Practice Spotlight: Interview with Youth Activist, Journal Rappé, Senegal

Cheikh ‘Keyti’ Sene, one half of the rap duo Journal Rappé

As part of our recent work in Senegal, Young Cities conducted an interview with Keyti, a civil activist in Senegal and one of the co-founders of Journal Rappé, an online programme where artists relay important and often complex political information to youth through music and rap.

Intended as a bridge between youth and politics, Journal Rappé’s unorthodox approach to news is actively encouraging youth to engage in politics, to critique decisions in which they have little say, and to get creative about how they can reshape democracy.

Read Young Cities’ interview with Keyti below:

“When we talk about human rights, we talk about freedom of speech, freedom of opinion. But what people tend to forget is that it’s a human right, a basic human right, to get information – and the right information. So we felt this is the best way we can contribute to our democracy”.

Meet Keyti, one of the pioneers among the first generation of rap-artists in Senegal. His hardcore hip-hop group, Rap’Adio – founded over 20 years ago – was the first of its kind to discuss real political and social issues that affected the everyday lives of people in his country.

In 2013 he co-founded Journal Rappé, an online programme where its artists rap the news of the week. It was created to make politics, and law-making – both of which operate in French, even though much of the population do not speak the language – more accessible to young people through a medium that resonated with them.

“We use Journal Rappé whenever a new law is voted, whenever the government is taking a new decision, to explain in a very basic way what it means for everybody – how it’s going to impact us as a people. We got out of the studios, and down off the stage, and started really doing proper work with our main audience – which is young people.”

YC: Why do you think music is such a powerful tool for driving social and political change?

Keyti: “Music is such a powerful tool for driving change because it is based on, and calls upon, people’s emotions. But when young people want change, they want political, more than social or cultural change. I don’t separate those things – for me it’s a whole: each one influences the other. When we’re politically progressive, but culturally conservative, then there’s something wrong. The change that has to happen – that’s going to happen – is necessary in every part of our society.”

“When we talk about human rights, we talk about freedom of speech, freedom of opinion. But what people tend to forget is that it’s a human right, a basic human right, to get information – and the right information. So we felt this is the best way we can contribute to our democracy”.Cheikh ‘Keyti’ Sene

YC: So what advice would you have for, not just new young rappers, but young people in general, who want to drive social and political change – who might be frustrated and want to make a change?

Keyti: “And that would be my advice: for young people to be more critical of everything, not only of government. Don’t stick to politics only, see the big picture!”

We want to thank Keyti for taking the time to speak to us about his work. He works with many young activists in Senegal and helped support the implementation of our Youth Innovation Lab in Dakar. The experiences he has shared have inspired us all to keep trying to make a positive impact to the societies and communities in which we work.

About Young Cities: Young Cities is SCN’s flagship youth engagement, capacity-building, advocacy and policy programme that supports the development of local youth-led and co-created approaches to issues such as hate, polarisation and extremism, in coordination with local government stakeholders and decision makers. Together with ISD’s Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN), Young Cities has conducted activities in Lebanon, Kenya and Senegal, with future activities planned in the Western Balkans. Follow the YouthCAN Facebook page and Instagram for regular updates on their work.

View more Journal Rappe videos on their YouTube page here.

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