Friday, April 6, 2012

Africa at the 7th International Hip Hop Festival

‘Africa Represents at 7th International Hip Hop Festival’

The Black Noise Tendency

From March 29th-31st, artists, activists, educators, students and academics converged on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (USA) for the International Hip Hop Festival. Tucked neatly between New York City and Boston in northeastern America, the city of Hartford has been the meeting ground for global hip-hop for seven years where participants are introduced to hip-hop movements from across the globe through films, lectures, workshops, discussion panels, b-boy/b-girl & DJ battles, and musical performances.

Since its inception in 2006, the hip-hop festival has witnessed its fair share of African representation. Last year, in 2010, South Africa’s Jean Grae headlined the show while hip-hop organizer Buddha Blaze, aerosol artist Mejah Mbuya, and artist Amakoulel came to Hartford reppin’ Kenya, Tanzania and Mali respectively. This year was no different with artists hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Rwanda and Mozambique. Bongo’s own Zavara Mponjika aka Rhymson of the legendary hip-hop crew Kwanza Unit was a delegate to the festival. Rhymson was part of the first day’s “Hip-Hop Lecture Series” where he addressed the history of hip-hop in Tanzania and aesthetics of Kiswahili lyricism while other guest lecturers discussed hip-hop’s relationship to the revolutions in Arab World; to human rights; and to racism in Australia.

Zavara also delivered a second lecture for the course, “African History, 1850 to the present” taught by Seth Markle, an Assistant Professor of History & International Studies at Trinity College. Students came to the class already having read two important policy documents penned by Tanzania’s first president Mwalimu Nyerere: “What is African Socialism?” and “Education For Self-Reliance”. Students were also required to read an essay by historian Susan Geiger on the role of African women in the Tanganyika African National Union (T.A.N.U) during the 1950s. Armed with some basic knowledge of the struggle for national independence of the mind, body and soul not only in terms of political and economic freedom, students embraced Zavara’s discussion on the importance of Kiswahili to Tanzanian national identity from the period of Ujamaa na Kujitegemea to the current era of Kiswahili Hip Hop as he played classic songs from old school singers Salimu Abdallah and Remy Ongala and hip-hop artists such as Kwanza Unit and current Kiswahili lyricist Zaiid.

Overall it was another amazingly informative and transformative weekend of sharing, building and celebrating this thing called Global Hip-Hop.

*Photo: Apkass (spoken word artist from DRC/France) and Zavara taken at the Skate Park/Free Graffiti Art Zone in downtown Hartford, CT.

**Text: Seth Markle, Assistant Professor - History and International Studies, Trinity College


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