If someone were to describe a song to us as a moving piece of music, we probably wouldn’t expect said song to be from a hip hop artist. But that’s how we’d describe Swahili Shakespeare with its minimal classical music backing. The track is by Kenyan rapper Kaka Sungura, better known as his stage name, Rabbit, and it’s from his sophomore album Orutu Ya Masudi: The Exodus.
(Download the mp3 by visiting Rabbit at Reverbnation)
Rabbit, who raps in a mix of Swahili and Sheng (more about this dynamic, increasingly popular generation-significant slang here) and favours a story-based approach with lyrics that actually mean something, already had some success with his debut album Tales Of kaka Sungura, one of the best hip hop albums released in Kenya that year. Tracks like Jam Nakam and debut single Dodoma ft Harry Kimani in particular got considerable airplay. The storytelling and lyrical quality continue on the new album, with production qualities a notch higher.
It’s odd, but not surprising, that Swahili Shakespeare has so far attracted much less attention than the impromptu track/video below with writer/filmmaker/stand-up comic Jorma Taccone on assignment for AFAR Magazine (even taking into account the 3-week difference in when they were posted online). (Here’s the story behind the video).
Pretty good for an impromptu a bit of fun, still you can’t help but wonder if it would have been that easy for some random writer/filmmaker from anywhere in Africa to hook up with an established artist in New York and record a track/video in 6 days. The unreciprocated ease of access afforded visitors from Europe and America is fairly common, which is why every so often you’ll see some random European or American “guest” on a TV talk show whose presence on the show is a bit of a mystery since they clearly aren’t there because of their deep knowledge of any particular subject.
Anyway, here’s another one from Orutu Ya Masudi, this one’s called Yesterdays, and in it Rabbit talks about his escapades as a kid, his love life and his relationships with his friends. His most personal song to date, he says.