These Senegalese rappers found an ingenious way to report on politics

“There is a long tradition in hip hop here [Senegal], particularly hip hop being political."

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Every year on 3 May, we celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives to the cause, and explore the ways storytellers are innovating within the industry.

In 2016 we travelled to Senegal to meet a hip hop duo who use their craft to make young people engage with the news. Journal Rappé rap their weekly roundups in a way that is humorous, totally subjective and often a little impertinent.

Keyti and Xuman, two of the country’s most popular rappers, launched Journal Rappé in 2013. Their short TV programme covers the weekly news. Although the news is treated with a degree of humour, the pair cover pretty serious issues and are often critical of those in power.

Xuman had the idea while working in radio shows where he was often around journalists and thought that rapping the news might be an interesting way to engage the younger generations.

“There is a long tradition in hip hop here [Senegal], particularly hip hop being political. If you want to be successful as a rap artist somewhere else, make club bangers, make hits. If you want to be successful in Senegal – talk about politics," explains Keyti.

In 2011, Keyti and Xuman were involved in a movement called the Y’en a Marre (which translates to “fed up”), where a group of rappers and journalists mobilised the young people of Senegal to register to vote and help rid the country of the incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade.

The movement was successful, and is still active – hosting regular meetings and shows that encourage the current government to be true to the promises they made.

The way we consume information today is crazy, says Keyti, we read news and then forget about within a few hours or a day. The Journal Rappé policy is to communicate news that matters, without treating it too fleetingly.

“Even if the news is two weeks old, if we think this is important, we’re going to rap about it.” Apart from their involvement in the Y’en a Marre, Journal Rappé are probably best known internationally for rapping about President Obama’s visit to Senegal.

World Press Freedom day is a date to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom. It's also a date to ssess the state of press freedom worldwide.

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