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The Power of Music

The Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performs.
The Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performs. | Photo (detail): © Alhagie Manka

“AfriCourage” is the first music festival from sub-Saharan Africa to be broadcast live by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). In December 2019, artists including Baaba Maal, Smockey and the Ensemble Modern joined Gambian stars on stage at the event in Banjul co-organised by the Goethe-Institut.

By Petra Kilian

“Let us join forces and give the young generation of Africa the support they need. Because they are the future!” calls Baaba Maal from the Gambia’s largest stage at Independence Stadium Bakau. Together with the Burkinabe rapper and activist Smockey, Gambian stars like Rapper Killa Ace, kora virtuoso Tatadindin Jobarteh and Afro manding star Sambou Suso, the Finnish Sami duo Wimme & Rinne and the Ensemble Modern from Germany, the Senegalese singer celebrated the power of music at the “AfriCourage” festival for almost eight hours on 28 December. One of the female artists performing on stage. One of the female artists performing on stage. | Photo (detail): © Alhagie Manka

Moving out of the comfort zone

“We want to demonstrate the power culture can have when it comes to strengthening civil society, freedom of expression and democracy,” explains Philip Küppers, director of the Goethe-Institut Senegal, which organised the festival together with its Gambian partner Black Lynx Entertainment.

“AfriCourage” is on the programme for the second day of the OpenMicFest, a Gambian music event that has been organised by Black Lynx Entertainment for over ten years. What started as a street action is today the best-known hip-hop festival in the country and an important space for civil society actors. “We want change and international cooperation. The only question is whether we’re ready for it,” says Badman Waagan, co-founder of Black Lynx Entertainment. “We have to move out of our comfort zone. ‘AfriCourage’ offers the opportunity to prove that change is there and that we welcome and shape it.” The OpenMicFest brings together around 15,000 people annually. The OpenMicFest brings together around 15,000 people annually. | Photo (detail): © Alhagie Manka

Rap and restitution

“AfriCourage”’s message of promoting cooperation, engagement, participation, tolerance and democracy is made audible by the „Liberation Orchestra of Inverted Traditions“ What is more appropriate than an orchestra made up of European and West African artists – including a Gambian hip-hop activist and a Senegalese academic? Known for his role in the restitution debate and his book Afrotopia, at “AfriCourage”, Felwine Sarr works for collaboration and participation as a singer and guitarist.

“Direct dialogue between people from different cultures is incredibly important,” says Philip Küppers, who heads the Goethe-Institut Senegal. “With the ‘AfriCourage’ Festival in Gambia, we therefore want to establish a model for local and international collaboration in the creative industries.” Felwine Sarr took part in the festival as well. Felwine Sarr took part in the festival as well. | Photo (detail): © Alhagie Manka

Europe-wide livestream

In addition to Black Lynx Entertainment, the Goethe-Institut works locally with the United Nations Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). Together, they organised Workshops for Gambian journalists, bloggers, activists and sound engineers who report on the festival and the Gambian music scene.

Thanks to the partnership with Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), “AfriCourage” can be experienced internationally: radio stations broadcasted the stage programme live across Europe. In the coming weeks, TV and radio stations will show further concert recordings and documentaries.

“We’ve provided the proof,” says Johannes Theurer from rbb. “With good partners and modern technology, we can internationally implement high-quality productions with manageable effort and thus offer our listeners access to cultural scenes in a way that was previously not possible in such a direct way.” A look behind the scenes at the festival. A look behind the scenes at the festival. | Photo (detail): © Alhagie Manka