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30 Years of Galsen Hip Hop in Senegal

In 2018, Senegalese hip-hop, also known as "Galsen hip-hop", celebrates 30 years of existence. The 13th edition of Festa2H, 21st-24th June 2018 in Dakar, could not overlook this major date in the birth and evolution of an African movement.

Updated on 20/02/2019

5 min

Bringing together Positive Black Soul (PBS), Pee Froiss and Yatfu on one stage for an exceptional concert, nothing but the largest hip-hop festival in Senegal would do for this tour of force. Since 2006, Festa2H has been showcasing Senegalese artists and, more broadly, people who bring hip-hop to life in Africa and beyond. Celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the arrival of this genre in Senegal therefore offers an opportunity to revisit some historical icons, but also to discover the new voices making up the vibrant contemporary scene.

A pioneering nation

Dakar is one of the pioneering cities of African hip-hop. This movement arrived in the 1980s through dance and graffiti, and then with the first American and French tracks imported by the diaspora. In 1988, the country suffered a wave of protests and riots. It was from this explosive moment that the group Positive Black Soul (PBS), leaders of so-called Galsen hip-hop, was born.

Trained by DJ Awadi and Duggy Tee, PBS established the rules of African hip-hop: socially-engaged texts combining Wolof, French and English, carried by rhythms drawn from both the US and local music such as mbalax. Following in their footsteps, their apprentices such as Pee Froiss have brought this sound to Africa and France, where the music has found its place at festivals and in record stores. 30 years later, these pioneers came together again in Dakar on June 23rd, on the Festa2H Gold Stage.

 

"Je ne sais pas", by Positive Black Soul
"Je ne sais pas", by Positive Black Soul

A line-up featuring 15 countries

This festival is not just a local event. No fewer than 15 countries (including Canada, Mauritania, Guinea and Belgium) participated and the presence of more than 100 artists on the stage of the Douta Seck culture house in just four days proved the vitality of the movement. The "Hardcore" stage on 20th June was a surprisingly heavy hitter, in particular thanks to the presence of Freevoices, an all-female collective put together for the 30th anniversary of Galsen hip-hop. Coming from different backgrounds, these five artists make women's voices heard in what remains a very male-dominated world.

As far as the next generation goes, the “Next stage” allows audiences to discover artists who embody the future of hip-hop in Africa. Among these, Senegalese Nixis a standout. His hip hop elegantly sails between socially-engaged refrains, in line with his forefathers PBS, and lighter melodies which are purposefully danceable. Beloved in France, where his concert at the Bellevilloise in 2011 is well remembered, as he is in West Africa, Nix embodies an African youth which feels its destiny is within reach. The former frontman of the Fugees, Wyclef Jean, was on the right track when he participated in Nix’s 2016 album L’Art de Vivre. More proof that Senegal remains a force in the world of hip-hop.

"Highlander", by Nix
"Highlander", by Nix
The Institut français and the project

For its 13th edition, Festa2H benefited from the support of the Institut français.

 

The Institut français encourages African artists in all areas – music, dance, theatre, visual arts, photography, etc. – through its Afrique et Caraïbes en creations programme.

L'institut français, LAB