"You won’t find a better introduction to African rap and hip hop than this compilation.  It offers an inspired, conceptual take on a vibrant, sprawling, and for some, unapproachable young music genre." Afropop Worldwide.

In 2005, I thumbed my way across the Sahara desert, from Senegal to Spain, following the preferred route that thousands of migrants were taking every month in search of a better life in Europe. In Morocco, I made a radio piece for the BBC about a Nigerian migrant who had lost both his legs while fleeing the police, and was now being held captive by Algerian and Nigerian people-smugglers. I never found out what happened to him.

In 2006, tens of thousands of African migrants began using the Senegalese coast as a departure point for Europe, setting sail in rickety wooden fishing boats, thousands of them dying along the way. Thousands were killed when boats capsized, when cooking stoves exploded, and many people simply died of exposure, dehydration and starvation. In Senegal, where I was reporting on the crisis for newspapers, it was all anyone talked about.

Many of those left behind wanted to make the same journey, to escape a gruelling life of joblessness. Others tried to convince them that nothing was worth dying for. 

The most vocal of those trying to educate prospective migrants on the dangers of leaving were musicians. Rappers were going into the studio to make recordings about the realities of life in Europe: the high cost of living, the difficulties of finding work, of living without legal documentation, of living so far away from home. And because I was tired of telling people these things myself – my whiteness and my European passport privileges which rightly nullified my opinion –  I decided to make an album of this music, because in Africa, when musicians speak, people listen. 

I spent three years visiting recording studios, calling musicians, listening to obscure albums, trawling through on-line forums, and commissioning songs, in order to find a good enough collection to be able to release. I got all of the lyrics translated into English, so that there was a fairer chance of the words being understood by those who didn't speak Wolof, French or Ghanaian Pigeon, and I visited the slums of Lagos and the beaches of Dakar, to photograph the lives of the people living there, and the places where they set sail for Europe. Yes We Can: Songs about Leaving Africa was born, and Outhere Records released the album on their label. 

Below are some articles about the album, some reviews, and if you want to buy your own copy of what the Guardian calls a "powerful and thoughtful compilation," please click here. You'll get the CD and the extensive booklet, with photos, stories, and song translations. 


Songlines magazine, July 2010

A compiler's journey

The record stores are full of them, but have you ever thought about what's involved in making a compilation? Rose Skelton, compiler of a new album about the issues of migration and leaving Africa, gives an insight into this sometimes lengthy and complicated task. MORE

the national, november 8, 2010

out of africa

The dilemma of the emigrant, driven by poverty to seek an often elusive better life in the West, is the theme of a new album from Senegal. Kate Thomas talks to some of those involved. MORE