Senegal’s Samba Peuzzi: The prodigy behind ‘rambalax’

By Eva Sauphie
Posted on Thursday, 22 December 2022 11:02

Samba Peuzzi © Samba Peuzzi Twitter profile

With his mix of rap and mbalax, Samba Peuzzi, the Dakar native, intends to export his music beyond the continent. We caught up with him in Paris at the Africolor festival.

Senegal Boy, the name of his first album released in 2020, claims his rap in Wolof over the beats of the tama, a traditional Serer percussion instrument.

There is no question of Samba Peuzzi, 26, eyeing American productions or imitating French rappers.

It is by promoting the sounds of his homeland that the new darling of Senegalese hip-hop managed to make his way into the rap game and won the prize for best artist at the Galsen Hip Hop Awards 2021.

Some even credit him with creating a new genre, “rambalax”, a contraction of rap and mbalax.

“My generation tends to make hardcore rap. I could have surfed on this niche, but I preferred to integrate my culture into my songs because I have no complex about valuing my country’s traditional music.

“By embracing our culture, we can stand out from the crowd and make ourselves exportable,” says the rapper, in almost perfect French.

100% ‘galsen’ hip hop

Until recently, the kid from Diacksao, a working-class neighbourhood in the suburbs of Dakar, didn’t speak a word of French.

His first visit to France was in early 2020 when he opened for another Senegalese rap darling, Dip Doundou Guiss, at the small Parisian venue Café de la Danse.

“To make myself known in the industry, speaking only Wolof is a hindrance and I want to go international,” says Peuzzi, who nevertheless spoke exclusively in Wolof while onstage at Canal 93, a music venue on the outskirts of Paris, during the 34th edition of the Africolor Festival, which runs from 18-24 December.

This time, the line-up was also 100% Senegalese, with the “girl power” trio Def Maa Maa Def also taking part.

I am aware of what I’m doing. I want to give new energy to Senegalese music as the Nigerians did with Afrobeat.

The diaspora was there that night.

The average age of the audience was 25, a little bit younger than the musicians accompanying Samba Tine, Peuzzi’s real name, on stage.

A “real orchestra made up of Senegalese, Beninese and Ivorians” accompanied by a producer at the machines, a mix of genres that works as well in music as it does in images.

In his clips as well as live performances, Samba Peuzzi pays attention to his appearance.

At the Africolor Festival, he was wearing a basketball tracksuit, tinted glasses at the end of his nose, and XXL chains around his neck, next to his energetic percussionist in a traditional boubou.

A collaboration with Rema

This is not surprising for the finalist of Flow Up 2016 – the biggest rap competition in Senegal – who grew up listening to popular and religious music as the beats of Positive Black Soul, the pioneering Senegalese rap group of the 1990s, admired by his older brothers.

Samba Peuzzi – also known as “le posé”, from the name of his hip-hop dance group Posey Gang, which he formed in high school – does not bear his moniker by chance.

With his head on his shoulders and the numbers in his head – a million fans on Instagram and more than 2.6 million views for his video ‘Lou Yakou Yawa’ – he has a clear vision of his career’s next steps.

“I am aware of what I’m doing. I want to give new energy to Senegalese music as the Nigerians did with Afrobeat,” says the rapper, who has just finished shooting a video in collaboration with the naija pop star Rema.

In the meantime, Samba Peuzzi is starting his small European tour with a series of concerts in Italy in December, before flying to Canada in early 2023.

Africolor Festival, a series of concerts in the Paris region through 24 December

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