Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

an omnivorous take on music of the beat-based variety and the urban spaces that nurture it

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Non-Alignment Pact

Buried in the international section of the Inqy I saw a small story on Rwanda and their decision to stop teaching French in favor of English in the nation's schools (syndicated from the WaPo, of course, in this era of shrinking newsrooms). The article is mostly blase, operating on the assumption of French's diminishing role in the world. In particular, it prints a horrendous quote by Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, Rwanda's state minister for education: "When you look at the French-speaking countries - it's really just France, and a small part of Belgium and a small part of Switzerland."

Tell that to the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (Fr only, natch) and its claim of 200 million French speakers on five continents. I guess the minister never took a look at this map. Across the pond, The Guardian dug a little deeper, pulling a better quote from Vincent Karenga, the Trade and Industry Minister: "French is spoken only in France, some parts of west Africa, parts of Canada and Switzerland." Still off-base -- he didn't even mention Belgium, the very reason French is spoken in Rwanda -- but at least he got West Africa, a massive stronghold of French and the very reason French will remain a major language over the coming decades.

Of course, the article appropriately links the decision to lingering anger at the French for their role in the Rwandan genocide and a wider post-colonial push away from European powers, especially former colonizer francophone Belgium. But as an assiduous observer of French as a language of resistance in the Americas, from Louisiana to the Caribbean to Québec, I'm sorry to hear it couldn't occupy a more positive role in Rwanda. Its role in Africa is more as a common thread across countries filled with hundreds of local languages. That, in part, has rendered Dakar such a hub for African hip-hop -- a swirl of languages with French usually running through.

I wonder how politics will trickle down to affect culture vis-à-vis Rwandan hip-hop. The excellent points to an excited local scene with the usual hybrid of languages (Swahili, the local Kinyarwanda, French, and English). Several profiles point to French-language schools that rappers attdended as children. But as that shifts in the coming generation, it's only logical that French will fall by the wayside, and by extension the tour dates to France and Canada will be replaced by the UK and the U.S.

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At 10/30/2008 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous, Sweden said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. It's articles like this that make me follow this blog. Keep it up!


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