Burkina Faso: Reggae singer banned for stirring up youth revolt

25 May 2011


The singer, radio programme director and radio host Sams’K Le Jah (real name: Sama Karim) who hosted a weekly reggae show on Ouaga FM has been denied access to the radio because of a song he wrote — and broadcasted — about the country’s president.

Inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, a popular youth revolt started in the West African country Burkina Faso in February 2011. Since March 2011 series of violent events have plagued the country, including a teachers’ strike, with demands to end to the reign of president Blaise Compaore, and resulting in injured soldiers, tradesmen and demonstrating students.

In this context, the reggae singer, programme director and radio host Sams’K Le Jah became one of those voices that simply had to be silenced, because he dared to say out loud what the majority of the population would only whisper. He wrote a song in which the refrain goes: ‘Ce président là…. ce président là… il faut qu’il parte… et il partira…’ (‘This president will have to go, and he will leave’).

Claiming he is part of a reggae revolt, in his weekly reggae show on Ouaga FM, Sams’K Le Jah has often denounced the regime of Blaise Compaore while calling the youth to get involved in the struggle. His current problems with the authorities and management increased after he, alongside with the rapper Smockey, participated in a rally of the opposition on 30 April 2011 in Ouagadougou. The radio show, his songs and his activism made him very popular — to a point where he is often referred to as the spokesperson for the Burkina youth.


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Is Sams’K Le Jah’s song ‘Ce président là’ becoming a West African equivalent to the Tunisian rapper El Général’s ‘President, Your Country’ ?

Received death threats
It is not the first time Sams’K Le Jah experiences that someone wants to silence him. In 2007 he received death threats and his car mysteriously burned in front of the local Ouaga FM radio station.

This time around pressure came from the board of the radio station, and eventually from the Supreme Council of Communication which initially ordered him to refrain from talking about politics and not to play music relating to Thomas Sankara in his radio show. After he had been broadcasting his own song entitled ‘Ce président là’, the rebelious programme director was barred entirely from entering the premises and equipment of the radio.

Devoted to president Sankara
Sams’K Le Jah has several albums to his credit, including one devoted to president Thomas Sankara. Two years ago he staged the festival ‘Sankara Revival’ on the anniversary of the birth of Sankara, and in 2007, together with other artists, he organized a big concert to commemorate the assassination of the revolutionary president.

In 1987 Thomas Sankara was overthrown and then executed in a coup masterminded by Blaise Compaore, who has since instituted a multi-party system. Compaore won a new five-year term in 2010 after 23 years at the helm.

Sams’K Le Jah
Click to read more about Burkina Faso on
Burkina Faso 

Citizens for Earth – 4 May 2011:

‘Le CADTM soutient le musicien et animateur de radio Sams’K Le Jah et condamne fermement l’interdiction d’acc

Performance of ‘Ce président là’
by Sams’K Le Jah on 4 March 2011

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Interview with Sams’K Le Jah
in French language  –  5 June 2010

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