“Don’t be surprised if it explodes one day!” When I met Mylmo I knew nothing about him except that he was rapper who was performing on the main stage of the Festival on the Niger that very night. I interviewed him in an empty restaurant on the banks of the great river – most…
My new book MUSIC, CULTURE & CONFLICT IN MALI takes an in-depth look at the crisis that overtook Mali in January 2012 and lead to a ten-month occupation of the northern two-thirds of the country by armed jihadi groups. The book examines the roots of those tumultuous events and their ef- fect on the music and culture of the country. There are chapters on music under occupation in the north, the music scene in Bamako, the destruction of mausoleums in the north, the fate of Mali’s precious manuscripts, Mali’s film and theatre industries and the response to the crisis from writers, poets, journalists, intellectuals and film-makers.
“Africa needs to speak out right now,” says Ousco calmly over a crackling phone line from Bamako. “Africa must stop crying.” His words are a neat little summary of what African rap is all about: No mincing words or metaphors. No ancient musical traditions that cosy up to power. No decadent ghetto fabulous fantasies. None of that.
This battle for recognition in the hierarchy of the hard is the subject of one of K’naan’s best loved tunes, ‘What’s Hardcore’, with its immortal line “If I rhymed about home and got descriptive / I’d make Fifty Cent look like Limp Bizkit.”’ But what might seem like ghetto-boy posturing was actually part of a deeper struggle to gain respect.