Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Immunizing Strategies: Hip-Hop and Critique in Tanzania

Abstract
Abstract

Tanzania has in the last decade seen a vibrant form of hip-hop emerge that is gaining wide public exposure thanks to its political tenor. First, this article illustrates how rap lyrics reflect Tanzanian political history and in part determine it. Bongo Flava, as the local hip-hop genre is called, has gained credibility by reinterpreting Nyerere's normative legacy and by expanding freedom of expression in the country, while unhampered by factors that normally mitigate the social impact of popular culture. Second, the article explores the global relevance of their social critique. Bongo Flava attempts to outwit the sophisticated indifference and neoliberalism of postcolonial rulers and ruled. Partly inspired by African American popular culture, many songs expose the postcolonial strategy of survival, which is to immunize oneself against the threat of commodification by fully embracing it, the contamination yielding extra power. The lyrics, in their irony and pessimism, exhibit the same immunizing tendency. However, this tendency is curbed by two principles that safeguard streetwise status: the rapper's willingness to ‘duel’ and the Kiswahili credo of activating bongo, ‘the brains’.

Résumé

Au cours de la dernière décennie, la Tanzanie a vu émerger une forme de hip-hop survolté qui trouve un large retentissement auprès du public par sa teneur politique. Dans un premier temps, l'article illustre la façon dont les paroles de rap reflètent l'histoire politique tanzanienne et la déterminent en partie. Le Bongo Flava, nom donné au style hip-hop local, a obtenu sa crédibilité en réinterprétant l'héritage normatif de Nyerere et en développant la liberté d'expression dans le pays, sans être gêné par les facteurs qui atténuent normalement l'impact social de la culture populaire. Dans un second temps, l'article examine la pertinence globale de sa critique sociale. Le Bongo Flava tente de déjouer l'indifférence sophistiquée et le néolibéralisme des dirigeants et dirigés postcoloniaux. En partie inspirées de la culture populaire africaine américaine, beaucoup de chansons dénoncent la stratégie de survie postcoloniale qui consiste à s'immuniser contre la menace de la marchandisation en s'y ralliant totalement, la contamination rapportant un gain de pouvoir. Les paroles, à travers leur ironie et leur pessimisme, présentent la même tendance immunisante. Or, deux principes sauvegardent le statut de musique de rue et modèrent ainsi cette tendance: la volonté du rappeur d'≫affronter en duel≪ et le credo kiswahili d'activer le bongo, ≫le cerveau≪.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Douglas 1992. Risk and Blame: essays in cultural theory. London: Routledge.

J. Fenn and A. Perullo . 2000. ‘Language choice and hip hop in Tanzania and Malawi’, Popular Music and Society 24 (3): 7394.

J. Ferguson 2002. ‘Of mimicry and membership: Africans and the “New World society”’, Cultural Anthropology 17: 551–69.

M. Hanchard 1999. ‘Afro-Modernity: temporality, politics and the African diaspora’, Public Culture 11: 245–68.

B. Jules-Rosette 2002. ‘Afro-pessimism's many guises’, Public Culture 14 (3): 603–05.

A. Mbembe 2004. ‘Aesthetics of superfluity’, Public Culture 16 (3): 373–106.

P. Remes 1999. ‘Global popular musics and changing awareness of urban Tanzanian youth’, Yearbook for Traditional Music 31: 126.

M. Virolle 1996. ‘Raï, norme sociale et référence religieuse’, Anthropologie et Sociétés 20: 111–28.

J. Weate 2003. ‘Achille Mbembe and the postcolony: going beyond the text’, Research in African Literatures 34 (4): 2742.

B. Weiss 1998. ‘Electric vampires: Haya rumours of the commodified body’, in M. Lambek and A. Strathern (eds), Bodies and Persons.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

B. Weiss 2002. ‘Thug realism: inhabiting fantasy in urban Tanzania’, Cultural Anthropology 17: 93124.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×