06 August 2009

Sister Fa Takes on the Old-Boy Rap World

Sister Fa: Sarabah-Tales from the Flipside of Paradise (Piranha)

As you in-the-know world music fans know, hip-hop is huge in much of Africa, and particularly in Senegal. You've probably also noticed that it's pretty exclusively a male affair. Think Daara J, K'naan, Positive Black SOul, MC Solaar, Gokh-Bi System, and the like. Could this album be the harbinger of change?
Sister Fa -  Sarabah-Tales from the Flipside of Paradise - on SoundRoots.org
Sarabah has plenty of male voices, but heading it all up is the powerful voice of Sister Fa. Now based in Germany, the rapper (born Fatou Mandiang Diatta) says uses her musical soapbox to talk about the conditions for women in her Senegalese homeland. "[T]hey work a lot and they suffer, just to give something to their children to eat. But no one was really interested in talking about these things. For me, hip-hop was the music I could use to complain and bring out all of this energy I had inside and to talk about all of these injustices so people can be aware of what's happening in this country. It was only hip-hop that I could use to educate and talk about all of these problems." (quote from article in The Independent)

I'm drawn to this album for its musical variety, its use of acoustic instruments, and the catchy melodies that intertwine with rapid-fire rapping. The best tracks include the kora-laced opener "Milyamba" and the acoustic-guitar-led "Amy Jotna." Other tracks on the album are less memorable, particularly for those of us who don't speak the language. While Sarabah is groundbreaking in some very positive ways, I suspect Sister Fa's best is still to come.

More Sister Fa:
buy CD
label website (with streaming songs)

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