The story of Y’en A Marre
Politics is often a source of inspiration for music, but music rarely plays a role in politics. In Africa, politics has inspired and made many African musicians famous. An example being Fela Anikulapo Kuti whose politically-laden lyrics continue to inspire the continent many years after his death. On some occasions, music is also utilized during elections to sway the minds of voters. This year’s Senegalese presidential election was one of those rare occasions.
The incumbent, Abdoulaye Wade, lost to his former protégé, Macky Sall. However, this was not the smoothest of democratic transitions. Some community stakeholders worked hard to ensure that Wade played by the rules of the game rather than get a free pass to another term. Playing a vital role among the stakeholders leading to Wade's ouster was Senegal’s hip hop community. That community was personified by the involvement of rappers Y’en A Marre for more than a year leading up to the first round of elections in February.
A little introduction to this political rap group might be necessary here. Y’en A Marre (Enough is Enough) is a youthful, grassroots social movement group founded by a small group of rappers, which include Thiat (Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré) and Kilifeu (both Thiat and Kilifeu are of the famed hip-hop band Keur Gui of Kaolack), and Fou Malade (Malal Tall), and the journalists Fadel Barro, Aliou Sane, and Denise Sow. Its membership has soared in the couple of years since its creation with multitudes of unemployed youths and artists in the country identifying it as their mouthpiece and joining it in its rallies leading up to the first round of elections in the country in February. The group led much of the protests against the regime of Wade in weeks prior to the elections, and this got some of them arrested and harassed by government agencies.
After the first round of elections, Wade was pitted against his former protégé, Macky Sall. It was at this stage that Y'en A Marre decided to declare an all out war on ridding the country of Wade's rule; hence, it threw its weight and support behind Macky Sall. Part of the group’s tools included its own music. The previous year, the group had released a compilation, self-titled “Y’en A Marre”. After the first round of elections, the group decided to record a single to cement its opposition to Wade and encourage others to go against him.
The new single entitled “Doggali” was released a couple of weeks before the second round of elections. “Doggali” refers to “finishing” the job of kicking Wade out of the presidential palace and completing the process of remaking the democratic landscape of Senegal. The song was produced by Simon Bisbi with raps contributed by Keyti (a veteran rapper and supporter of Y'en A Marre), Kab II Seus, Général, Rona, Bra, Djily Baghdad, and Bisbi himself. The production and release of the single was truly a grassroots production for the people; it was produced in the Youkouhgkoung studio in the Guediawaye district, a home to many young Senegalese rappers. Witnessing the space, interaction and environment where the rappers produced this single was quite an invigorating experience and is narrated in the following photos:
PS: More on Y’en A Marre and its future in Senegal is available more.