Magharebia (Washington DC)

19 November 2012

Mauritania: Rap Workshop Trains Young Artists

Photo: Leila Moulaye
The Mauritanian performer, Leila, who was arrested for appearing in a music video with her head uncovered.

Nouakchott — Young hip hop performers fight extremism through music.

An unusual training workshop in Mauritania focused on helping the careers and techniques of young hip-hop performers. It also showed how rappers can contribute to a culture of peace.

"Hip hop is the energetic language of peace that allows people to cry aloud in the face of injustice and social inequality," participant Abubakar Ould Mami told Magharebia at the 4-day training programme, which kicked off on Sunday (November 11th).

"It's a beautiful way to express truth," he said.

Young artists have great influence in Mauritania. As a result, institutions often turn to them to them to help spread positive messages to youth about peace, respect, cultural exchange and co-existence.

Hip-hop star Kane Limam (better known as "Monza") heads Zaza Productions, which organised the event.

"Terrorism, extremism and deviation are rejected in hip hop culture throughout the world," he said.

"One of the most important messages of this culture is to create a spirit of peaceful change and real criticism of problems facing young people, and spread a culture of optimism, hard work and dedication."

Kane is also behind the Assalamelekoum Festival, a 5-day hip-hop event that attracts well-known performers from Europe and Africa. He said the name of the event was specifically chosen to encourage brotherhood and tolerance.

"It serves as an annual reminder of the dangers of extremism and terrorism," Monza told Magharebia.

"Anyone who wages attacks on people in the name of Islam is a terrorist. We must use every means to present the true Islam to people, removed from extremism and fanaticism," the rapper added.

Mamadou N'diaye ("Son of Street") is another young performer known for his powerful songs. Like many of the biggest international hip-hop artists, he grew up on the street, got involved in crime and eventually landed in prison.

He started to pay attention to music in 2006 when other hip hop artists helped him turn his life around. Now he helps the street children who follow his songs.

"My life changed because of hip hop," he said. "I've changed from a violent person who always caused troubles to a decent person who renounces violence and aspires to make changes through art. Hip hop is a responsibility and a moral spirit," he said.

The Nouakchott training workshop was organised by Zaza Productions, in co-operation with the German Embassy and the French Institute in Mauritania.

"Hip-hop music has a great revolutionary dimension that makes us do the impossible. We select the words that convey the message we want to convey with honesty and in a way that everybody will understand," said rapper Mohamed Ould Hemada of the band Awlad Leblad.

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