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The sound of global hip hop: Why the genre resonates around the world

Afghan rapper and activist Sonita Alizadeh performs. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan rapper and activist Sonita Alizadeh performs. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

Hip-hop, though a uniquely American art form, has spread across the world as a tool for social change.

The genre has been the voice of various generations demanding social change and even revolution: Rappers in Tibet are using hip-hop to preserve the traditional language. And in Tunisia, hip-hop even helped launch the Arab Spring.

Poet and rapper Omekongo Dibinga teaches a course on global hip-hop at American University. Hip-hop gives a voice to marginalized people everywhere who feel like they’re being oppressed or ignored by society, he says.

And he says people without resources to play instruments or money for music lessons can use their mouths to make music.

“Since across the globe, the majority of people are marginalized in some way, shape, or form,” Dibinga says, “it would make sense that hip-hop would translate across the world like that.”

Hip-hop artists from around the globe

Sonita Alizadeh, from Afghanistan

Watch on YouTube.

Dekyi Tsering, from Tibet

Watch on YouTube.

Rayes Le Bled, from Tunisia

Watch on YouTube.

Somos Mujeres Somos Hip Hop, from Latin America

Watch on YouTube.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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