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- Published on Thursday, 08 March 2012 18:15
- Category: More About Music
It started out as a debate on Facebook. But as their Tunisian and Egyptian neighbors rose up against their rulers, a group of young Moroccan activists came together in the spirit of revolution and began to discuss how they could bring democratic reforms to Morocco.
The answer seemed quite clear: Through reforms enacted by King Mohammed VI.
Protesters took to the streets, declaring February 20 the day Morocco demanded that its king make “the necessary changes in the political system to allow Moroccans to rule themselves by themselves.” It was an unprecedented move to say the least, especially in a country where the head of state derives much of his legitimacy from his ancestry (He is a distant relative of the Prophet Muhammad and as such enjoys the title “Commander of the Faithful”).
Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, no revolution has occurred on Moroccan soil. Instead of addressing the country’s social ills, such as poverty, unemployment, violence, women’s rights, Mohammed VI opted for the band-aid approach: temper grievances with a dab of constitutional reform, dress societal wounds with a majority vote, then sit back and wait for them to heal.
The Moroccan people were not easily duped. Recent arrests of rapper El Haked and cartoonist Walid Bahomane for challenging the sacredness of Mohammed VI have not only shown the superficiality of the king’s proposed reforms, but its fallacies as well. Hypocritical at best, the case of the Moroccan government goes to show what happens when you underestimate the intelligence of your country’s people.
Like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and every country involved in the sweep of the Arab Spring, music played a role in Moroccan protests, and was particularly instrumental in helping artists advance society’s criticism of the king. Songs exposed monarchical corruption and the disillusionment of a youth generation betrayed by a government bent on the continuation of tired policies.
It has been said that a country’s harshest critics are also those who love it the most. In honor of February 20, the day Moroccans publicly stood up in the face of “sacred” Mohammed VI, here are two music videos, both by young Moroccan artists who hold back no fear in exposing Morocco’s societal and cultural flaws in hopes of rebuilding it to the Morocco they love.
Sawt Nssa (The Voice of Women) – Soultana
Youssara Oukaf, better known to her fans as Soultana (“The Queen”), is not only one of Morocco’s first female rappers, she also reigns as one of Arabic hip hop’s biggest stars. Originally from Rabat, she helped form Tigresse Flow in 2005, Africa’s first all-female rap/hip-hop group. The group became an almost immediate sensation with their hits “Maghribiya” (Moroccan Women) and “Kifachi?” (How?).
“Sawt Nssa” (The Voice of Women), originally released early 2010, then re-released in May 2011, is Soultana’s first solo single. In it, she takes on a taboo subject in any traditional society: prostitution and the views both men and women have of women who, either out of desperation or choice, sell sex in exchange for pay:
She saw in your face the life she lost.
You looked at her like she was a cheap thing.
She saw in your face what she wanted to be.
You looked at her, a look of humiliation.
She's selling her body because you are the buyer.
And when she's walking by, you act all Muslim.
She's prostituting to earn a living for her orphan brothers.
They live in the projects and you live in a mansion.
Please don't insult them. Don't humiliate them.
Don't forget that paradise lies at a mother's feed.
She could be your mother. She could be your sister.
It could be her, me or you.
The lyrics are direct: piercing in their criticism of prostitution as a market, but defending of the women who find themselves in the trade. Known for her “old school” style, Soultana doesn’t concern herself with songs about promiscuity, fame and bling. Instead, she raps about social issues, particularly women’s issues and the challenges facing Morocco’s youth.
Watch the video here
Baraka Men Skate (No More Silence) – L7a9ed (El Haked), featuring Jihane
When Moroccan authorities arrested rapper Mouad Belrhouate on alleged charges of assault, little did they know that their crackdown would make him a national superstar. Google his name, or El Haked (“The Indignant”), as he’s better known, and all you’ll find are news coverage and petitions demanding his release and accusing the government of using his detainment as a political statement against artists who protest the sacredness of King Mohammed VI.
Wake up! Look at the Egyptian people
and the people of Tunisia. They're lying to you, those who say,
"Morocco, you're an exception." Okay, living is a luxury.
Their political brainwashing is calculated.
Debauchery and reality television, among other things, are there to distract us.
We have no choice but to fight for our rights.
Silence won't benefit us. I am the child of the people and I'm not scared!
Those who suffered in silence and were dragged
through the streets are fed up with going around in circles
while our brother [the king] convenes his team to amend the constitution.
There's something to go crazy over! Do they want us
to take up arms to seize our rights?
It's for me to choose whom I want to sanctify.
And if you understand us, come live with us.
"God, the Homeland, and Freedom" [NOT "God, the Homeland, and the King"]
What makes El Haked such a sensation in Morocco is fearlessness in vocalizing what many are afraid to say. His music steeped in politics, with lyrics that not only call out the corruption of Moroccan king Mohammed VI, but also encapsulate a youth generation fed up with the country’s social ills at the hands of the young monarch.
Watch the video hereBy Safa Samiezade’-Yazd, Aslan Media Arts and Music Editor