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"Born in Africa, brought up in America, hip-hop has come full circle," proclaims DAARA J on the title track of their American debut album Boomerang (2004). Hailing from Senegal, the westernmost country in Africa, Daara J must have caught some of the sound waves rolling over the Atlantic from the South Bronx in the mid '70s. Goree, an island just off the coast of Senegal, was the last bit of the motherland seen by millions of Africans caught in the slave trade en route to America. They brought ancient rhythms and the ability to express pain, suffering, and triumph through art with them, traits that would later emerge in hip-hop. Daara J's Faada Freddy explains that tasso, ancient rhythmic poetry passed down from father to son, is the original form of rap. "Historically, people in Senegal would use tasso to talk about their environment, their living conditions, the situation of the country, and their hopes for the future."
"Daara J means 'school of life.' With every production, we want to give an education to our listeners," says group member Aladji Man. In the vein of albums by De La Soul, Public Enemy, and Blackstar, Boomerang strays from the typical themes of mainstream American rap. Joining the likes of Positive Black Soul and MC Solaar as one of Senegal's elite hip-hop crews, Daara J uses words as a positive force. During Senegal's 2000 presidential election, the group was hired to edit speeches and campaign against a corrupt regime, sharing in its eventual defeat. The same spirit informs their music, which focuses on spirituality and on the ills of globalization, the perils of a traditional society, and the threatened environment.
Winners of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for Best African Act, Daara J has spent months atop the European world music charts. Daara J's Boomerang proves to be as universally relevant and appreciated as it is unique to its creators. The album crosses borders with touches of English and Spanish alongside French and Wolof, a native Senegalese tongue, uniting the international hip-hop community. Never before has a non-English hip-hop album sounded so natural. Boomerang just might give the impression that French and Wolof are rap's common language, and Senegal, its birthplace.