prize for "Best Newcomer of the Year" at the Senegalese Hiphop Awards. Fatou Mandiang Diatta was born into a middle class family in the Casamance region in southern Senegal. Now better known as Sister Fa, she lives in Berlin. In her home country, she continues to be involved in the movement to stop genital mutilation in young women and girls, which is officially against the law in Senegal but continues to be widespread.
Sister Fa: rap / Steven Töteberg: programming / Cheikh Cissé: programming
Unreleased - www.myspace.com/sisterfa
5. Les Escrocs (Mali)
Rapper Salim Diallo and his band from Mali call themselves "Les Escrocs" - the Crooks. Traditional Ngoni vocals, calabash instruments and talking drums are an intrinsic part of the group's music, as are the social criticism and devout messages embedded in their lyrics. Les Escrocs have produced six albums so far in their home country, and also contributed a song to Blur singer Damon Albarn's album "Mali Music". "Salamalekoum" is a hypnotic groove track that takes its name from the traditional Arabic greeting which means "Peace be with you". The greeting, sent out by Salim Diallo and Escrocs singer Mamadou Tounkara to all Muslims, is also a call to do good and behave righteously.
Salim Diallo: rap / Mamadou Tounkara: vocals / Samba Sissoko: n'goni / Mahamadou Sissoko: balafon / Yacouba Sissoko: calabash / Moussa Sissoko: n'tama (take drum) / Aminata Coulibaly: background vocals / Sekou Kanté: bass
From cassette: Les Escrocs "Il y a pas de saut métier" P 2007 Salim Salam Diallo (Mali)
6. Rifo & Lamine Kouyaté (Senegal)
An intellectual with a nasal rap style that reminds you of Donald Duck, Rifo once headed up a student rap-group called Kangfory Clan. Lamine Kouyaté, on the other hand, is a classic griot, as the traditional singer-storytellers in Western Africa are called. Together, their styles meshed in the studio to create the moving song "Deadfathers/Fayaale", a homage to Kouyaté's dead father. "You made me big, you raised me and brought me to religion" Lamine Kouyaté sings. He was born into a famous griot family and plays the kora, a stringed instrument fashioned of calabash and cow skin that is plucked like a harp. He also plays it at times for performances of Senegal's National Ballet. Griots think of themselves as the caretakers of the history and culture of their countries, and the tradition is passed along from father to son.
Rifo: rap / Lamine Kouyate: vocals (griot)
7. MidNight Shems (Morocco)
'Shems' is Arabic for sun, and MidNight Shems' logo portrays a solar eclipse. Most of the group's members are from the Moroccan village of Kentira, and have known each other since childhood. The band now has several television appearances under its belt, and has played for crowds of up to 15,000 at open air festivals. MidNight Shems' style is a unique blend of a capella song that interweaves gospel and traditional North African sounds. "Jbal Atlas" is one long invocation to "the Merciful", one of the 99 names of God in Islamic tradition. "Our message", say MidNight Shems, "is one of tolerance, freedom and respect for other religions."
Younes Fettah: lead vocals / Atia Wacim, Driss Zbir, Tarik Bourbah: vocals / Atia Wacim,Tarik Bourbah: synthesizer
Unreleased - www.myspace.com/midnightshems
Management & Booking:Driss Zbir phone: 0021264904846 E-mail: email@example.com
8. Silatigui (Guinea)
Silatigui has been making music for around twelve years. The foursome are among the founding fathers of Guinea's rap scene, although they recorded their first album in neighbouring Senegal. "Danda" became a surprise success, selling more than 40,000 legal copies practically overnight. The number of illegal pirated copies circulating through Western Africa is much higher. Silatigui's songs often carry a moral message, preaching tolerance, pacifism and a respect for religion. The relaxed, melodious groove of "My life in the Ghetto" reveals the influence the late US rapper Tupac Shakur had on the group.
Mag Dione, Mighty Busta, Alaji Mam'Dy, King Laxx: rap
From cassette: Silatigui P 2004 (Guinea)
9. Backa (Senegal/USA)
"There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet" - this is the Muslim declaration of belief, the Shahadah. Singer Backa Niang, a member of the Senegalese rap band Gokh-Bi System, has made this simple, well-known formulation the basis of a song criticising rivalries between different Muslim movements in his country. Niang was born into a griot family, and today he lives and works in the US, where he teaches people to play African percussion instruments in traditional styles. American rapper Abou Nourah also contributed to this track - a few lines in English that reveal his own approach to faith.
Backa Niang: lead vocals/percussion / Abu Nourah: rap / Jay Metcalf: piano / Garrett Sawyer: bass/drums/samples
Unreleased - www.ancientmeetsurban.com/Backa.htm
Management: Pape "Bathie" Pouye. Phone: +1 413.204.9086 (US). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amadou Lamine Ngom aka "Docta" is a rap-scene legend in Dakar. He's not only a graffiti artist whose works decorate walls all over the city and the covers of cassettes produced by local emcees, he's also branched out into fashion and is developing his own line of hiphop clothing. In public, he himself wears an imposing turban. Although Ngom's soft, flowing rap reminds some of 50 Cent, the Docta says that to blindly repeat Western styles is to abandon yourself. He sees himself as a moral authority, and enjoys lecturing on Islam, hiphop and politics. "Xonet" tells the story of poverty in his country, of beggars and lies, and the question of whether there's anyone left we can trust.
Docta: rap / Rifo: programming
Unreleased - www.doxandemsquad.com
11. General Snipe feat. Kiné Thiam (Senegal/Germany)
Born in Paris and raised in Senegal, Denis "Snipe" Ndong is well-acquainted with both Europe and Africa. Since 1996 he has been living in Germany, where he founded the rap band "Diaspora". When the group broke up in 2004, General Snipe pursued a solo career. With a style reminiscent of MC Solaar, General Snipe's lyrics are aimed at youths in Senegal. His song "Bataxal", a hymn of praise to his home country, calls for religious harmony between Christians and Muslims, and appeals to the patriotism of those Senegalese who seem all too ready to forsake their land. "Who will build up Africa / if we all take off?" he asks, but also realises that "I love my country deep in my heart, in spite of the disease, corruption and poverty there."
Denis Ndong aka General Snipe: MC / Kiné Thiam: vocals
Unreleased - www.myspace.com/generalsnipe
12. Gokh-Bi System (Senegal/USA)
In Pikine, one of the poorest suburbs on the fringes of Dakar, the two brothers Pape "Biathe" and Diasse Pouye hooked up in 1995 with childhood friend Mamadou Ndiaye. They began calling themselves "Gokh-Bi System" when singer Backa Niang and Sana Ndiaye from the same neighbourhood joined them. "Gokh-Bi" means roughly "neighbourhood". The members of GBS, as the band is often known, now spend much of their time commuting between West Africa and the US. The title of this track is "We trust in God", and the lyrics resemble a rapped version of a kind of Lord's Prayer. The group's trademark sound is based on traditional chants sung by Backa Niang and the dancing tones of the ekoting, an instrument from southern Senegal that has become quite rare. In this song, those two elements are interwoven with a sporadic piano melody. Gokh-Bi System's first album to be produced in the US, entitled "Rap Tassu" (Rap Comes Home), will hit record stores in spring of 2008.
Mamadou Ndiaye: MC / Diasse Pouye: MC / Backa Niang: percussion/vocals / Sana Ndiaye: ekonting/vocals / Jesse Feinberg: piano / Rubens de La Corte: guitar / Garrett Sawyer: bass/drums
Unreleased - www.gokhbisystem.com
Manager: Pape "Bathie" Pouye. Phone: +1 413.204.9086 (US). Email: email@example.com.
Agent: Alexandra Casazza, Trouble Worldwide. Phone: +1 415. 794.1533 (US). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
13. Gaston feat. Niagass (Senegal)
With his band Sen Kumpe, rapper Gaston alias Baye Sen is a musical messenger from the Medina, Dakar's oldest and most beloved quarter. He has been active in the scene since the 1990s. As a solo artist, he also has two albums under his belt. "Reap what you have sown" ("Jeuf Jel Leu") is a song that he recorded together with rapper Niagass from Saint Louis. It's an ode to the Baye Fall, the followers of Sheikh Ibra Fall, a Mouride Brotherhood leader from the last century. Easily recognisable by their dreadlocks and patchwork clothing, the Baye Fall walk barefoot through the streets. As disciples of Ibra Fall, the mendicants pursue a unique interpretation of Islam that says adherence to Islamic commandments - such as those involving prayer and fasting during Ramadan - is less important than preaching and practicing love and tolerance.
Gaston: MC/Producer / Niagass: MC
From CD: Gaston "Yeuk Sogua Nékk" P 2007 Nigga Selle Prod. (Senegal) - www.myspace.com/gaston9
14. Dread Skeezo feat. Dread Maxim (Senegal)
Dread Skeezo, born in Parcelles Assainies, one of Dakar's largest suburbs, is one of the newcomers to the city's hiphop scene. Following a short interlude with the band Undaground P.A., he released his first solo album "Wanéél Sa Bopp" (Show Your Inner Self) in November 2006. The collection of songs caused a sensation, not least because of the spiritual messages that pervade the singer's lyrics. "I read the holy Koran to learn more about him. Who am I? Where do I come from? And where is the truth hiding?" Words like these from the reggae ballad "Mighty Intelligence", a collaboration with Dread Maxim, are Dread Skeezo's paeans to God the Almighty, whether you call him Allah or Jah. "Let the love grow, let the light shine," he sings in the chorus, "there is a higher power flowing through my veins."
Dread Skeezo: MC / Dread Maxim: vocals
From CD Dread Skeezo "Wanéél Sa Bopp" P 2007 Roo Rap (Senegal) - www.myspace.com/dreadskeezo