I anledning Oslo World Music Festival: Mitt intervju med Papa Moussa Lô, alias Waterflow i den senegalesiske hiphopgruppa Wagëblë, om båndene mellom amerikansk bling og gangstarap og afrikansk ungdomskultur.
ØH: What do you personally feel about bling and jewellery? Do you use it, why do you use it and what kind of message do you want it to send?
PML: Me personally I don’t like blingand I don’t like jewellery either. I have one necklace, but it’s representing something else thanit shows off, because it’s our tradition here in Senegal to have a necklace as a talisman to protect yourself from negative vibes. But there‘s no means about showing power or money or this kind of new American hip-hop style. For us it’s more spiritual.
ØH: What kind of impact does the American bling culture have in Dakar, Senegal and Western Africa in general? Who are the biggest heroes and idols?
PML: Unfortunately the American bling culture start to have a big impact here in West Africa and in Senegal because of the media. And it’s killing our hip-hop ,because youths start to think that it is the real hip-hop, and it’s far different from our realities. We are poor countries, and we don’t have any money, gold or diamonds to show off- African hip-hop artist are supposed to represent the society, all these families starving because they don’t have any food to eat, no clean water to drink and all these children living in the streets and also dying form illness.
ØH: Is it important for African artists to show off their success, and is jewellery the easiest (and maybe cheapest) way of doing this? The Puerto Rican artist Tego Calderón has said that he doesn’t like to use bling, but that his friends and neighbours expected it of him when he became successful.ØH:
PML: I can’t talk for all African artists but for Wagëblë it’s not important to show success, because it’s not our goal. We are from the poorest ghetto in Senegal, and we didn’t choose to be artists. It’s the art which choose us, we are the voice of the voiceless. When we started it was lot of problems in the hood, and we were the only ones who had opportunities to talk loud to the politicians, and represent the people in our societies. It’s from that mission the we had success, so we won’t and can’t get out of this community, even when we’ve had possibilities to tour all around the world, to be able to spread the word and show what’s really happening in Africa. And I think that if you really have success, you don’t need to show it with bling. It shows itself.
ØH: What is the result of the change in the signals American hip-hop artists send to Africa? I’m thinking of the contrast between the African medallions and colours of artists like Public Enemy and the Jungle Brothers to today’s diamonds and gold, mostly from Africa?
PML: The results is that all these poor new African talent are now blind, by seeing this fake power that new American hip-hop have brought. And they start to go far from their realities and their mission, and it’s sad. But it’s not very big now, so we have a chance to do something about it and keep the African hip-hop real, because I really believe that African «rap afro» is the future of hip-hop.
All these diamonds and gold they wear is stolen from The motherland, Africa, and what they don’t know is that the more they want it, and the more they wear it, the more they kill African people, because for me, it’s like wearing the skulls of the dead African people who are working in these mines.
Every single diamond is a dead slave!
ØH: What do you feel the American artists should be doing for improving the situation in the African jewellery industry? Is it best that they stop using bling-bling, or should they be more aware of where they’re buying it from?
PML: The thing is that most of the American artist don’t know where Africa is in the world or they don’t really care about Africans. They don’t care about where the «blood diamonds” they are wearing come from.
They should stop that wearing them, at least for the respect of the land they are from, because this small thing they call “bling” is the source of most of the biggest wars in Sierra Leona, southern Africa and the whole of Africa, because the more they want it, the more people are going to kill to get it for them.