Chuck D famously called hip hop the “CNN of the ghetto.” The Public Enemy leader probably never imagined rap would become the CNN of East Africa.
The rap crew Waayah Cusub was founded in Nairobi, Kenya by Somali refugees. Frustrated by the violence that forced them from their homeland, the 11-member group has boldly taken on al-Shabaab – the militant Islamist group controls large swaths of Somalia and was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government. Influenced by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, the group includes members from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Waayah Cusub is a Somali phrase meaning “the new dawn.” The group’s outright criticism of al-Shabaab is an attempt to sway Somalia’s youth away from violence and oppression. They spread their message through live tours and several dozen homemade music videos on You Tube.
Al-Shabaab has taken notice. One of the founding members was shot – not fatally – at his home in Nairobi, and a female member is currently in hiding after being attacked.
Check out the Netherlands-based radio program Bridges with Africa to hear interviews with Waayaha Cusub. You can also hear an excerpt from the Ugandan dance hit “The Condom Song,” which advocates prophylactic use to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.