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West Africa is unrepresented by music except for Nigeria, Ghana, and Mali that have predominant musicians in the international arena. However, countries like Senegal are rising with new artists who speak against the social ills that affect their society and have contributed to political changes. Keur Gui band is a Senegalese duo composed ofrappers Thiat and Kilifeu, who have led political emancipation campaigns in the country through their music against autocracy. Analysis of Keur Gui’s two songs “Diogoufi” and “Know Us” in the 2014 “Encyclopedia Album” by Penku Side Prod Action label reveals the duo’s consistent politically coded messages against anarchy in Senegal and exposes their objective to use creativity to mobilize youth into joining a movement that demands government accountability in delivering social justice.
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The birth and rise of the movement Y’en a Marre in Senegal that started in December 2012 is attributed to Keur Gui who mobilized youth to demand social justice (UNRIC, 2012). The movement brought together several musicians, journalists, and activists living in Dakar to intervene and condemn Abdoulaye Wade’s leadership following his attempt to amend the constitution a third time to participate in the 2012 general election (UNRIC, 2012; Ardizzoni, 2017). The duo as part of the organizers of the movement helped it attain national attention as its peaceful demonstrations turned into riots against government’s constant power blackouts and energy crisis that affected people’s lives. Keur Gui pulled youth into the group as popular rap artists who opposed the government’s status quo, which destabilized the social lives of the Senegalese population. The group orchestrated demonstrations in 2011 that made Wade infamous for re-election during the 2012 presidential re-run (UNRIC, 2012). Participation in activism has aided in the identity of the group as a national activist rap duo.
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Keur Gui influenced the activities of the Y’en a Marre by providing a platform that eluded police control. The group started with political campaigns and marches to urge a million young people to register and vote during the elections but the authoritative agency grounded their activities (UNRIC, 2012). Therefore, they adopted an alternative plan of playing rap music with stereos that spread the same message to the youth. However, the police curtailed the organized activities citing disturbance of public order under the pretext that the group played loud rap music. Keur Gui and other musicians produced the movement’s singles that were popular among the youth that made Y’en Marre a critical institution of social activism. Amnesty International signed the group, and it was declared the African social movement at the 2012 World Social Forum in Tunisia (Ardizzoni, 2017, p. 153). Y’en Marre used a third approach to avoid police control by asking young rap artists to board buses and distribute flyers while singing about the country’s socioeconomic status. The movement successfully encouraged many youths to take voters’ cards using music and live performances in buses and bus stops where they met many groups of people (UNRIC, 2012). Even when the opposition member approached the group to make peace, they rejected his appeal and asserted their new status as conscious Senegalese citizens who could petition the government for accountability without minding who took the presidency.
Musicians have emerged as the source of political changes in Africa by releasing songs that influence people to reflect and think about the government’s activities. Keur Gui has emerged as Senegal’s most popular hip hop duo that drums up support for opposition against government policies that hurt the public. Thiat and Kilifeu joined other musicians and formed the Y’en Marre (Fed Up) movement in 2011 that mobilized youth against Wade. The duo recorded a single, “Cri de Coeur”, which translates to “Cry from the Heart” that supported the theme of the movement’s campaign (Mampilly, 2018). The group traversed the country in 2011 mobilizing youth with journalists and other musicians by playing the song on the back of a flatbed truck. The song contained politically coded messages that appealed to the young and old in asserting their relentless struggle to defeat nonperforming politicians. The government reacted, arrested Thiat, and detained him after a Dakar rally because he called President Wade a hypocrite and too old to govern the country. Even when Wade lost, the new government lacked the credibility to provide social services. Although the leader tried to co-opt the musicians, Thiat and his friend refused the proposal for inclusion in the government because that would have strangled the movement’s power to check political leadership. Y’en a Marre seeks to achieve democracy beyond the ballot box through consistent conscious appeals and organized marches.
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In 2014, the duo released the song, “Diogoufu”, which translates to “Nothing has Changed” as a masterpiece single that challenged the incumbent’s leadership in Senegal as part of the “Encyclopedia Album” produced by the label Penku Side Prod Action (Ardizzoni, 2017, p. 153). Macky Sall came into power in 2012 after an election that saw him defeat Wade (Mampilly, 2018). The song became part of the “Encyclopedia Album” as Chapter 1 labeled Opinion Public. While the rest of the Y’en a Marre movement artists have backed the president to avoid direct political confrontations, Keur Gui continues to lead the activism against Senegalese politicians that use the electorate for personal interests. “Diogoufu” consist of lyrical play interlaced with a video that highlights the socioeconomic realities that the Senegalese people face daily due to government corruption and failures. The song starts with Thiat sitting outside a store when a Senegalese man tries to make a purchase in vain due to scarcity. Then a woman comes seeking to refill her cooking gas but the storekeeper clearly indicates the lack of the commodity (Mampilly, 2018). The woman leaves looking devastated because of lacking critical energy for domestic cooking, which means she must continue seeking or might not find a solution due to government laxity at providing proper economic leadership that responds to the people’s needs. Thiat sympathizes with the frustrated woman who stereotypically represents all Senegalese women who must seek for fuel instead of using that time for economic profiting. Immediately, he responds to the woman’s agony with a lyrical play that condemns the government of the day for maintaining Wade’s status quo that aggravates the public.
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Analysis of the lyrics of the song reveals the failure of the incumbent leadership in tackling both social and economic challenges affecting the country. Thiat begins the rap with the conscious assessment that defines the public opinion about the government. He claims, “Always the same cats, the same dogs, / Same goes, same comes, / The same case, same ending, / Same cinemas, same schemas” (Keur Gui, 2014). The lyrics capture the Senegalese resignation to the fact that the ballot achieves no authentic democratic changes that can transform the country. Thiat asserts that they sought to change Wade’s poor leadership by voting for Sall but the new government uses the same ideas and policies that achieve no positive change. The artists call the scenario changeless with the same leaders that use policies likened to cinemas that have a matching end. Such economic fiscal planning without alternations only ends up depriving the public (Ardizzoni, 2014). Thiat insists that the government is using similar tricks and schemes to defeat public participation and engage in corruption that continually hurts citizens’ socioeconomic status. He comments on the political culture and elections, “Always the same electoral promises, same selling littoral. / The country is really in chaos. Only two years and we’re fed up” (Keur Gui, 2014). The lyrics emphasize the failure of election in enhancing the implementation of democratic principles in Africa. Thait claims that the leadership uses similar approaches when promising people change but every incumbent achieves no social or economic transformation. Consequently, he compared the failed leadership to the old elite who misused the public resources for selfish interests, “How come someone who is not apt for local authorities / Can manage Senegal? A so-called Presi, / Gorgui’s apprentice! / It looks like it is the old men who were with Senghor who / manage the country?” (Keur Gui, 2014). The lines show clearly that the current leadership has no strategy apart from the old guard’s tactics in contributing to achieving development.
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The song evaluates the political achievements of Sall’s government in comparison to Wade’s failures, particularly by commenting on the social policy and provision of social amenities. The song raises six social issues that affect the country, which includes waters, electricity, economic development, medical care, education, and unemployment. Thiat condemns Sall for not ending the power and water cuts that started the Y’en Marre movement that terminated Wade’s leadership, “Until now we have cuts of electricity and water. / No change, the country is always stagnated at the same level, / No medical care, the education is unstable. / The graduates are unemployed” (Keur Gui, 2014). Pezon (2018) claims that the French has monopolized the water sector as a highly profitable private enterprise as they determine the supply of the commodity in Dakar and other cities while less than 55% of customers are not satisfied with the service delivery. The situation requires urgent government action to ensure no more service interruptions, improve quality and smell of water, and increase its pressure. The claims raised in the song are replicated in studies that show a deadlock in solving the water crisis in the country because it engages foreigners who control the sector. Kilifeu raises the foreign interference issues in verse two, “We are conscious that Dakar is not Paris / But such has to be out bet. They are all the same, no difference” (Keur Gui, 2014). He disseminates the public about the French monopoly issue on water, which is a major concern that every Senegalese should know about. Similarly, Kilifeu condemns the government for providing alternative changes that can help the public to intervene on the issue. The duo informs Senegalese that the government is not providing a way forward that would end the French’s monopoly on the water issue.
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A 2014 study shows that Senegal suffers from high rates of unemployment attributed to the youth bulge in population, which even affects graduates (USAID, 2017). Similarly, the country’s energy sector is unreliable with opaque procedures for investors to obtain permits and unreliable electricity that limits investment that would increase employment opportunities (USAID, 2017). Likewise, Senegal depends on foreign donors to enhance the accessibility of equitable education services to its citizens, which hampers the training of its population to attain skills that can enhance economic development (USAID, 2017). Moreover, reduced incomes have made citizens avoid visiting medical facilities and that has deteriorated the health status of the Senegalese population, particularly in handling healthcare stressors like poverty and illiteracy (USAID, 2017). The findings indicate the Thiat raises critical socio-economic issues that affect the Senegalese, which the previous regime and the incumbent president have failed to address.
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“Know Us” is another song in the 2014 “Encyclopedia Album” by Penku Side Prod Action that hit the waves and contained politically coded messages about the deprivation of the youth that creates despair (Keur Gui, 2014). The song’s lyrics raise similar economic and social concerns of the Senegalese people in relation to the poor performance of the government. The protagonist in the song in the first verse sung by Kilifeu protests against the paralyzed national economy that forces youth to go hungry, “I get into debt / With bills that are increasing, the bruised hearts, / The shortage of gas and rice” (Keur Gui, 2014). The musician explains the situation facing the youth in the country and compares their condition to extreme debt. The youth see no reward between making illegal or legal money because no one is concerned about the morality of the state. Despair has grown because young people have to contend with constant dismissals from the workplace because the high rate of unemployment and surplus graduates, “You employ and dismiss constantly, all your promises were only lies” (Keur Gui, 2014). Kilifeu finds Sall a compromising president without the interests of reforming the social and economic systems to accommodate the needs of graduates and other youths who need work. Consequently, the rap artists dismiss the new government and compare it with the old oligarchy, “Country of anarchy, monarchy, hypocrisy, whim! / They promise you this but make the opposite” (Keur Gui, 2014). The duo claims that the Senegalese leadership has never experienced a transformation but only a switch from the old anarchy to a monarchy who has maintained the status quo. The song clarifies that the new government is equally corrupt and without measures to ensure transparency in its operations, “The leaders embezzle money, build buildings, / Collect cars. The young people increasingly despair” (Keur Gui, 2014). The government fails to meet its social and economic policy obligations because the treasury misappropriates its budget. Seemingly, the Senegalese government is concerned about creating more opportunities for the elite more than the youth, which is contrary to the responsibilities of a democratic institution.
Keur Gui rap duo comprising of Thiat and Kilifeu has exposed the Senegalese government’s failures in achieving sensible economic development due to embezzlement of funds. The government has failed to seal loopholes that have encouraged corruptions that benefit the oligarchy who own real estate and cars. The duo produced songs that promoted the political mission of the Y’en Marre movement that successfully campaigned against Wade’s proposal to run as a president for the third term. However, the duo condemns the new monarch Sall that replaced the anarchy. Analysis of the lyrics of “Diogoufi” and “Know Us” has shown that the rappers have remained reliable in disseminating critical political information to the public inviting people to understand their political rights. The duo has promoted the culture of democratic participation to ensure government accountability in delivering social justice.