Senegalese Musician Honors African Leaders

Didier Awadi's Web site (

When most African music icons are looking to the West for fame and glory, Senegalese rap musician Didier Awadi is concentrating his efforts on igniting Africa's visions and aspirations.

Under his recent African Presidents' project, Didier is recapturing African history through the lives of famous African leaders of yesteryear and the most important part of life regarding their country and the continent.

The rap artist and his working group, Positive Black Soul, are touring 13 African countries expounding on the idea of making songs from the illustrious speeches of African leaders, enabling an interactive dialogue with rap artists based on a question: Where are all these dreams today? To date, he has toured South Africa and Zimbabwe where he has had memorable and revealing shows.

"I am looking at the lives of leaders who meant much to Africa, leaders not in power at present, such as Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkurumah and many others," says the musician.

Awadi, 36, was born in the Senegalese capital of Dakar of a Beninese father and Senegalese mother, both primary school teachers. In the 1990's he formed the rap group Positive Black Soul to spearhead the hip-hop movement of Senegal.

It began in 1989 when two local rival giants of rap, Didier Awadi and Doug-e-tee (Amadou Barry) merged their groups. They have to their name several international releases and a number of world tours, which has earned them the status of ambassadors of West-African hip-hop.

The fervent support of Dakar's youth brought them to the attention of international stars, which pushed them on the road to global success. MC Solaar, a French rap star, invited them on his European tour in 1992 after they nearly stole his act during Solaar's first ever Dakar gig. An appearance on Baaba Maal's classic album "Firin' in Fouta" led to a contract with Island Records and the 1995 release of "Salaam." After that Dakar's largest concert venues, the Daniel Sorano National Theater and the French Cultural Center couldn't hold all the screaming teenagers who lined up for hours to attend the star-studded events. Albums include: "Boul Fale" (1994), "Boul Bes" (1995), "Salaam" (1996), "Daw Thiow" (1996), "Fo Deuk" (1997), "New York-Paris-Dakar" (1997), "Wakh Feign" (1998), "Revolution" (2000), and "Run Cool" (2001).

With their contribution to a compilation album, "Dakar '92: Mbalax, Jazz et Rap," sponsored by the French Cultural Center in 1992, Positive Black Soul's fame spread beyond the borders of Senegal.

Awadi went on to record a debut solo album, entitled "Parole d' honneur," which was released exclusively on the Senegalese market in 2001.

Awadi, who won Radio France International's 2003 World Music Award, has established himself as a veritable pioneer, pushing back borders and opening new paths for positive messages that have in recent years been pushed aside.

Awadi's lyrics return us to the realm of our childhood, the rebirth of an eternal Africa of solidarity and moderation in the face of an all too greedy West. He invokes some of Bob Marley's apocalyptic truths that proved inspirational and life changing to many people in Africa.

In the past, West African music helped shape the awareness of millions of African citizens, but its weakness was that it was confined within the limitations of the period, a point Awadi expounds upon and explores with much finesse. Awadi's decision to embrace serious topics and avoid stereotypes reflects well his priorities.

"These African leaders were incredibly formidable people who survived things in history that killed others … People made sacrifices for me to be who I am today and I can't live my life not in their presence. Without them things would be different for me. That's what our music is about," says Awadi.

Awadi's music is a little challenging and has a little texture and structure to it. And it is accessible. Awadi — and Positive Black Soul — is a critical and commercial success in an era when most rap artists are quickly becoming pastimes. Positive Black Soul takes an intelligent, articulate approach, reflecting more of the poetics of influential black leaders.

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