News has certainly come a long way. Where before it was a cut and dried affair that most people only bore so that they would know the going-ons in their vicinity or the world at large, many innovations have since made receiving news more attractive. Journal Rappe will certainly go down as one of those innovative ways.
Smartphones and the concept of citizen journalism and increased internet penetration are just a few of the innovations being referred to. It is now possible for almost anyone and everyone to; go where the news is, document it as it is happening and report it to an ever-hungry audience.
Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have worked to bring about an informality in news and information delivery that has resulted in a wider range of people being enabled to enter the media space.
Before the proliferation of such social and informational platforms, no one would have ever been able to imagine a rapper in the role of a newscaster. It is, however, possible now and that is what Journal Rappe is all about. Anyone who has ever watched the program would be able to identify with how truly innocuous it looks at first.
A person is seated behind a news desk, dressed in proper corporate attire, looking in all respects like an everyday newscast. Instead of a rambling narrative of the events of the day, however, the newscaster launches into an intro, rapping in French.
“Welcome! Make yourself comfortable. These are the news for you. Some good ones and bad ones too. But they’re all news for you.”
The show airs weekly on Dakar television channel 2STV, after the traditional Friday evening news and is about 10 to 12 minutes long. The set is simple but professional with a news ticker running across the bottom of the screen and images, videos, or interviews to accompany the week’s stories.
Senegalese rapper Makhtar “Xuman” is the regular newscaster who is joined by his co-host, Cheikh “Keyti” Sene, who raps in Wolof, one of Senegal’s primary local languages. The two had been friends for years before launching Journal Rappe on YouTube in 2013. They gained a loyal following within weeks and were soon averaging 45,000 weekly views.
They said that their goal was to make national and international politics resonate with young people. In their words;
“It’s about how we can use hip hop and rap to do something more, to learn something,”
Keyti and Xuman call themselves “journartists,” and consider what they produce to be “edutainment.” They take on a variety of topics, from politics and education to religion, the environment, and immigration. They have even touched on such hot-button topics as terrorism and radicalization and homosexuality.
Support from the Open Society Foundations has helped Journal Rappe to even go further than Senegal. Xuman and Keyti have worked with rappers in Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Uganda, Madagascar, and Jamaica to foster similar approaches to the news. there are plans in motion for the two to begin training rappers as “correspondents” in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
The impact of these journartists on Senegal’s media landscape has been impressive and it helps that Xuman and Keyti take their roles very seriously by regularly working with experienced journalists to verify information before writing and recording their lyrics.