A long way gone
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Rap music saved the boys in a number of ways. It allowed them freedom from thought;
Junior, Talloi, and I listened to rap music, trying to memorize the lyrics so that we could avoid thinking about the situation at hand.
it literally saved their lives more than once.
The chief became very angry. “If you do not tell me the truth, I am going to have these men tie stones to your bodies and throw you in the river,” he roared. We told him we were students and this was a big misunderstanding. The crowd shouted, “Drown the rebels.” The guards walked into the circle and started searching our pockets. One of them found a rap cassette in my pocket and handed it to the chief. He asked for it to be played. You down with OPP (Yeah you know me) You down with OPP (Yeah you know me) You down with OPP (Yeah you know me) Who’s down with OPP (Every last homie) The chief stopped the music. He stroked his beard, thinking. “Tell me,” he said, turning to me, “how did you get this foreign music?” I told him that we rapped. He didn’t know what rap music was, so I did my best to explain it to him. “It is similar to telling parables, but in the white man’s language,” I concluded. I also told him that we were dancers and had a group in Mattru Jong, where we used to attend school. “Mattru Jong?” he asked, and called for a young man who was from that village. The boy was brought before the chief and asked if he knew us and if he had ever heard us speak parables in the white man’s language. He knew my name, my brother’s, and those of my friends. He remembered us from performances we had done. None of us knew him, not even by his face, but we warmly smiled as if we recognized him as well. He saved our lives.
Rap music allowed Esther a way to break through to Ishmael at the camp.
“Please sit down,” she said, taking the package from me, putting the battery and cassette in the Walkman, and handing it to me. I put the headphones on and there was Run-D.M.C.: “It’s like that, and that the way it is…” coming through the headphones. I began to shake my head, then Esther lifted the headphones off my ears and said, “I have to examine you while you listen to the music.” I agreed, and took off my shirt, stood on a scale, and she checked my tongue, used a flash-light to look into my eyes…I didn’t care because the song had taken hold of me, and I listened closely to every word. But when she began examining my legs and saw the scars on my left shin, she took my headphones off again and asked, “How did you get these scars?”
A Long Way Gone