Niger has something that none of the neighbouring countries has: an active network of youth clubs with viable equipment in each one,’ declares Alassane Dante. And hip-hop has come along and made the most of it.
Nigerien rap has followed in the footsteps of Tod One, a pioneering group formed by young Nigeriens living in exile in Belgium. Tod One played at the very first rap concert given in Niamey at the CCFN in 1996. There were two other groups there, too – Massacreur and Wassika. Wassika was the first group to write its lyrics in the national languages, Hausa and Djerma. In 1999, it merged with another group, Wongary, to form WassWong.
A number of competitions broadcast on the radio and television boosted rap’s popularity over the next few years, and Radio Ténéré’s support for the group Lakal Kaney helped spread the hip-hop craze to the country’s remotest regions.
In 2001, Niamey had about a hundred rap groups; two years later, the newspaper Le Sahel counted 250 groups in five of Niger’s seven départements. In 2001, four groups, Black Daps, Djoro G, WassWong and Kaïdan Gaskia, all of whom had already cut an album, got together to form a collective, Lilwal. Kaïdan Gaskia took part in the benefit concert Music Against Hunger organized by Niger’s first ady, Madame Laraba Tandja, a month after the Live 8 concert in 2005.
Co-organized by Initiative Jeune, Unicef and the CCFN, the “Scène ouverte rap” competition was held in 2004. The prize for the three winners, Sah Fonda (from Tillabery), MTS Matassa (from Zinder) and Metaphore Crew (from Niamey), was a tour of some of the country’s youth clubs. Comprising around ten concerts and a circuit of about 3000km, it took them as far as the town of Arlit, in the middle of the desert.