Songs of Conscience and Sexual Politics in Guinea — Nomi Dave

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When a popular Guinean rap artist was arrested for sexual assault, his crime stood in glaring contrast to a recording by his former bandmates that had recently been commissioned by the UN to decry gender-based violence. This unfortunate coincidence is the prompt for Nomi Dave to explore the gender politics of Guinean music production. The hip-hop aesthetic, for all its revolutionary promise for a global underclass, remains predominantly produced by and for male youth. By appropriating hip-hop as well as a number of other male-dominated musical genres, NGOs attempting to mitigate gender-based violence step into an environment in which gender politics are highly charged yet largely unexpressed. Both artists and audiences remain ambivalent to the messages promoted by NGOs, giving lip service to the problem without taking action to address it. Despite the wide diffusion of such songs within the presumed aesthetic of target audiences, the uptake of their messages is hobbled by the masculinity and cynicism promoted by hip-hop style. More successful have been women-led projects promoting conversation across rallies and talk radio. Despite the promises of music’s limitless diffusion, the Guinean anthem’s shortcomings suggest the limits of unidirectional broadcast, especially in comparison with interactive projects rooted in dialogue.

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