Fatou Kandé Senghor, the author of Wala Bok: Une histoire orale du hip hop au Sénégal (2015), has always had strong African role models in her life. One of the most prominent figures was the late Senegalese writer and cinematographer Ousmane Sembène, strongly considered as the ‘father of African cinema’ and one of the most prominent pan-African artists in the world. In an interview with EnQuête+, Kandé Senghor reveals the depth of Sembène’s influence on not only her writing, but also the, ideology that prompted her to write the book.
Ever since she studied film in France, she had expressed an intense desire to meet and work with Sembène. However, working with him was an intense experience. « Quand tu bosses pour lui, il va jusqu’à la lie, à fond. Tu vas finir sur les genoux. Il me mettait face à ma société » (when you work with him, you will not only go deep but may end up on your knees… [Sembene] made her look at her society critically). A crucial piece of advice he gave was to find and understand the social order and social engagement: «Il m’a dit: dans ton travail, il faut toujours chercher l’ordre social. Il faut comprendre l’engagement social». Her creativity is then borne from an understanding of the culture. This understanding is beautifully transformed into the lyricism of hip-hop. Two worlds of orality, the old and the new, meet in Dakar.
Wala Bok, launched in July 2015 in Paris, is an anthology of stories and interviews with various musicians and producers on the bustling Senegalese hip-hop scene of the past three decades. It offers an eye-opening look into the ideas and processes behind the evolution of this youthful, purely African sub-genre. The term ‘Wala Bok’ is a Wolof colloquialism born from this music scene. It has no literal translation; however, it is very versatile and can be used in almost any situation (even as a greeting). In this context, it is quite similar to the American colloquialism ‘Word’ which is used as an interjection to show appreciation, agreement, or inquiry. An appropriate phrase that encapsulates the vibrant richness of the Senegalese hip-hop culture.
Fatou Kandé Senghor is the founder of Waru Studio, a platform for artistic research, expression, and experimentation in Dakar, Senegal.
The full interview can be found here