[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 17:40 GMT
Islamic rappers storm Senegal charts
Laxaso flyer
Laxaso have heavily religious beliefs
Rap group Laxaso have taken Senegal's music industry by storm, using a unique marketing strategy - Islam.

Although the group has not been on the music scene for long, their popularity already has gone well beyond the borders of Senegal to reach countries like Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.

The group not only sings in the local wollof dialect, their messages are also blended with popular Islamic religious songs and verses from the Holy Koran.

"The majority of the youths in Senegal today hardly ever attend Islamic religious ceremonies, so the best way to reach them is through rap, which all of them listen to anyway," Laxaso's lead rappers, Saada and Mody, told BBC World Service's Focus On Africa magazine.

As the region is predominantly Muslim, the group is now attracting a largely young religious following.

Hitting hard

Laxaso - whose name in wollof means "joining hands together for the common good" - released their first album in August.

It has been one of the best sellers of the year, and now producers are already preparing their next album, tasters of which have been shown on national television.

Mosque in Dakar
Senegal is a strongly Islamic country - but it is changing fast
Unlike many raps groups, known in Senegal for their extreme dress sense and dreadlocks, Laxaso's members - who are all in their early twenties - embrace the traditional Senegalese mode of dressing and wear flowing robes, or boubous.

Their songs are well-calculated to have a considerable impact.

"We know where to hit hard," they explained.

"Nobody wants to die young, but you never know what could happen to you. We make this clear in our songs, so that youths can prepare themselves for the eventualities of death.

"When our fellow Muslim youth hear messages like this, they will always remember to perform their five daily prayers, keep fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and they will also have sympathy towards their fellow human beings - whether Muslims or non-Muslims."

They added that their message was ever more relevant as people in Senegal increasingly adopt Western lifestyles.

"The reason many changed their way of life and adopted Western ways was because they lacked the necessary information about their religion," they said.

"But now things are changing and people are realising that the best way to live an honest life is through Islam and that's why we also sing and preach in rap to compliment current efforts."

Religious bandwagon

However, there are some who believe Laxaso are exploiting their audience.

In their songs, the group places particular emphasis on the "wrongs" of sex outside marriage - one song addresses teenage pregnancy, for example.

According to Saada and Mody, having a child outside wedlock in Senegal has serious consequences for women, often leaving them despised and rejected by society.

"When you loose your virginity, you bring great shame to your family," the group argue.

"Your future husband will never trust or respect you because he knows that you were seeing other men before marriage."

But others believe they are simply jumping on a religious bandwagon.

"Groups like Laxaso are engaged in adventurous marketing strategies to sell their albums," said human rights activist El Hajj Diop.

"Don't be surprised when they start praising Jesus Christ in their songs if their current favourable market takes a turn for the worse."

Diop added that he felt preaching Islam in rap is merely a way for Laxaso to sell their product.

"I see this as another form of racketeering on the part of musicians."

The full version of this article appears in the January-March 2004 issue of BBC Focus On Africa magazine.

Senegal's stars scoop music awards
12 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
Senegal's Carmen controversy
10 Sep 01  |  Africa


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific