In Senegal’s Timbuktu Studio, young people are learning to use their voices not only as instruments of song, but for also as tools for change.
In the suburbs of Dakar, there is a very special music studio called Timbuktu. Here, pens scratch lyrics onto paper, noisy beats pulsate from speakers, and the voices of Dakar’s youth can be heard recording raps songs about their communities.
The Timbuktu Studio harnesses Dakar’s urban culture and welcomes young people eager to record songs about their lives. The studio forms part of a project implemented by Plan International with the support of Swedish rapper Jason Diakité, also known by his stage name of Timbuktu.
The project aims to leverage rap music as an advocacy tool for defending and promoting children’s rights. In doing so, young people are educated about their rights and learn to participate in the development of their communities.
At the studio, a dedicated team of young technicians and producers supports the young people in experimenting with musical composition, programming, recording, and sound production.
The studio recently asked 15 young people to produce several musical pieces focusing on themes of child abuse (particularly that of girls), access to education, and youth leadership. The songs were compiled together to create the first rap CD advocating for the rights of children in the Dakar.
By cultivating their skills and recognising the challenges faced by Dakar’s youth, the Timbuktu Studio is empowering young people by teaching them how to use their voices to advocate for change.
As Jason Diakité attests, “I see their personal development, and how they went from not knowing much about writing songs to now. Now, it’s in their blood.”
Recalling his own journey as a rapper who started at the age of 14, Jason sees the studio as a way of encouraging a sense of pride, self-worth, and empowerment.
Diakité explains, “Knowing your self-worth, that’s empowerment. The adult world maybe doesn’t understand how important it is for young people to feel like they have a voice, to feel like they can do something that’s meaningful. If they have an idea and they can put it on paper and sing it, it makes them feel good about themselves.”
The role of the Timbuktu Studio is growing each year as increasing numbers of young people, including girls, are taking part in advocacy projects through music, and using the studio as a resource for musical production, as well as a source of inspiration and musical creativity.
Looking forward, Diakité says, “My hope for the next three years is that we manage to get even more youth to come - that we get more people, both boys and girls, to come here and learn.”