When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Congo in August 2009 she told a crowd in Kinshasa, “You are the ones who have to speak out. Speak out to end the corruption, the violence, the conflict that for too long have eroded the opportunities across this country.”
One movement that is doing just that is a loose collection of rap musicians in that same city. I came across an article about them the other day by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, picked up by AllAfrica.com (a terrific source for news of Congo, by the way). Collectively known as the Generation of Politically Conscious Congolese Musicians, they are centered in the communes of Barumu and Kinshasa.
These musicians are activists for two causes: for the recognition of rap, in the face of other, more established styles, and “for political change and better living conditions” in Kinshasa and the entire country.
“Kinshasa is a big village. We must denounce the ills that plague it,” says one of the rappers. Another says, “Politics in the DRC suffers from malaria. The country urgently needs to be put on a quinine drip.”
Another center in the city’s music scene, the Ngwaka neighborhood, is shared by rap bands like Kin Mafia Style (or KMS) along with other groups, such as Staff Benda Bilili, whom we wrote about in the Paul Carlson Update in March 2011.
Rapper Alex Ndende, who uses the name Lexxus Légal, says “there are musicians, our elders, who are solely focused on love and money.” In comparison, “the Kinshasa underground movement is engaged in social issues. The people need to be defended somehow.”
You can read the full article on Radio Netherlands Worldwide here.
By the way: Staff Benda Bilili will be touring North America in October. This group has a wonderful, infectious sound and a distinctive story: they were living in the streets near the Kinshasa zoo, most with polio or other conditions, some playing homemade instruments, when they were “discovered” by Europeans. They’ve toured extensively in Europe and England and will now play nine cities on the U.S. East and West Coasts, bookmarked by Montreal on Oct. 15 and Vancouver on the 28th. To find out more about the stops on the tour, check out the listing on their website. Click on “Live Dates” in the menu across the top, then choose Staff Benda Belili in the drop-down menu.
SAJ 24 Sep 2012