New York, New York, the big Apple, the history of Hip-hop

05 septembre 1984
07m 04s
Ref. 00004


Summary :

Filmed in New York, this report (with its many special effects) looks at the Zulu Nation, founded in New York in the early 1970s, and the origin of hip hop culture. The journalist Bernard Zechri interviews Afrika Bambataa, Bronx disc jockey, and creator of the Zulu Nation, an organization that brings together artists who express themselves through break dance, rap and graffiti art.

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Broadcast date :
05 septembre 1984
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Afrika Bambaataa, the King of the Zulu Nation

Everyone, even the new hip-hop generation looks to him, Afrika Bambaataa, an American black rapper, born in the Bronx. In 1963, when he was a member of the gang Black Spades, there was one film that particularly made an impression on him. It was the film Shaka Zulu starring Michael Caine, in reference to a Zulu King who fought against British colonization. In 1973 in the ghetto by the Bronx River, he created his first group Organization, which brought together key figures and dancers of the hip-hop movement. He also laid out its ethical foundations. In January 1975, his best friend Soulski was killed following a shoot-out where the police intervened in a brawl between the Black Spades and another gang. Afrika Bambaataa left his gang and then decided to reinforce the values of the Organization by renaming it Zulu Nation. Distancing himself from using violence as a form of expression, he brought together young peace-loving individuals who liked to dance, spray graffiti and practise the Djing. Coming to the defence of the oppressed, as he says in this report, the DJ and the other four founding members of the group recruit others; and the hip-hop movement went international. For example, the French DJ Dee Nasty is one of its famous members. Since then, each year, the Universal Zulu Nation has celebrated its anniversary by organizing an evening dedicated to James Brown and to Sly Stone in New York, reviving the legendary nights at the Roxy in New York.

The Zulu Nation is a federation of artists, mainly stemming from recent migration, but it also a way to shelter youths who come from the ghettos from deadly violence. Even if the organisation is founded on certain principles in order to prevent illicit behaviour (including the selling and consumption of hard drugs), it is far from being a catholic manual. Nobody takes a vow of chastity or poverty. Afrika Bambaataa has sold millions of albums. You also note in the documentary that graffiti quickly finds a place in galleries, just as rap found its own music labels. Dance continued to be, as it was everywhere else, the poorer brother.

By way of summary, a note by its founders: "the Universal Zulu Nation is not a cult, nor a club where you are forced to be a member, or an elite within hip-hop culture nor a for-profit business, nor a music or dance group.

A Zulu is not a non-smoker, nor a tee-totaler, nor someone who is more or less virtuous than the average person».

Marie-Christine Vernay


Bernard Zechri
Afrika Bambaataa, who’s that? It is the best-known DJ in New York, the master of funk electro. His album, in 82 really cranked up this music: he has sold more than a million copies across the United States. This was followed by an album called , produced with his band Soulsonic Force. The disc was very, very well received in the United States and was recognized as one of the [inaudible] best by the New York Times, etc. There are also several other groups, Shango, who he has just made an album with alongside the group Material, and another group called Time Zone. So, Afrika Bambaataa, is not only a musician: in New York he is also a symbol, he is also the King of the Zulu Nation. We could say, it is to folk music what Sly Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, or James Brown might have been in past. He's from the Bronx, and he is with us at the moment, we will be able to talk with him a little . So, you are the King of the Zulu Nation?
Afrika Bambaataa
I got the idea in 1963 after seeing a film with Michael Caine. It was about English soldiers who were trying to conquer a land that did not belong to them. This is what is happening in South Africa today. I had always dreamed of having my own Zulu group, I've always respected them, I have always been on the side of the weakest, the underdogs. If I was in the Wild West with John Wayne and the Indians, I would fight with the Indians against John Wayne. Just like I would fight with the Africans against the English; and, if it were with the Moors and the Christians, I would fight for the Moors. I lived during the time when blacks were trying to survive, students revolted against the American system, the time of the Viet Nam war. I was so aware of what was happening around me, and I fought for human rights. It was on watching the film that I became aware of their pride and realized what they were fighting for. I decided to create a Zulu group later, I first formed a group called The Organization, and then I founded Zulu Nation. There were only five of us then, it wasn't the Zulu Nation but the Zulu Kings. They began to breakdance, to recruit new members, to win contests. Others joined us. A very strong bond was created among the first five. By winning competitions, and recruiting, we were able to bring in more people, and we formed the Zulu Nation. Then, rappers, breakers, and graffiti artists joined us. Initially, they watched us dance, protecting our DJs’ sound system, if needed. So we made progress. We found ourselves with people who worked in the music profession, people who sang or produced discs. Many of them who have something to do with rap are from the Zulu Nation. Like Grand Mixer DST, Infinity Rappers, Solo Sound, Cold Cross Brothers are also part of the Nation. And The Jazzy 5, Shango, Soul Sonic Force, people Time Zone, Fab 5 Freddy and Beside who have joined the group.