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The world according to Awadi

Solo album from the Senegalese rapper


Paris 

23/09/2005 - 

The second solo album by the Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi - co-founder of the group Positive Black Soul and winner of RFI's World Music Award 2003 - has just been released in Europe. We take an in-depth look at Un autre monde possible (released in Senegal last year). Read on for a review of a politically committed album full of hard-hitting lyrics.


 
 
"Another world is possible"
is the slogan from the anti-globalisation movement, and one that Didier Awadi is happy to endorse, like fellow artists Tiken Jah Fakoly or Manu Chao. With this second album, DJ Didier appeals for solidarity and an awakening of the public conscience. It's a cry of hope for a society based on the eternal values of freedom, justice and equality. Blending hip hop, rock, soul and R&B along with more traditional African sounds, Didier Awadi concocts a heady brew that is far removed from the uniform beats of many French and English-language rappers.

For many years his aim had been to record an album at home, in Dakar, that the whole world could listen to. This album is the result of that dream, and of twenty years dedicated to African rap, of which he is now the leading light. Entirely digital, his Sankara studio (named after his hero, Burkina Faso's president who was assassinated in 1998) is set up on the second floor of his house, on the terrace. "Thanks to  all the new technologies and a bit of intelligence, I've managed to make an international album right here," he explains.

Awadi dedicated the 12 tracks of the album to the world social forum in which he participated in January 2003, and which opened his mind to the values he has since tried to impart to the young, more aware generation of Africans. Hip hop is for him a way of talking about serious issues. In 1989 and during his early years with PBS, he was already assertively expressing himself, and his solo has enabled him to further pursue his combat as a militant and rouse the younger generation with his incisive lyrics.

But for the lyrics to work, you also need real melodies. And that is something Awadi knows all about. He understands that it is thanks to the hooks that the public listen to the lyrics. He blends rapid-fire rhythms with African-style instrumentation, like on the opening track of the album Sunu société. Over an assiko rhythm native to Gorée, Saint Louis and Dakar, as well as the central region of Cameroon, he talks of the changes in Senegal since the arrival of President Wade in 2000: "People say that society has changed, and now we have to change our behaviour in a dignified manner. If all the Senegalese still want to leave for overseas, who is going to build the country?" Upbeat with its beatbox driven rhythms, Sunu sénégal is an invitation to dance, despite the fact that its lyrics (in Wolof) talk of taking more responsibility.

 
  
 
Stoppez-les, a track in French and in Wolof, denounces those who steal from the Republic, functionaries who think about their personal interests rather than those of the state. Awadi calls on American rock and rap influences to ensure that his rage is heard beyond the borders of his country. With Un autre monde, we dive deep into the Mandingo world. A song that starts with the kora of El Hadj Cissokho has a calming effect: although DJ Didier's aim was to make a militant album, he realises you also have to offer hope. "Africa isn't all types like Bokassa, there are also the Mandelas, the countries where democracy really works. Everything is not lost." The dulcet tones of Thaïs, with a voice that is close to that of R&B singers, sweetens the bitter pill of Awadi's lyrics. Awadi had been searching for a woman's voice, and he found it, and the woman in question now shuttles back and forth between Dakar and Switzerland where she lives.

Awadi's flow really comes into its own on Le cri du peuple, where he denounces the power that is given to politicians who, the moment they take office, forget their promises. "The president forgot that it's you who gave him the power / It's weird, the way the guys in power get amnesia / The president forgets you, so forget the president." And as always a kora to sweeten the hardcore hip hop beat that is the signature of Didier Awadi, producer, jack-of-all-trades, author, composer, singer, posse boss and head of the Sankara label on which he records with the whole PBS Radikal crew. His brand of hip hop is to be found across the African continent. He unites young Africans who identify with this music that talks about their lives, aspirations, anxieties and their rage to escape their problems, from Dakar to Johannesburg. On Stoppez les criminels Awadi invites Tiken Jah to sing, having covered Tiken Jah's Quitte le pouvoir on his album Coup de gueule. The two are friends and are often seen together. On stage, whether at Bamako, Dakar or Paris, they often play at each other's concerts, as was the case at Tiken's concert at the Zénith in Paris on 29 April. In fact, the two basically have the same approach, although one opted for reggae and the other rap. True "blood brothers", in other words!

Didier Awadi Un autre monde est possible (Sankara/Codex) 2005

Pierre  René-Worms

Translation : Hugo  Wilcken