African bootleg MP3 street-market

3bute's comic has adapted Chris Kirkley's blog post about an MP3 street-market in Nouakchott, Mauritania. It's a fascinating look at the intersection of traditional developing-world counterfeit/bootleg markets and the digital world:

The market itself is a labyrinthine of stalls, glass display cases filled with “fake” Nokia/Samsung cellphones, sporting two or three SIM cards, cameras, mp3 players, and speakers. Deeper into the market, past the fancier shops, the stalls are simpler. In concrete boxes plastered with glossy hip hop posters and homemade montages, young men lounge behind computers, blasting music from pairs of speakers directed outwards, in an arms race of sonic amplitude. This is Nouakchott’s mp3 market.

This is no amateur operation. Every computer trails a variety inputs: USB multipliers, memory card receivers, and microSD adapters. A virus scan is initiated on each new connection. Each PC is running some version of a copy utility to facilitate the process. The price is a standard 40 ougiya per song, about $0.14; like every market, discounts are available for bulk purchases. The music on the computers is dictated by the owners. Hassaniya music is most often carried by young Maurs, Senegalese Mbalax and folk by Pulaar and Wolof kids. While I’m searching for Hausa film music, I’m directed to the sole Hausa man in the market, a vendor from Niamey. I sit with the vendors, scrolling through the songs on VLC, selecting with a nod or a pass, the files copied to a folder, tallied, and transferred to my USB.

The original post included an MP3 of the street-sounds in the market, which makes for good listening (I've proxied that link through CoralCache to avoid nuking the server).

#5: Down and Out in the MP3 Market (via AfroCyberPunk)


  1. Sadly the price pr song is not that informative unless one know the typical local wage.

    Still, the crossover of old and new is interesting. Makes me think of classic cyberpunk scenes of people haggling over disks or cartridges containing bootleg code or illegal ICE breakers.

  2. The scene here in Ethiopia is similar … but it is mainly local music … but in terms of movies, right in front on the ‘mall’ that has the main movie theater in Addis Ababa, you can get the movie you just watched for 20 ETB (less than 1$), after some bartering of course. 

    Once I asked if they also have current TV shows … and I was offered porn … well .. the fun of miscommunication is endless :) 

  3. In Venezuela they have that but mostly for Nintendo DS bootleg cards. A relative got a card with around 120 games. The ones I have seen, are in small malls, but the scene sounds similar. 

  4. Surely the headline should be Mauritanian bootleg MP3 market. Africa is not a country !

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