Rapping the Arab Spring

From the World Policy Journal

By Sam R. Kimball

TUNIS—Along a dusty main avenue, past worn freight cars piled on railroad tracks and young men smoking at sidewalk cafés beside shuttered shops, lies Kasserine, a town unremarkable in its poverty. Tucked deep in the Tunisian interior, Kasserine is 200 miles from the capital, in a region where decades of neglect by Tunisia’s rulers has led to a state of perennial despair. But pass a prison on the edge of town, and a jarring mix of neon hues leap from its outer wall. During the 2011 uprising against former President Zine El-Abdine Ben Ali, prisoners rioted, and much of the wall was destroyed in fighting with security forces. On the wall that remains, a poem by Tunisian poet Abu al Qassem Chebbi stretches across 800 feet of concrete and barbed wire, scrawled in calligraffiti—a style fusing Arabic calligraphy with hip hop graffiti—by Tunisian artist Karim Jabbari. On each section of the wall, one elaborate pattern merges into a wildly different one. “Before Karim, you might have come to Kasserine and thought, ‘There’s nothing in this town.’ But we’ve got everything—from graffiti, to breakdance, to rap.The kids here, they’re talented; they’ve got passion,” says a local youth who assisted Jabbari in the prison wall project.

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The Avenger Strikes (Morocco)

From World Hip Hop Market

IMPRISONED MOROCCAN RAPPER EL-HAQED BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE

Published On  March 12, 2013 | By Greg |  Morocco News

mouad_belghouat_slider Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat recently started a hunger strike from his Casablanca prison cell.

Belghouat, known as “El-Haqed” (the Vengeful One, in Arabic), has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the monarchy and has spent the better part of the last year in prison.

Police arrested him on March 29, 2012, because of a YouTube video of his song “Kilab ed-Dowla” (Dogs of the State), with a photo of a policeman whose head has been replaced with a donkey’s. The song denounces police corruption with lines like, “You are paid to protect the citizens, not to collect people’s money and take it to your chief.”

In his statement to the police, Belghouat denied any connection to the video, saying unknown people made it, set it to Belghouat’s music, and posted it. A separate recording of Belghouat rapping “Kilab ed-Dowla,” but without any of the controversial visuals, is on YouTube.

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Halal Rap vs. Propaganda Rap (Morocco)

‘Halal rap’: Morocco’s MC’s preach politics and conservatism

Published November 11th, 2012 . Albawaba.com

Bigg has been accused of turning to pro-government propaganda (Photo: planetmoroccanrap.blogspot.com)
Bigg has been accused of turning to pro-government propaganda (Photo: planetmoroccanrap.blogspot.com)

Some  of Morocco’s  young rappers are using their music to show support for the country’s ruling party, espouse family values, and encourage female modesty. It’s called “Halal rap,” but can it even be considered rap at all?

Sheikh Sar (known as Chekh Sar in Morocco) is a rising star among religious youth here.

But Chekh Sar isn’t an upcoming Salafi preacher on one of the religious satellite channels proliferating throughout the Arab world. He is just a young rapper from the city of al-Rashidiya in east Morocco who used to be called Elias Lakhrifi.

His mix of religious advice and conservative values has turned Chekh Sar into a symbol of “halal” music for an Islamist audience. Chekh Sar is credited with inventing a new style of Moroccan rap called “Halal rap.” He uses it to defend the ruling  Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD)  and call for building a conservative society.

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The cauldron: Islam and Hip-Hop in Europe

A comprehensive overview of the state of Hip Hop Diplomacy across the pond from one of my most admired mentors, Dr. Hisham Aidi (via one of my favorite observers of the Arab street, Jackson Allers & World Hip Hop Market )

The cauldron: Islam and Hip-Hop in Europe

The debate over Islam and hip hop in Europe is heating up as governments wade in.

Farah Pandith, the US State Department special representative to Muslim communities, has argued that hip hop can convey a ‘different narrative’ to counter the foreign ‘violent ideology’ [GALLO/GETTY]

By Hishaam Aidi (published first on  Al Jazeera.com )

New York, NY -  Three months ago, just as the French presidential campaign was heating up, the rapper Kery James uploaded a track titled “Letter to the Republic” (“ Lettre à la République “) explaining what he and youth in the banlieues thought of the republic’s political class, or as he described them, “ Pillagers of wealth, murderers of Africans, torturers of Algerians / The colonial past is yours, you chose to link your history to ours .”

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Anthems for the Arab Spring

From USA Today (UK edition)

Rappers provide anthems for the

Arab Spring

By Naomi Westland, Special for USA TODAY

Eighteenth-century French revolutionaries marched to  La Marseillaise , and two centuries later, rock music spurred opposition to the  Shah of Iran  and Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. It’s no different with the uprisings in the Arab world.

  • Egyptian rapper El Deeb's song Stand Up Egyptian encouraged protests against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “Arab hip-hop, especially that coming out of Tunisia and Egypt, played a major role in creating the soundtrack to the so-called Arab Spring,” said Joshua Asen, a documentary filmmaker and writer of the  Hip Hop Diplomacy  blog.
(Photo by Jeff White – Egyptian rapper El Deeb’s song “Stand Up Egyptian” encouraged protests against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.)

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Rapper Faces Death Threats in Iran

From The New York Times

By THOMAS ERDBRINK

TEHRAN — With lyrics that tread on ultrasensitive topics and an album cover that shows the dome of a mosque in the shape of a woman’s breast, Shahin Najafi is an international rapper who elicits an intense reaction here.

Schahryar Ahadi/dapd

But Mr. Najafi’s latest song, “Naghi,” named after a Shiite saint, has prompted a particular uproar. Opponents of Mr. Najafi are using a  recent fatwa by a leading cleric , Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpayegani, which labels all those insulting the 10th Shiite imam, Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi, also known as Imam Naghi, as apostates. An Islamist Web site then offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who kills Mr. Najafi, who was born in  Iran , raps in Persian but lives in Germany.

Leveraging Hip Hop in US foreign policy

March 11, 2012 1 comment

From Al Jazeera  and the longer article,   “Race, Rap, and Raison d’Etat” by Hisham Aidi.

The US government wants to improve its tarnished image abroad by sending out ‘hip hop envoys’ [GALLO/GETTY]

In April 2010, the US State Department sent a rap group named  Chen Lo and The Liberation Family  to perform in Damascus, Syria.

Following Chen Lo’s performance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was asked by  CBS News  about US diplomacy’s recent embrace of hip hop. “Hip hop is America,” she said, noting that rap and other musical forms could help “rebuild the image” of the United States. “You know it may be a little bit hopeful, because I can’t point to a change in Syrian policy because Chen Lo and the Liberation Family showed up. But I think we have to use every tool at our disposal.”

The State Department began using hiphop as a tool in the mid-2000s, when, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the resurgence of the Taliban, Karen Hughes, then undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, launched an initiative called Rhythm Road. The programme was modelled on the jazz diplomacy initiative of the Cold War era, except that in the “War on Terror”, hip hop would play the central role of countering “poor perceptions” of the US.

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