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Dissident Rap from Burkina Faso’s Smockey

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Since Public Enemy’s Chuck D famously said that “rap is black America’s CNN,” the respective fates of rap and CNN could not have diverged more starkly. In 2015, rap music is arguably the most popular pop music form on Earth, and it’s too international, too widespread to still only be CNN to one country. CNN, on the other hand, doesn’t seem useful to anyone anymore, other than as a means to make waiting in an airport worse.

And so today, while we await the latest news from Burkina Faso where, according to the New York Times, military officers have toppled the transitional government roughly a month before elections, we once again turn to rap music for a report from the ground.

Smockey is a Burkinabe rapper who was waiting until his county’s election day, Oct. 11, to release his new album, Pre’volution le President, Ma Moto et Moi. It has the sound of a concept album wherein Smockey takes the former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, on a ride around the capital city of Ouagadougou. He shows Compaore the problems that have plagued the poor country’s capital—pockets of poverty, crumbling schools, rolling power outages—in the 27 years that he was acting as the head of state, first by a 1987 coup, then by election.

Smockey is an activist in the youth-oriented Balail Citoyen—the Citizen’s Broom—the group that 11 months ago led demonstrations against Compaore, which eventually led to Compaore’s ouster from office and flight to Côte d’Ivoire in October 2014.

According to Bloomberg, Balail Citoyen is calling for protest against the coup that seized power this week, adding a local grassroots voice to condemnations from the United States, France and the African Union.

The BBC has linked the coup to members of the presidential guard, who remain loyal to Compaore. State television is reporting that Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, a close ally and former chief of staff to the ousted president, has taken control of the country.

A city hospital has told the BBC that so far three people have been killed in protests in the capital, where streets have been barricaded. Tires are being burned, shops and businesses have closed, and the military has imposed a 7 p.m. curfew.

Smockey’s label released a single called “On Passe á l’Attaque” which “tells you how to wake up and kickstart a revolution.” Given that instead of preparing for elections in a few weeks the citizens are now protesting against a military coup, it’s a song that Burkina Faso may need again, sadly sooner than expected.

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