BIRAHIM represents the new generation of Senegalese artists whose work is influenced by a wider range of musical styles than previous generations.
This talented young singer, lyricist and composer moves easily between traditional mbalax and internationally popular genres such as reggae, r&b and hip-hop. With a smooth and well-cultivated vocal quality, he sings in Wolof, French and English. His captivating manner and infectious spirit only add to his musical appeal.
Born into a griot family, BIRAHIM grew up in Medina, the densely-populated historic area of Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. As a youth he sang frequently at spiritual ceremonies and to accompany the traditional simb (lion costume) dance at mbapatt (wrestling matches), together with his uncle and friends.
Birahim’s career began in 2004, at the age of 20, when he and friend Eumeu Kayré formed the duo Black Light. Their reggae dancehall-tinged single, "Africa Unity," released in 2005, grabbed attention for its originality and positive message. Compelled by a passion for reggae music, he joined the group Akiboulan in 2006 and then Timshel Band in 2008. During this phase he recorded the hit song “Sa Rimbam” (Jololi, 2007) with Pape Daly and Babacar Seck. A seamless fusion of reggae with mbalax, the song brought Birahim into the sights of the general public and earned him an invitation to open for Jamaican stars Richie Spice and Ademan when they performed in Dakar in 2008.
Having achieved some recognition as a reggae artist, Birahim made the decision to return to his own roots and focus on the Senegalese popular genre of mbalax. That same year he joined the chorus of Senegalese star Titi, and in 2012 began singing with Aïda Samb. After collaborating with some of Senegal’s greatest popular artists, he was encouraged to strike out on his own. "Now it’s time to make a commitment to myself," he declared.
His debut album, From Medina (Prince Arts label), hit the stores in May, 2014 and immediately became a runaway hit throughout Senegal. Featuring 9 tracks, the album confirms his extraordinary talent and broad range of musical knowledge. At 30 years of age he is the youngest artist on the Prince Arts roster, yet his objectives are mature and well-conceived.
"To succeed in this environment, you have to have several strings on your bow," he explains. "It’s an asset to have an open mind and sing in different styles. I think when we sing in the same style all the time it becomes monotonous." Beyond this, Birahim wants his music to be international. "If you go outside [the country] you rarely see Senegalese play and attract people, there are few Senegalese artists participating in festivals abroad, and this is not normal. It requires research and creating other sounds," he says.
As the album’s title suggests, he pays homageto his nativedistrict. For him, beyond demonstrating his commitment to the area, the album is also a way to show the potential of young people of Medina. "Medina is a popular area. People think that those who live in these neighborhoods do not have the intelligence to stand on their own. This is to show them that there are young people who have talent and are able to do important things," says Birahim.
His songs address various social topics such as religion (a tribute to the prophet Muhammad), love, and the role and value of women in society. "My music is not just for fun. My music is also a way to convey messages. I want my music to be an example to generations. That is why I treasure the meaning and value of words," he says.
He speaks openly against celebrities who mistreat women, stating: "We who are famous do not have to take advantage of their weakness or vulnerability to abuse them. We all have sisters or female relatives and this should motivate us not to use women and then discard them like old socks."
In creating this album, Birahim collaborated with such musical greats as Bakane Seck, Yatma Thiam and Babacar Seck, with production by Ibou Ndour.
Birahim is currently focused on promoting the album, with an international tour in the near future.