African Hip-Hop and Critical Multiliteracy Engagement

Posted by nicholaspelafas on September 1, 2011

I love this video because of all the young people in it.  Hip hop, as I have said before, has become one of the world’s most embraced literacies by Youth.  Fortunately, hiphop in other countries, and particularly in Africa and Latin America, tends to usually have a social or political focus, making it much more useable than the majority of contemporary US-based hiphop for critical thinking and literacy exercises.  In addition to describing the realities of contemporary life, African Hip-hop often discusses the historical background to the present situation, includes significant reflection on the present reality, and is often a call to action.  This is more akin to the hiphop of the early 1990s in the United States that included the likes of Public Enemy, KRSOne, Tupac, Common, Tribe, etc., but often even more broadly dissected (in my opinion).  However, as has happened with reggae and dancehall in the Caribbean, money and corporate influence in the more economically influential African nations (Nigeria, South Africa) has thrust African Hiphop music into the Global HipHop Economy (including its digital manifestations), injecting it with violence, consumerism, and other superfluous and destructive lyrics, while spreading its influence as a literacy at the same time.

Besides liking this video and music, I posted it because I thought middle school or high school teachers could use it for critical literacy assignments.  
Points of research inquiry and discussion starters could include:

What can you learn from the name of the group Salaam Kivu All Stars?

What is the contemporary history of eastern Congo?

Who are the people in the black and white historical footage?

What languages are possibly being spoken in this video?

What examples of literacy and literacy expression can you find in this video?

Who produced this video and put it online?  What is their relationship to the artists in the video?

(For more information on video and background see: Yole!Africa,, the economist)

The only issue I have with this video is that there are so few womyn/girl artists represented, and in general their presence in the various shots is limited.  Why might this might be is also a good topic for discussion.

Another great video to further this topic, or to utilize for critical engagement in its own right, would be Sister Fa’s Milyamba.  In this song she discusses and demonstrates the realities of women living in rural Senegal.

African hiphop/music links:


Shakara African Music Blog

Afropop Worldwide


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