Sarabah – Tales from the Flipside of Paradise
Hiphop fans make a virtue of telling it how it is. Well, there’s no-one out there who tells it better than Sister Fa. This Dakar rapper, now based in Berlin, has plenty to say, much of it about unpleasant subjects. Not that this stops her. As a campaigner and a rapper, the woman is indefatigable.
Vibrating with a mix of live kora and a well-checked amalgam of studio-produced beats and samples, Sarabah is a clean-cut album. Fa’s rap – in French, Manding, Jola and Wolof (translations provided) – is a smooth affair. A few R ’n’ B elisions permeate tracks such as ‘Selebou Yoon’ (‘Crossroads’), a song which recently appeared on Many Lessons, a compilation album that merges rap, Islam and West Africa. There are marvellous tracks here – the brilliant ‘Milyamba’ with its cascades of kora strings; the sassy ‘Amy Jotna’ (‘Amy, it’s time’). But the real heft comes in Fa’s message. As Sarabah’s subtitle suggests, there is serious stuff here. For Fa, rap has a social responsibility – and she has bravely spoken out against female genital mutilation (citing her own experience), oppressive customs and a cultural conservatism that prevents wider change. This is brave work and, more to the point, it rocks.