On November 28, 2011, Congolese voters go to the polls to vote for the country’s next president and legislative representatives in the Congolese National Assembly. Roughly the size of Western Europe, Congo is Africa’s largest country and lush with natural resources. Congo is also home to one of the largest and deadliest conflicts on the African continent with over 5 million deaths since 2001. In spite of this history, the country is perhaps most famous for its world-renowed music and arts scene. While Rumba and Ndombolo remain the most popular music styles in Congo, a small, yet powerful hip-hop community has been growing over the past decade.
Meet Alesh Chirwisa, a Kisangani native who raps in French, Swahili and Lingala. His music is a far cry from the bling and boasting that is all too common in Congolese rumba, ndombolo, and main stream American hip-hop. In contrast with these styles, Alesh’s music is highly political and constantly sparking debate amongst fellow Congolese.
Out of the chaos and instability comes the latest single from Alesh entitled ‘Reveil,’ or ‘the Awakening’. The song presents a vivid and complex picture of the Congo at this critical juncture in the country’s history. A combination of frustration and hope, Alesh’s poignant lyrics reflect how, in many ways, both Congolese leaders and citizens have failed their country. In a country with strict censorship, it is rare to hear such an honest, introspective, and brave account of the Congolese struggle. Nomadic Wax, a US based independent fairtrade media production company has been working with African and global hip-hop political movements for a decade, were delighted to have the opportunity to produce a music video for the song.
Despite the seriousness of the political situation in the DRC, few people outside of the country have a grasp on the issues faced by the Congolese today. “Congolese, as well as the rest of the world, needs to see what is happening here and why,” says Chirwisa. “I believe that music has thepotential to create change and open peoples minds. This is exactly what the goal is with this video: to wake up the world.”