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Diamonds in the Rough: A Ugandan Hip Hop Revolution cover photo

Diamonds in the Rough: A Ugandan Hip Hop Revolution 2009


Distributed by Third World Newsreel, 545 Eighth Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018; 212-947-9277
Produced by Brett Mazurek
Directed by Brett Mazurek
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
African Studies, Music, Popular Culture, Postcolonialism

Date Entered: 07/11/2011

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

The former British colony of Uganda is known perhaps more widely for its political strife than its music or poetry. In the 1970s, the dictator Idi Amin devastated the country with ethnic persecution and economic mismanagement. The East African nation is one of the world’s poorest and has struggled for decades with civil war, corruption and high incidences of HIV.

Into this environment, a grassroots cultural movement was born in the early 1990s. This fast-paced documentary, which is narrated by Spearhead lead singer, Michael Franti, introduces audiences to the unique sound and style of Ugandan hip hop or lugaflow. Characterized by politically charged and socially conscious rap lyrics spoken and sung in African, rather than English, lugaflow brings with it messages of both anger and hope. The film follows several Ugandan artists and illustrates both their influences and the impact they have on other young people in their own country and abroad. Rah-P, a female rapper, uses her music to discuss women’s issues and pay for her high school tuition. Saba-Saba, one of the founding members of the seminal Bataka Squad, visits a hospital for HIV-positive children in Kampala as he prepares to leave for an international music summit in the United States. Silas, who was forced to flee the country as a child, makes an emotional return to his grandfather’s village. For these artists, and others featured in the film, rap provides a way and means for understanding and communicating the struggle of daily life.

For providing a perspective on global hip hop as a language of the oppressed and a closer and deeper look at youth culture in Uganda, the film is recommended. Awards

  • Winner/Best Documentary, Peace on Earth Film Festival
  • Audience Award/Best Documentary, Dances with Films 2008