Senegalese Trio Daara J

Daara J.

Daara J. hide caption

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Daara J's raps flow in English, French and the West-African language of Woolof. Along with typical hip-hop elements like turntables and samplers, Daara J uses traditional African instruments like the talking drum.

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ED GORDON, host:

Today we end our weeklong series on African music with a spotlight on hip-hop. The Senegalese trio known as Daara J might be the biggest rap group on the continent. Daara J's raps flow in multiple languages, along with typical hip-hop elements like turntables and samplers. Daara J uses traditional African instruments like the talking drum. Here's the leader of the group, 31-year-old Faada Freddy in his own words.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FAADA FREDDY (Member, Daara J): Hip-hop is booming nowadays in Senegal, because we decided to (unintelligible) ourself to that music. We consider that the ancient form of hip-hop music is to be developed and even incarnated centuries ago, even before the slavery era.

You know, and rap music is really comparable to Tasu, which we consider as its ancient form, the great tradition of the oral tradition.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FREDDY: African acoustic instruments really can find their places in the hip-hop platform because hip-hop is such a big platform that you can just incorporate any kind of instrument, any kind of conception. Nowadays, hip-hop is not, you know, what it used to be. He's one of the most intonational(ph) language ever because with that same music, all the youth of the world, all the people, can communicate. You go down to Senegal, you go in the bottom of the city, you're going to find a boy rapping, you're going to find a boy trying to do the beat-box. It means that somehow we all bind to that international language.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FREDDY: Myself, I discovered the hip-hop through the Grandmaster Flash song, The Message.

(Soundbite of The Message)

Mr. GRANDMASTER FLASH (Rapper): (Rapping) My son said, daddy, I don't wanna go to school cause the teacher's a jerk, he must think I'm a fool. And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it'd be cheaper if I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper.

Mr. FREDDY: The flavor of Grandmaster Flash was the very first to get me linked to our brothers, which - who I'd been splitted from, you know, during the slavery time. And it's that connection that Grandmaster Flash made, you know, through The Message. That's why for me the word message means a lot in the hip-hop area.

(Soundbite of song, The Message)

Mr. GRANDMASTER FLASH: Don't push me ‘cause I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head...

Mr. FREDDY: Connection, you know, you just feel something, and there you feel freedom. And I automatically adapted it to say, okay, this is what I want to do. And that's why a lot of people used to take us just, you know, just like (unintelligible). I like these boys, they don't know where they're going because they're trying to do like Americans.

And, you know, that's why we took the years to reconfirm that what we was incarnating was our own. That, you know, that was just the connection. But no matter what, hip-hop music, you know, come from Africa.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FREDDY: A lot of people would ban our music because, in the beginning, a lot of people thought that it was the music of the evil. For some people, it was coming from a land where people used to develop the gangsta' rap and where they used to get videos with naked women. And for our parents, it was the music that was disrespectful and not healthy to the community.

And that's why for a long time we've been censured in the country and for a long time we've been misunderstood. Finally, we got the people realize that we could first do that music in our own native language, which is Wolof; and second, you can incarnate that music and at the same time stick to your roots. And that's how, little by little, we're getting the people, you know, discover our music and the music of the country.

Because nowadays when you go Senegal, rap music is the only music that defend the people's interests. And what we've got now is the respect that we can bring somebody on the throne, and at the same time, we can overthrow the throne. And hip-hop music is so strong and so engaged that, you know, some people are nowadays, you know, paying more attention to our work.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FREDDY: Nowadays a lot of people are getting wrapped up with all these diamonds, you know, and for them this is sort of expression. On the other side, we're from Africa; we know where all these diamonds come from. We used to see some kids lose their arms in the mines. We know where it all come from. It's not we trying to push not to wear diamonds, but we're just trying to tell them to know what they're being wrapped up with. Never forget that some people are wearing bloody diamonds.

And that's why we can't afford - as people coming from a country where sometimes you don't really have running water, you don't really have shoes on your feet. You know, you sometimes you just have meal a day or you don't eat, so, you know, you can't afford, you know, yourself to go in talking about bling-bling, talking about all this wealth and driving fancy cars, big rings, stuff like that.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #4: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #5 (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. FREDDY: The first language ever is the language of feeling because in Africa people dance on some rhythms, sometimes on some American soul rhythm. Like the Otis Reddings - I remember that my parents used to listen to Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and they didn't even know a word of what they were saying, and they used to just follow and dance over it.

And for me, it's that strength of the music, that strength of the feeling that, you know, our music is expressing. Sometimes we're on the stage where you have 25,000 people and sometimes we says (speaking foreign language) and we put our hands and raise our hands. You see everybody raising their hands. They feel it, and this is the power of music.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

GORDON: Faada Freddy of the Senegalese hip-hop supergroup Daara J. Their latest CD is called Boomerang.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program for today. Another special thanks to WFYI for housing us today. To listen to the program, visit npr.org.

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