Music as an Advocacy Tool
Visible from the primary school of Salif Ndongo B in the commune of Djidah Thiaroye Kao in the suburbs of Dakar, is a very special studio called Timbuktu. Here, pens scratch lyrics on paper, beats pulse from speakers, and the voices of Dakar’s youth can be heard recording raps songs about their communities.
The studio, two stories tall and open to the youth, harnesses Dakar’s urban culture and invites those eager to practice rap to enter its walls and record songs about their lives. Part of a project carried out by Plan International with the support of Swedish rapper Jason Diakité, also known by his stage name of “Timbuktu,” the studio aims to leverage rap music as an advocacy tool for defending and promoting children’s access to their fundamental rights in the suburbs of Dakar. In doing so, the project also educates young people about their rights and facilitates the participation of young people in the development of their respective communities.
The Timbuktu Studio project is a community anchor that is as much an infrastructural plan as a vocational one. A team of young technicians and producers supports the young Senegalese children in experimenting with musical composition, programming, recording, and sound production.
By cultivating these skills and recognising the challenges of the unique cultural subsector of Dakar’s suburban youth, the studio has given a group of 15 young people a chance to produce several musical pieces focused on themes of child abuse (especially that of girls), access to quality education, and youth leadership. This group of young people can be recognised today for having produced the first youth rap CD for advocacy on the rights of children in the suburbs.
Empowerment through Song
In addition to serving as a creative outlet and imparting skills relating to musical production, Timbuktu Studio also contributes to the empowerment of youth in developing their own voices. As Jason Diakité attests,
“I see the personal development, and how they went from not knowing too much about writing songs to now. Now, it’s in their blood.”
Recalling his own journey as a rapper starting at the age of 14 and the sense of self-worth that followed therefrom, Jason sees the studio as a source for encouraging a sense of pride, self-worth, and empowerment. Diakité explains, “Knowing your self-worth, that’s empowerment. The adult world maybe doesn’t understand how important it is for young people to feel like they have a voice, to feel like they can do something that’s meaningful. If they have an idea and they can put it on paper and sing it, it makes them feel good about themselves.”
Looking forward, Diakité says "My Hope for the next three years is that we manage to get even more youth to come - that we get more people, both boys and girls, to come here and learn."
The pivotal role of Timbuktu Studio is growing each year as youth, including women, are carrying out advocacy projects through music, and increasingly seeking the studio as a resource for musical production, as well as a source of inspiration and musical creativity.