Ndugu Zavara, one of Bongo Hip Hop pioneers and founders of Kwanza Unit, taps into the war “In The Congo”, and taps it in style as seen in the music video. The song highlights the issues of the ongoing war in the Congo over its minerals. The mineral responsible for causing the ruthless legacy of King Leopold to continue is coltan, used to make most electronic devices. However, the war “In The Congo” is complex due to the wealth and the historical nature of the country.
The song features femcees like activist Toni Blackman (who was given the post of US Hip Hop ambassador) with her collective Rhyme Like A Girl, and an Afro-Soul artist Nasambu. This is of great significance. But whether Zavara decided consciously or it was all subconsciously to only feature female artists, I am not sure. It should be noted that, although the genocide continues to claim lives of millions of the Congolese people, the systematic rapes have also scarred the lives of millions of women in the Congo. Therefore, seeing the collective voices of women “In The Congo” is liberating.
“In The Congo” can also be characterized as concrete jungle meets dense Jungles of Congo where soldiers and rebels fight. The war is driven by our addiction for the next new phone, laptop and many other electronics, with the Congolese people caught in the crossfire between the profit-making rebels from coltan and the rest of the gadget-addicted world. Many Congolese maybe unaware of the usage of coltan, but not to the pain and suffering this mineral inflicts on them.
As a Tanzanian, and Hip Hop enthusiast, I am happy to see other Africans involved in the conflict, through Hip Hop lyrical intervention. The message is not of urging people to boycott, but to be responsible, by buying electronics that are green and with fair trade label. This might help to save lives. The message “In The Congo” hopefully is sent and received. More Africans need to intervene and take action, and the reason is simple and quite ironic. Africa is the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. Therefore, before we completely lose ourselves, we must remember that, “when brothers fight to death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate”.