Skip to main content
×
Home

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
References
Hide All
Afande Sele. 2002. Mkuki Moyoni. Dar es Salaam: GMC Wasanii (cassette).
Askew K. 2002. Performing the Nation: Swahili music and cultural politics in Tanzania. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Baudrillard J. 1999. The Transparency of Evil: essays on extreme phenomena. London: Verso.
Bayart J.-F. 1993. The State in Africa: the politics of the belly. New York: Longman.
Haisa Bob and Sweet K.. 2000. Kombora. Dar es Salaam: FM Productions (cassette).
Bongo Flavas Videos. 2003. Zimekubalika. Dar es Salaam: U & I Entertainment (video).
Boyd T. 2003. The New H.N.I.C: The death of civil rights and the reign of hip hop. New York: New York University Press.
Chabal P. and Daloz J.-P.. 1999. Africa Works: disorder as political instrument. Oxford: James Currey for the International African Institute.
Chambua S. 2002. Democratic Participation in Tanzania: the voices of the workers' representatives. Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press.
Massive CJ. 2002. Tribute to Cool James. Dar es Salaam: GMC Wasanii (cassette).
Coplan D. 1994. In the Time of Cannibals: the word music of South Africa's Basotho migrants. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.
Costello M. and Wallace D.. 1990. Signifying Rappers: rap and race in the urban present. New York: The Ecco Press.
Dashwood H. and Pratt C.. 1999. ‘Leadership, participation, and conflict management: Zimbabwe and Tanzania’, in Ali T. and Matthews R. (eds), Civil Wars in Africa: roots and resolution. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
Douglas M. 1992. Risk and Blame: essays in cultural theory. London: Routledge.
Eure J. and Spady J.. 1991. Nation Conscious Rap. New York: PC International Press.
Fenn J. and Perullo A.. 2000. ‘Language choice and hip hop in Tanzania and Malawi’, Popular Music and Society 24 (3): 7394.
Ferguson J. 2002. ‘Of mimicry and membership: Africans and the “New World society”’, Cultural Anthropology 17: 551–69.
50 Cent. 2003. Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. New York: UMG Recordings (CD).
Flynn K. 2001. ‘Urban agriculture in Mwanza, Tanzania’, Africa 71: 666–91.
Mobb Gangwe. 2002. Nje Ndani. Dar es Salaam: GMC Wasanii (cassette).
Gaonkar D. P. (ed.). 2001. Alternative Modernities. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Gergen K. J. 1994. ‘The limits ofpure critique’, in Simons H. W. and Billig M. (eds), After Postmodernism: reconstructing ideology critique. London: Sage.
Gesthuizen T. and Haas P.-J.. 2000. ‘Ndani ya Bongo. Kiswahili rap keeping it real’, in Gunderson F. and Barz G. (eds), Mashindano! Competitive Music Performance in East Africa. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota.
Gibbon P. 1995. Liberalised Development in Tanzania: studies on accumulation processes and local institutions. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.
Gilroy P. 1994. Black Atlantic: modernityand double consciousness.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Gross J., McMurray D. and Swedenburg T.. 1996. ‘Arab noise and Ramadan nights: Rai, rap and Franco-Maghrebi identities’, in Lavie S. and Swedenburg T. (eds), Displacement, Diaspora and Geographies of Identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hanchard M. 1999. ‘Afro-Modernity: temporality, politics and the African diaspora’, Public Culture 11: 245–68.
Blasters Hard. 2000. Funga Kazi. Dar es Salaam: FKW (cassette).
Horkheimer M. and Adorno T.. 1972. Dialectic of Enlightenment.NewYork: Herder and Herder.
Hyden G. 1980. Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: underdevelopment and an uncaptured Peasantry. London: Heinemann.
Jules-Rosette B. 2002. ‘Afro-pessimism's many guises’, Public Culture 14 (3): 603–05.
Nature Juma. 2001. Nini Chanzo? Dar es Salaam: Bongo Records (cassette).
Karlström M. 2003. ‘On the aesthetics and dialogics of power in the postcolony’, Africa 73 (1): 5777.
Kelsall T. 2002. ‘Shop windows and smoke-filled rooms: governance and the re-politicisation of Tanzania’, Journal of Modern African Studies 40: 597619.
Kelsall T. 2003. ‘Rituals of verification: indigenous and imported accountability in Northern Tanzania', Africa 73 (2): 174201.
Kitwana B. 2003. The Hip Hop Generation: the crisis in African American culture. New York: Basic Civitas Books.
Lacan J. 1973. Le Séminaire. Livre XI: les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse, 1964. Paris: Seuil.
Luhmann N. 1993. ‘The code of the moral’, Cardozo Law Review 14: 995–1,009.
Mbembe A. 1992. ‘Provisional notes on the postcolony’, Africa 62 (1): 337.
Mbembe A. 2001. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Mbembe A. 2004. ‘Aesthetics of superfluity’, Public Culture 16 (3): 373–106.
Mignolo W. 2000. Local Histories/Global Designs: coloniality, subaltern knowledges, and border thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mwanafalsafa . 2002. Mwanafalsafani. Dar es Salaam: GMC Wasanii (cassette).
Neal M. 2002. Soul Babies: black popular culture and the post-soul aesthetic. London: Routledge.
Pels P. 2002. ‘Creolisation in secret: the birth of nationalism in late colonial Uluguru, Tanzania’, Africa 72 (1): 128.
Jay Professor. 2001. Machozi, Fasho na Damu. Dar es Salaam: FKW (cassette).
Jay Professor. 2003. Mapinduzi Halisi. Dar es Salaam: GMC Wasanii (CD).
Public Enemy. 1990. Fear ofa Black Planet. New York: Def Jam Recordings (CD).
Ranger T. 1975. Dance and Society in Eastern Africa, 1890–1970. London: Heinemann.
Remes P. 1999. ‘Global popular musics and changing awareness of urban Tanzanian youth’, Yearbook for Traditional Music 31: 126.
Sanders T. 2001. ‘Save our skins: structural adjustment, morality and the occult in Tanzania’, in Moore H. and Sanders T. (eds), Magical Interpretations, Material Realities: modernity, witchcraft and the occult in postcolonial Africa. London: Routledge.
Stroeken K. 2004. ‘In search of the real: the healing contingency of Sukuma divination’, in Winkelman M. and Peek P. (eds), Divination and Healing: potent vision. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Taussig M. 1977. ‘The genesis of capitalism among a South American peasantry: devil's labor and the baptism of money’, Comparative Studies in Societyand History 19 (2): 130–55.
Taussig M. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: a particular history of the senses. New York: Routledge.
Taussig M. 1995. ‘The sun gives without receiving: an old story’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 35: 368–98.
Toop D. 1991. Rap Attack 2: African rap to global hip hop. London: Serpent's Tail.
Toroka E. 2003. ‘FAT must account for FIFA funds’, Business Times, 25 July 2003. Read on 21 December 2004 at <http://www.bcstimes.com>.
Tripp A. 1997. Changing the Rules: the politics ofliberalization and the urban informal economy in Tanzania. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Virolle M. 1996. ‘Raï, norme sociale et référence religieuse’, Anthropologie et Sociétés 20: 111–28.
Nafaka Wachuja. 2002. Mzee wa Busara. Dar es Salaam: GMC & Bongo Records (cassette).
Kaya Wagosi Wa. 2001. Ukweli Mtupu. Dar es Salaam: MJ Records (cassette).
Walraven K. van and Abbink J.. 2003. ‘Rethinking resistance in African history: an introduction’, in Abbink J. et al. (eds), Rethinking Resistance: revolt and violence in African history. Leiden: Brill.
Waterman C. 1990. Fuju: a social history and ethnography of an African popular music. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Weate J. 2003. ‘Achille Mbembe and the postcolony: going beyond the text’, Research in African Literatures 34 (4): 2742.
Weiss B. 1998. ‘Electric vampires: Haya rumours of the commodified body’, in Lambek M. and Strathern A. (eds), Bodies and Persons.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Weiss B. 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? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 19 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 245 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.