Audiences love Senegalese rapper and producer Fou Malade for his humor, irreverence and total theatrical sensibility. His name literally means "crazy sick." It was also the title of his first hit song. He says:
I took the name after people would shout 'Fou Malade tell us the truth' at me. The persona of the madman is one who is the inversion of societal norms. This is also true for hip hop. As an artist I stand for the opposite values that are acceptable. I force people to question what they think and see...For this artist, music is not simply a matter of lyrical dexterity but includes a total performance...Being an artist...a hip hop artist in Senegal, you must use everything, your persona, your lyrics, your flow, your style, the body to create an idea and get people to question things. The madman has always done this...In this part of Africa it is like the Griot, stories and music are part of how we question power.
Fou Malade has been one of the leading voices in the Y'en a Marre movement ("We are fed up") which in recent months has called on youth to use their voices by obtaining their voting cards. "We are against violence. Political change must come through people's voices and we want everyone to vote. We are against corruption and against the president retaining power" he explains. Fou Malade has also worked extensively teaching hip hop to prisoners and using it to fight for prison reform. He uses it as a medium to help prisoners gain confidence and see themselves as having something to contribute to society. "We use the music as a platform to fight against long prison sentences and unjust conditions in prisons." Some of the prisoners who learned hip hop while in prison have subsequently made a successful career as musicians. "We help people to find new lives through the music." Passionate energetic and mischievous Fou Malade is more than a rapper or producer or social activist, he stands as a critical humorous voice in the midst of social conformity.
(Image, Fou Malade, in the red shirt, outside a studio)