La Danza Poetica #17 The Voice Is The Drum

Hip hop from Australia to Latin America to Africa. From Sydney to Puerto Rico/New York City; via the Dominican Republic to Tunisia; crossing from Senegal to Ghana, Congo, Mozambique and Niger. Modern griots examining our nature, our politics and our loves through the rhythm and soul of rap. This is where poetry really dances!

The voice is the drum. The voice is rhythm, melody and story as one.


Ajak Kwai - Rieuke Piu (Water Song)
Jimblah - Save my Soul
Jimblah - Sing with You
Ee'da - Fade to White
Bocafloja - Obsolescencia Programada (feat. Alexandra Blakely)
Hache ST - Altas Montañas
ikol Santiago - Mili (Gas-Lab RMX) c/ Hector Mario (Flauta)
The Tongue - Bittersweet (Fame Remix) [feat. Ngaiire]
(the voice of Fela Kuti - from You No Go Die... Unless)
Anthony Joseph - Kezi
Badiaa Bouhrizi - Mana'a (Blundetto Remix)
M.anifest - Someway Bi (Radio Edit)
Crystal Tettey - Frustrations of 'Fine Girl' driver in crazy Accra
2ga feat. Sarkodie - Emere
Robot X Shuffle - Arrival
Mutombo da Poet - #SociallyYou
Shuffle Jack - One For Aniki
Didjak Munya - Nakozonga
Azagaia - Maçonaria (feat. Banda Likute & Guto)
Wagëblë - Salam
Zara Moussa - Et Si
Crystal Tettey - …and the rest of the world existed
Zara Moussa, Safia, & Abdou Salaam - Cultivons
Joey Le Soldat - Bas Nor
Anta Cheikh Band - Bia Titan
Melodiesinfonie - Africaspirit

Notes on the show

Ajak Kwai is a Sudanese singer, songwriter and storyteller based in Melbourne. Music is the vehicle for her stories of extraordinary life experiences as a refugee, exiled from her home town. Rieuke Piu (Watersongs) is her album from 2011. A new album, Of Cows, Woman & War is coming in March.

Released on Australia's great label Elefant Traks, South Australian rapper Jimblah's October 2013 album Phoenix is a powerful piece of work. From the Larrakia Nation in Australia's Top End Northern Territory, Jimblah is a powerfully poetic new voice in Australian Indigenous hip hop - and music in general. As a singer, and as a storyteller, he's achieved great things in the past few years and for good reason. A melodic, conscious, devestatingly truthful voice.

The beautiful Ee'da, singer, dancer, social worker, Indian-Australian. Her music encompasses RnB, dancehall, folk, hip hop, spoken word and reggae.. In the podcast, her arresting spoken word piece Fade To White about colour consciousness - here is the video:

Also on Elefant Traks, out of Sydney, hip hop artist and producer The Tongue. Bittersweet is taken from the release Victorious Remixes (Nov 2013). Featuring the voice of Ngaiire (I wrote about this beautiful singer's debut album Dirty Hercules here). The Tongue started out in the boy zone of MC battles - since then he has developed far beyond into an imaginative and melodic approach to hip hop and poetic, musical storytelling.

Bocafloja, Mexican poet, spoken word and hip hop artist based in New York City, released 'Side B' of the Patologías del Invisible Incómodo in December. This EP represents the 'closure' of this series of works from Bocafloja, featuring many collaborations with musicians and other poets. The 2012 album won best hip hop album in the '12 Indie-O Music Awards in Mexico. Obsolescencia Programada features the voice of Alexandra Blakely.

A collaborator in Bocafloja's Quilomboarte cultural and educational collective is Hache ST. Born in Santiago de los 30 Caballeros, located in the North Region (Cibao) of the Dominican Republic, Hache ST released his first solo hip hop work in 2009 (Efecto Cibaeño). Zafra is his third album, released in 2013, and I really recommend it. Here, he strongly reaffirms his intelligent, socially conscious poetic, addressing major issues in the Latin American socio-cultural community. As he says: "Hache ST depicts the untold story by the hegemonic civilizing speech of Latin America, using Hip Hop as a tool of politicization through clever rhymes and deep reviews that highlight issues such as racism, memory, the patriarchal system, education and miscegenation." I came across the great track Atlas Montañas from Hache ST through Gas-LaB's video. Featuring Me-Stair, made by Gas-LaB, with the visual concept by Bocafloja. The piece addresses the recent ruling made in the Dominican Republic to deny Dominicans of Haitian descent citizenry of the shared island of "Hispaniola". I do not know much of the history of this conflict, so through Hache ST's work, I am learning about this sad state of affairs. One in which not only identity, but also access to education, employment, housing and health care is being stripped from many people. One clear explanation of the situation is here. 

I wrote about Ikol Santiago's album Iguacas here in January. Soulful, conscious hip hop from Puerto Rico. In the podcast I feature my favourite track from the album, the emotional tribute to his mother.

More from Anthony Joseph's spoken word / funk album Time ... Kezi is a brilliant track, composer/producer Meshell Ndegeocello focusing the sound in rapso - a mixture of rap and calypso - reaching back to Anthony's Caribbean roots. More about the album here.

I stretched the hip hop focus a little bit this month to feature this amazing album from Berlin label Jakarta RecordsSawtuha. Nine female artists from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria sing their social, political messages against corruption, despotism, patronisation and narrow-mindedness. Created from a recording session in Tunisia and produced by Sudanese-American hip hop scholar Oddissee and Olof Dreijer of The Knife.

To Ghana, Africa, and poet-musician-rapper M.anifest. "Best Rapper of the Year" at 2013's Ghana Music Awards, M.anifest has collaborated with such great artists as Erykah Badu and Tony Allen. Studying in the USA for years he released his debut Manifestations in 2007 and, back in Ghana in 2011, his second Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to AmericaSomeway Bi is taken from the December EP Apae. A poetic force, a clear voice, humour and intelligence. Someway Bi literally translates from Pidgin English to English as “some kind of way” or “it’s twisted”. On this single, M.anifest points out contrasting occurrences around him, mostly awkward or illogical. For example; “Beggars can’t choose, but be picky instead"...

My thanks to Akwaaba for the discovery of the track Emere, from influential Ghana producer Appietus' EP Tip of the Iceberg. 2ga and twi lyrical wizard Sarkodie work with Appietus on a really addictive highlife track. Apparently this EP is a precursor to a full-length compilation coming up.  (btw, in the show I mistakenly cite "Emere" as the artist rather than Appietus ... distracted by the beats! Sorry about that...)

My good Facebook friend (hahah) Ghanian spoken word / hip hop artist Mutombo da Poet weighs in again with a fun track #Socially You. Not only fun but also, I think, some great social commentary that should give us all a good check-in about delving too deep into the world of the internet at the expense of our physical world!

Still in Ghana, a couple of short pieces from the compilation album Ode to Ghana released by Hobo Truffles, an online label founded by Robot Orchestra from Germany and Shuffle Jack. Aiming to pay tribute to highlife and afro-jazz music from Ghana the project is based entirely on samples from this region.

Two poems in this podcast from the Ghanaian-Malagasy spoken word artist, folk/soul singer Crystal Tettey, who I have featured previously. I believe that there is an album due from Crystal ... I will report as I find out!

To Kinshasa - Didjak Munya's first international release Oxygène is a great conscious and melodic hip hop album. "In a country where life is hard and music is joyful, Didjak is not afraid to deal with serious issues in his raps. Much like the musicality on the album, his lyrics show versatility, ranging from diasporan identity issues to how Congolese culture is shaken up by urban living in Kinshasa. Didjak is an important voice for the DR Congo today, a country with decades of history as the most influential music hot spot in the entire continent." Get it via Akwaaba.

Azagaia (which means light javelin or spear) is a mozambican hip hop artist, politically charged and at times controversial in his home country. Inspired as a teen by the protest poetry of José Craveirinha, a mozambican writer in the colonial period, Azagaia started writing and soon discovered hip hop. Cubaliwa was released late 2013 on Kongoloti Records. The title means "Rebirth". In this interesting archival interview on Freemuse Azagaia talks about self-censorship, real censorship and the state of play in Mozambique music - "People don’t have this culture of buying CDs. So the money that musicians make to live is from the shows, the concerts. And those who organise these shows are for instance mobile phone companies, and all those big companies that we have. They support the culture too. So, because they are connected to the Power, to the government, too, sometimes they just don’t invite certain artists. They only invite the artists who they think will not give problems to the system. So, basically there is this fear of not having bread for you and your family, so that is why people don’t talk much about social issues with a critical point of view.” His voice is reaching far beyond Mozambique - to Australia, no less. The global poetic groove is deep.

From Senegal, a soaring, kinetic piece of melodic poetic hip hop! I love this track from Wagëblë. The message, and the melody. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Wagëblë is an acronym for "Wax Aduna Gëddu Ëttu Baatin Lemu Ëlëk" - meaning a meeting place of the people, where everyone discusses issues that affect their daily lives. Eyewitness (Lamine Kanji) and Waterflow (Papa Moussa) were both born on the periphery of life in Dakar. They use their talents as poets, storytellers, artists, producers and social workers to 'give voice to the voiceless' and open up opportunity for young people in poor Senegalese neighbourhoods. The album Message of Hope is just that - hip hop with true, life-affirming consciousness. Watch Salaam (video by Meta Dia):

Anta Cheikh Band also from Senegal have a collection of sweet, environmentally conscious tracks, that I do hope one day soon will become a fully released and realised album! The band are currently looking for a producer. Meantime I love to hear the tracks as they share them with me. Check out their tracks here:

I've featured Niger's Zara Moussa here before - (Femme Objet is in La Danza Poetica 007). ZM took up the challenge of entering Niger's male-dominated rap scene as a woman, so that she could be heard and speak on behalf of those without a say. She is a real pioneer in women's hip hop in West Africa.  Her debut album Kirare was the first female solo rap album in that W.Africa. Also in the show, ZM collaborating with other top Niger artists for the Cultivons (Grow) campaign, a campaign to support food cultivation, animal raising, and agricultural justice in Niger, a country which suffers from food shortage and famine, leaving almost 30% of the population undernourished. Launched on March 15th, 2013 Cultivons was written by and features ZM, Safia and Abdou Salaam.

One half of Burkina Faso, West Africa rap crew Waga 3000, Joey le Soldat releases his second album Burkin Bâ on February 11. Produced by DJ Form for Tentacule Records, in collaboration with Akwaaba Music. Addressing difficult subjects this is hip hop with political fury. Joey is a true modern griot, music as reportage, intelligent and self-aware commentary. But he is also a deft wordsmith, able to shift from hard-edged rap to a softer melodic style. Always, fierce. Watch this video for the single D.M.D - turn on the closed captions for English/French translation:

PS, great news, Groovalizacion is back online from February 11, so LDP along with a growing family of global podcasts will be streaming again from this month! Check in at