The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
Xuman is the co-founder of weekly news segment Journal Rappé. Journal Rappé is a short TV segment that broadcasts news through hip hop and rap in English and Wolof. Humourous and sharp, Journal Rappé was created to engage young Africans with serious topics such as politics, climate change and corruption. The show has had millions of views. Xuman is one of Senegal’s most well-known rappers in the hip-hop scene of Dakar alongside his colleagues Keyti and Ceptik.
When did you come up with the idea that rapping the news for youth audiences might be a winning formula?
We had noticed that many young Senegalese are into watching hip-hop videos, but they had absolutely no interest in watching the newscast. They were uninformed on local, global and current events, so we decided to give them news in an entertaining hip-hop format, called Journal Rappé.
My business partners Keyti, Ceptik and I have been in the hip-hop scene as activists, for about 20 years, so we know what people on that scene are looking for and what they are interested in. We had been supporters and allies of the Y’en a Marre collective, whose mission started in 2011 to protest weak leadership in Senegal and get young people voting.
The Journal Rappé format has now been copied in Uganda, Jamaica, Vietnam and other countries.
But when we came up with our idea, we made it very clear, really early on, that we were neither supporters nor opponents of the regime. We want to provide different kinds of information on a new web platform. The only way to do that in an unbiased way was to incorporate music. Music that educates, not just party music. The Journal Rappé format has now been copied in Uganda, Jamaica, Vietnam and other countries as well.
How have you managed to remain unbiased, in such a polarised political environment?
We received a $100,000 grant from George Soros’ Open Society Initiative for West Africa, which allowed us to buy equipment and train our small team of technicians. After we started gaining traction in Senegal, we exported the Journal Rappé format to Côte d’Ivoire. Now, we are looking at other West African countries such as Niger and Nigeria. But the objective remains the same: to make the news accessible to young Africans. In that sense, we are a democratic movement.
Debates that come out of the Journal Rappé are now part of the national conversation because we have remained unbiased.
We’re successful because we have a lot of credibility. The day our viewers start perceiving that we are being manipulated by the authorities or the opposition parties, is the day that we’ll lose our reason for being. We fought for two decades for our own kind of freedom of speech and because we’re free we can criticise the government and the opposition. The debates that come out of the Journal Rappé are now part of the national conversation, precisely because we have remained unbiased.
Senegalese people love politics and the political clips are the most popular ones on our platform. But Senegalese people also love culture, so we criticise artists as well, by expressing our unbiased point of view. We recently launched Débat Rappé, a series of debates featuring a range of experts set to hip hop and rhyme. One of our most popular debates was around the International Monetary Fund rankings that placed Senegal as the 25th poorest country in the world. We look at the credibility of those rankings, in an effort to understand why Senegal is a so-called ‘poor’ country. We have featured debates about the Senegalese army and whether the Senegalese agree with sending troops abroad.
Right now, we are preparing a big debate around a few key environmental issues, ahead of next month’s COP21 events in Paris.
We have looked at the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit and tried to explain why Obama and the Americans seem to care so much about Senegal and Africa in general. Do they really care? That is the debate. We’ve run parodies, spoken about Karim Wade (the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade) and whether he should stay in prison because of the corruption charges against him. Right now, we are preparing a big debate around a few key environmental issues, ahead of next month’s COP21 events in Paris, that are being held as part of the big United Nations Conference on climate change.
Who is your African of the year?
Even though their invention came out a couple of years ago, I still want to nominate Moctar Dembele and Gérard Niyondiko, the two students from Burkina Faso who created Fasoap, an African soap that was designed to help tackle malaria, which is one of the biggest killers of Africans.
Follow Xuman on Twitter @gunmanxuman
Follow Journal Rappé on Twitter @jtronline
Check out Journal Rappé’s videos on YouTube here.
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica