In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, street rappers fight President Joseph Kabila’s government with music.
by Ingrid Gercama & Nathalie Bertrams
Members of the hip-hop collective Shusha Ma Flow practise their dance moves during a break at a recording studio in Goma.
The rappers sing about their daily struggles: “We beg to survive, and go to sleep hungry.” They are often victims of police brutality.
Ivoire Papati Dance, 19, stands at “Miami Beach” on the shores of Lake Kivu. “We are here because of our life condition. Some of us have parents, and others don’t,” Dance says. He is an orphan himself. “The army and police hunt for us to put us into prison,” he adds. “We all have been there.”
A group of street children talks on Goma’s Kanyamuhanga Boulevard. The main road is lined with colourful bars with bright flashing neon lights and booming music.
“Now we can help each other, we are stronger together. Making music has taught us that being a street boy does not have to mean that you have no future,” said Ivoire Papati Dance and his friends.
Asili Power, 16, records a song. Music has made the young hip-hoppers more confident and resilient
The members of Shusha Ma Flow encourage younger street children to believe in themselves. Their songs are about their life on the streets and time in jail, politics, colonialism and empowerment.
Shusha Ma Flow practises every Tuesday and Thursday in the Yole Africa cultural centre. The centre provides a platform for artists, and promotes cultural arts in Goma.
Most of the teenagers peddle marijuana for dealers. But making music has kept them off stronger substances like glue, fuel and exhaust fumes that many street kids are addicted to.
The worst fear of the group is being forcefully recruited and kidnapped by one of the many rebel groups in the country.
Baba, 20, has been living on the streets for four years now. He shares his makeshift hut on the waterfront with a few older men. He practises his songs at night, in front of the tent. He believes that life would be better if the UN troops could finally bring peace to the area.
“The world does not have borders, so then these are your children too,” said Wanny S-King. He believes in the strength of the young rappers. “Shusha Ma Flow are a positive example for others. Their influence will stop violence and criminality on the streets,” he says.
Members of Shusha Ma Flow stand on a rock that Ivoire Papati Dance has painted in the shape of Africa.
The group puts the final touches on their first official album called “Maisha Mu Barabara” (which means Street Life in Swahili). A professional producer helps the teenagers mix their recording.
Enoke-B, 24, lives on the shores of Lake Kivu, surrounded by large misty mountains on the border with Rwanda.
Goma, DRC – A young voice sings, “What’s up in Congo Kabila? Why so much crime, violence, corruption and killings?”
The lyrics are from the latest album
by Shusha Ma Flow, a hip-hop collective made up of teenagers living on
the streets of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in the east of
the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“Here in Goma life is dangerous. We live in a war zone,” says 16-year-old Asili Power (nicknamed “Black Magic Power”).
Hundreds of children live on the streets here. Most have fled the
armed conflict between the government and more than 120 armed groups in
the area. Despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers in the region, the conflicts rage on.
Elections were scheduled for December 23 but were postponed by a
week. Officials cited a fire that destroyed voting machines, but
opposition groups accused authorities of trying to keep President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after ruling the country for nearly 18 years, in power.
Goma’s street children find shelter in the city’s many slums, which
have been dubbed “al-Qaeda” or “FBI”. Here they face many dangers,
including drug abuse, forced recruitment into armed groups and rape.
The young rappers of Shusha Ma Flow want to change the status quo.
“People in Congo are suffering, but Africa is able,” says 19-year-old Ivoire Papati Dance.
Music activist Wanny S-King works with PASO, a social change association based in Marseille, to teach Goma’s street teenagers to channel their anger and fear into art.
“The state puts them in prison, instead of caring for these kids,” Wanny says.
Wanny knows the streets. After his political protest song Wale Wale
began to hit the bars of the city, Kabila’s administration began to
actively hunt him.
Wanny is sceptical about the presidential elections: “You might replace the president, but the corrupt system does not change.”
Yet, the rappers of Shusha Ma Flow believe in the power of their
beats: “Hip-hop transports me into paradise, rap slams the sound of all