Arts and Culture / Central Africa / Music and Pop Culture

Baloji, Congolese Rap, and the Echoes of Independence

Recently, I was introduced to the rap/rumba artist, Baloji. For those of you unfamiliar with Baloji, here is one of his most famous songs: Le Jour d’Après/Siku Ya Baadaye (Indépendance Cha-Cha). In this song, he borrows from the classic 1960 hit “Independence Cha Cha,” written to commemorate Congo’s independence.

In contrast to the celebratory original produced during the heady years of decolonization, Baloji’s version is edgy and critical of his nation’s progress:

“j’ai repris cette chanson fédératrice
symbole de la crédulité de nos prémices
entre indépendance et armistice
mais pour que nos démocraties progressent
faut qu’elle apprennent de leurs erreurs de jeunesse
mon pays est un continent émergent
bâti en moins de 50 ans”

Baloji’s work is indicative of a broader trend among African artists and intellectuals, who are reflecting critically upon the promises and hopes of independence as they rethink what citizenship means in the twenty-first century.

Here is the original “Independence Cha Cha,” first recorded in 1960 by ‘Le Grand Kalle’ Joseph Kabasele and the group African Jazz:

Keren Weitzberg is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. She is working on a book manuscript that focuses on questions of transnationalism amongst Somalis in Kenya.

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