German hip-hop comes to Africa
German rapper Megaloh and his producer Ghanaian Stallion have always referred to their African roots in their music, and recently got a chance to perform their songs when they toured East Africa.
With the help of the Goethe-Institut, two Berlin-based musicians got the chance to perform in several African countries.
The rapper Megaloh was born and raised in Germany by Nigerian-Dutch parents. His producer Ghanaian Stallion also has a multicultural background including Germany and Ghana.
They visited Uganda on November 13, the next day they went to Rwanda: “It doesn't feel like Africa,” was Megaloh’s first reaction.
Kigali is oddly tidy; its modern buildings could be standing in just about any big city in the entire world.
Additionally, plastic bags, street merchants, street shops and the carrying of goods on people's heads — all typically associated with East African cities — are all strictly forbidden here.
“Black Superman Group”
Megaloh and his producer Ghanaian Stallion are currently on tour in Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Part of the program organised by the Goethe-Institut are concerts and workshops with African musicians.
It's a perfect opportunity for the two of them to present and discuss their latest album entitled “Platz an der Sonne” (Place in the Sun).
Produced in collaboration with Berliner rapper Musa, it was released under the band name BSMG, short for “Black Superman Group.”
The album, their most political work so far, includes an ode to the legendary Afro-American sprinter Jesse Owens and the hymn “Lang Lebe Afrika” (Long live Africa).
Musicians' struggle is universal
Katharina Hey, head of Kigali's Goethe-Institut, chose Rwanda's only boarding school specialised in music for their workshop.
The workshop held in the Nyundo School of Art and Music is “a life-changing experience,” declared Megaloh on his way back to Kigali.
The school's 30 students, learning various instruments, song, musical theory and electronic music production, took a curious look at the German rapper as the workshop began and everyone was a bit shy.
They seemed to be quite surprised to hear about the difficulties faced by musicians in Germany — about having a hard time making ends meet while facing the disappointment of parents who didn't want their child to become a musician, for instance.
Megaloh also discussed problems with production companies and the hardship of building up a public image.
The Rwandese music students struggle with similar problems; the atmosphere of the workshop warmed up as they found out that a German musician shares their experiences.
Connecting through a “freestyle jam”
The students introduced their self-produced beats and short raps to Megaloh. The group then spontaneously decided to record an improvised video of Megaloh's song “Long Live Africa!” in the courtyard. And that's when the party took off.
The bass, drums and keyboard players provided the beats while other students started rapping, singing and dancing with growing enthusiasm. Finally, it was Megaloh's turn to show what he's capable of.
“My heart was throbbing because I knew quite well that this would be coming up,” he recalled. “We rehearse our performances, we don't leave anything to chance. I didn't know these rhythms here. But then, I just allowed myself to flow with the Rwandese beat.”
At the climax of the jam session, Megaloh stood right in the middle of dancing and singing students, confidently rapping freestyle.
“That was exactly our goal. We didn't want these musicians from Germany to land and perform there like a UFO, but to communicate with the locals,” said Katharina Hey. In her view, it was all worth the long drive.
Kigali dancing and singing
The concert in Kigali is an event that once again raised some insecurity. How long are they supposed to play? Wouldn't the audience get bored of 60 long minutes of hip-hop with German texts?
During the sound check, the large hall in one of the rather poor districts of Kigali was already crammed.
Megaloh and Ghanaian Stallion performed as headliners while Rwandese rapper Angel Mutoni and a local hip-hop team opened the show.
The audience warmed up quickly to enthusiastically welcome the two Germans. Megaloh gave everything he's got. He briefly explained each song in English, and then took off, leading the whole crowd to dance and sing.
As an authentic and disciplined musician with over 20 years of experience on European hip-hop stages, Megaloh had no reason to be worried in the first place.
“After all, music is an international language,” Megaloh said, laughing. He was soaked with sweat, but truly happy looking forward to the next event in Zimbabwean capital Harare.