‘I learned about Confucius from rappers’

Canadian rapper Webster on bringing historical references of enslavement on world stage through rap.

Published: 05th September 2019 07:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th September 2019 07:23 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Canadian historian and rapper, Webster, was born as Aly Ndiaye and is considered a pioneer of the hip-hop culture in Quebec.

Passionate about history, the rapper has always been vocal about the enslavement of ‘Black Canadians’ in 17th-century Quebec, where he was raised.

He regularly lectures across the world about cultural diversity and the influence of the hip-hop culture on the youth. Webster also teaches ways to use creative writing in the French language. We catch him before his upcoming gig in Delhi.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why ‘Webster’?

It’s because I read a lot and my friends used to tease me, saying that I knew everything, like the [whole] Webster Dictionary.

Please take us through your background and interest in music.

I was born in the Limoilou neighbourhood of Quebec city. I’m one of the first rappers there. I started to listen to rap at about 12. It really spoke to me.

I could recognise myself in these rappers, even though we were from different backgrounds.  At first, I was rapping the songs of the American rappers and then decided to do it myself.

How did history mixed with rap influence you?

Music is the way to share messages and experiences. It is a way to communicate emotions and thoughts. Through its creativity, a political message becomes suddenly more attractive than its original form.

That is,  you could rap Marx’s Communist Manifesto and make it more appealing to the audience. I started to read Plato and Machiavelli because few were rapping about them.

I learnt about Sun Tzu, Lao Tseu and Confucius from rappers. Rap brought knowledge of the self, philosophy and different layers of understanding about life and the world to me.

Through your music, you talk about the history of black people and their enslavement in the 17th century since the start of colonisation. When and how did you took to this subject? 

It was after graduation that I came across those histories. Afro-Quebecois and Afro-Canadian histories are rich and meaningful.

Since they were not talked about, I decided to rap about them so that people would come to know that plural past and it would have an impact on our present identity and, hopefully, the future we’re trying to build as a society.

What about your creative use of language in music?

Rap and poetry sit at the crossing of meanings, sounds and images. You combine these three to create a string of thoughts that convey messages or pictures through rhythm.

Languages are a bridge between the inner self and the outside world. You are able to reach to people and, at the same time, they are loud enough to step inside your mind or soul.

Through music, you can teach, you can mesmerise, you can move and change people (for better or worse).

On: September 5, 7:00pm
Where: Alliance Française Delhi


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