African American Studies
INTERVIEWER: Karima Zerrou, Mark Naison
INTERVIEWEE: Manadou Khoule (aka DJ Khoule)
SUMMARY BY: Patrick O’Donnell
Note: This interview was originally conducted in French and translated into English.
Born in Dakar, Senegal, Manadou Khoule (aka DJ Khoule) came to the United States in 2000, when he was 20 years old. At the time that he emigrated, he was the best DJ in Senegal. Most of his influences were Western hip-hop, especially the work of Tupac Shakur. He got his first set of turntables when he was 15 years old—they were given to him by a local community center. He does not play an instrument, but he was also an accomplished hip-hop dancer. The Senegalese DJ scene is heavily influenced by Western hip-hop culture. DJ Khoule says that young people wear baggy clothes and brand names frequently. While there was no MTV in Senegal by the time Khoule left in 2000, Senegalese in America would frequently send back MTV video tapes to their friends and families back home.
Although he had made a name for himself in Senegal as a DJ, dancer, and manager, Khoule wanted to move to the US because he wanted to experience the US hip-hop and DJ scene firsthand. Khoule was able to get out of Senegal partially because his father worked security at the local airport in Dakar. Upon arriving in the US, he joined some relatives who had already successfully immigrated. These relatives live throughout the Bronx and Harlem. He initially got a job in retail, but did not work as DJ again until 2002. His first DJ gig on US soil was in a club in the Bronx called The Plantation, where he spun in front of a mixed crowd of about 250 people. He produced a mixtape of African music at one point, but he doesn’t produce anymore because there is little money to be made unless one is established. At the time on interview, he had a radio show called “Voice of Africa,” hosted by the Association for American Senegalese in Harlem (116th St.) The program is geared towards Senegalese Wolof-speaking listeners. DJ Khoule organizes parties through the Association and frequently spins in front of 300-500 people several times a year. He was doing a lot of club work until his wife got pregnant, and he hasn’t yet returned to regular club gigging. Khoule also does a good deal of DJ work in other cities, including Philadelphia, DC, and various places in Ohio.
DJ Khoule has some positive impressions about America, and is happy that the nation has a black president. In general, however, Khoule has been disappointed with his time in the United States. Although he married a Senegalese woman and lives in a very close-knit community with other Africans (including Senegalese, Ivorians, Nigerians, and other Francophone Africans), he feels that life in New York is too hectic from a financial point of view. Unlike in Senegal, people have to work constantly to make enough money to pay the bills. Whereas money goes a long way in his home country, things are so expensive in New York that one must always be gaining more money and spending more time doing it. At some point, he hopes to get a green card, but the legal fees are too hefty for him at the moment. As a result, he cannot go to Canada or even back to Senegal, or else he might not be able to get back in. He thus characterizes America as a “prison without doors—you can leave any time, but you never will.”
Khoule, Manadou. November 18, 2008. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Khoule, Manadou.mp3 (58164 kB)