African Hip Hop, Rap, and Popular Culture
Professor Cheryl Keyes, UCLA Ethnomusicology Dept., will moderate a discussion of West African popular culture, including hip hop, rap, jazz, and other music. Where did hip hop originate? Brooklyn? West Africa? Presentations, music, video and more!
Friday, February 04, 2005
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
118 Haines Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Professor Cheryl Keyes moderates a discussion of West African popular culture, including hip hop, rap, jazz, and other music. Did hip hop originate in New York/Brooklyn, or West Africa? Lectures, presentations, music, and interesting information and discussion highlight this symposium.
2:00 - 2:15 Introduction by Allen Roberts, ASC Director and Remarks by Professor Cheryl Keyes, Moderator, UCLA Dept. of Ethnomusicology
2:15 - 3:00 Timothy Mangin, "C'est Senegalais: Mediating Modernity in Senegalese Mbalax and Rap”
3:00 - 3:45 Robert Bellinger, “Le Grande Spectac: Thoughts on Tradition and Modernity in Public Performance”
3:45 - 4:00 Beverage Break
4:00 - 4:45 Ben Herson, ”African Underground: Exploring Global Hip-Hop Culture”
4:45 - 5:30 Esther Baker and Christina Choe, “Rap Discourse Danced” and “United Nations of Hip Hop”
Professor Cheryl Keyes, UCLA Ethnomusicology Department, Moderator
Professor Keyes focuses her research on historical/sociocultural anaylsis of rap music and African hip hop. Her publications include Rap Music and Street Consciousness, “Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces: Black Female Identity via Rap Music Performance, and “At the Crossroads: Rap Music and Its African Nexus.” She teaches courses in the UCLA Ethnomusicology Department, including Cultural History of Rap and African American Musical Heritage.
Robert Bellinger, Suffolk University, “Le Grande Spectac: Thoughts on Tradition and Modernity in Public Performance”
Senegal is a place where music and culture is an active and viable part of daily life and there are many opportunities for public presentation and performance of music. Professor Bellinger will examine some of the elements of a particular performance - Le Grande Concert du Sing Sing Junior - that he attended during the summer of 2004.
Brief bio: Robert Bellinger earned his PhD from Boston College in History - American, Race and Ethicity, Latin America, Comparative and his EdM from Harvard Graduate School of Education, EdM (Teaching, curriculum, learning environments) He taught in the educational system at several levels, preschool, elementary, and high school. He is currently a Professor of History at Suffolk University where he teaches classes in American History, African American History, African Diaporan History, and on the history and culture of Senegal. He is also the Director of the Black Studies Program and Director of the Collection of African American Literature. Professor Bellinger first visited Senegal in 1985, and is now beginning to evaluate his experiences as a researcher. In addition to working as an educator he has been a student of music; starting with the saxophone, but over the past decade and a half his focus has been on drums and percussion, with a focus on jembe and, most recently, sabar. He is presently a member of Soli Soma Jembe Orchestra and Trytone Creative Music Ensemble.
Benny Herson, ”African Underground: Exploring Global Hip-Hop Culture”
An urban cultural revolution is sweeping through Africa. Over the past 20 years, American hip-hop has made its way into daily African life by way of radio, cassettes, CDs and TV. Influenced by this cultural power, African youth have created their own local hip-hop cultures. They rap about their own experiences, life stories and struggles in Africa's urban ghettos. While some MCs have chosen to rhyme in English, most of them have put their own linguistic and cultural stamp on rap music. They rhyme in local languages such as Wolof, Yoruba, Zulu, Swahili and a myriad of other African tongues and dialects.
African hip-hop's politically conscious messages set it apart from the materialism and misogyny so common in mainstream, Western rap. In Senegal, rap lyrics have become highly politicized. In the year 2000, the rappers of Senegal literally changed the political landscape by contributing to the ouster of the Diouf regime in the first successful democratic election in Senegal's history. Senegalese rap is just the tip of the iceberg. All over Africa, hip-hop is sparking debate about poverty, war, corrupt government and the threats of globalization. The world may be waiting for hip-hop's "next big thing" to emerge from the ghettos of Brooklyn, Detroit or LA. But tomorrow's hip-hop leaders may come straight out of Dakar, Lagos or Cape Town.
Brief bio: Benny Herson was born in Boston, MA and began studying drums at age five. At 16, Herson took his skills to the stage and the recording studio as a founding member of ska kingpins Skavoovie and the Epitones. For the next 10 years, Herson toured the United States, Canada and Europe over a dozen times, released three internationally acclaimed albums and recorded dozens of singles on compilations world wide. In 2000 his drumset skills led him into the studio playing drums for reggae legends Yabby U, Sugar Minott, Glen Brown among others.
After a life-changing trip studying West African drumming in Senegal, Herson discovered a vibrant hip-hop scene in Dakar, Senegal's main capital. Enthralled with the political and social message of the group's lyrics, he began producing and making beats for Senegal's top MCs. After many years of steady production work and beat making, he has become one of the most sought after producers in Senegal. In only a few short years, Herson has amassed an impressive roster of artists having produced 50 groups from all over Africa and the Middle East. In 2004 Herson launched Nomadic Wax in the United States with the release of "African Underground Vol. 1: Hip-Hop Senegal." Today Herson lives in Brooklyn and runs Nomadic Wax in between touring with reggae groups Dub is a Weapon and the Rock Steady 7 throughout the US and Europe.
Timothy Mangin, "C'est Senegalais: Mediating Modernity in Senegalese Mbalax and Rap”
A central feature of Senegalese modernity is the simultaneous celebration of roots and appropriation of new cultural ideas and products from the West and Africa. Fueling this situation are new media and technologies that carry images, sounds, and cultural ideas from black Atlantic cultures. Enhancing the power of these transnational networks are Senegalese migrants returning home with new experiences and cultural products they share with fellow Dakaroise. In Senegal, popular music provides a valued space for the mediation of these influences. In this space musicians and fans mediate their modern identities and assert agency. Roots are celebrated and New World musics reinterpreted to express Senegalese modernity. But what is borrowed and why? What are the themes of modernity expressed? Timothy Mangin examines these questions through historical and ethnographic material focused on the development of mbalax and rap in Dakar. He describes how mbalax and rap developed from similar appropriation processes and contributed to the formation of new collective identities. Finally, he analyzes how these genres address the needs of different audiences based on fieldwork with mbalax and rap groups in the nightclubs of Dakar.
Brief bio: Timothy Mangin earned a Master of Philosophy in Music (Ethnomusicology) from Columbia University in 1999 and is currently completing a Doctor of Philosophy, also in Music (Ethnomusicology). He designed and taught courses at St. Lawrence University such as Jazz in American Culture, Musics of the World: Africa and the Americas, Bebop and Beyond: Jazz in American Society, and Hip Hop and Modernity. While at Columbia University he wrote cultural annotations for the digital rendition of The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the Malcolm X Multimedia Study Environment Project and compiled jazz, rhythm and blues, and spoken work music (and liner notes information) for a CD accompanying an edited Cultural Reader on Malcolm X. His publications include, "Notes on Jazz in Senegal," and "Senegalese Rap and Black Transnationalism." In 2000 he was a performance instructor for Jazz and Western Art Music at the National School of the Arts in Dakar, Senegal.
Esther M. Baker, World Arts and Cultures
“Rap Discourse Danced”
Esther M. Baker is a choreographer, dancer, filmmaker and MA student in World Arts and Cultures; her Master's thesis is "Handlin' Rhymes: Hip Hop in Dakar, Senegal." In 2003 she worked with choreographer Fatou Cisse and rapper, Fatim (WA BMG 44) to create "Mbin Dan" (The Maid), which premiered at the French Cultural Center in Dakar. She co-produced and interviewed rappers in Christina Choe's documentary film "United Nations of Hip Hop." Most recently she completed a choreography and music video project in collaboration with Senegalese rap star, Keyti, and four dancers.
Christina Choe, Filmmaker
“United Nations of Hip Hop”
Christina Choe is an independent filmmaker based in L.A. She screened her short documentary, “Turmeric
Border Marks”, at the New York, San Diego, and Chicago Asian International Film Festivals. She also toured as a live VJ with Rennie Harris Puremovement’s Bessie winning hip hop theater production of “Rome & Jewels.” Currently she is working on a feature documentary, “United Nations of Hip Hop” and a short film, “Guess Who’s Coming for Kimchee.”
Cost: Free and open to the public; parking is available at UCLA for $7.