“Voice of the Streets”: the Arab Hip Hop summit that couldn’t be stopped

March 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Reprinted with permission from author/editor Jackson Allers of World Hip Hop Market.

Cairo’s MC Amin playing to the crowd for the “Voice of the Streets” event (Lens ©Laith Majali/Immortal Entertainment)

CAIRO – Last November, 12 of the re­gion’s best-known Arab rappers were set to per­form together at a public youth center in the swanky central Cairo district of Zamalek. Or­ganizers billed Voice of the Streets as a concert to re­mind people about “the contin­ued struggle for freedom of ex­pression in the wake of the Arab uprisings.” Indeed, it was an Arab hip-hop event without precedent.

Unlikely rap torchbearer, Tunisia’s MC El Général whose song Rayess Labled (Head of State) was a musical anthem for the uprisings, and MC Swat from Libya, who was featured in numerous international stories about the musical scions of the Libyan rebel movement, were both “prize-winning” elements to the stellar line-up.

But the day before the event was scheduled to take place, event organizer Martin Jakobsen, director of the educational NGO Turntables in the Camps and founding member of the legendary Danish DJ collective Den Sorte Skole (The Black School) told WHHM that neither rapper was going to make it.

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Egypt’s Hip Hop Soundtrack (an interview with MC Sphinx of the Arabian Knightz)

March 11, 2012 Leave a comment
MC Sphinx and the other members of the Arabian Kinghtz – E-Money [left] and Rush [center] (photo courtesy of Arabian Knightz)

By Alex Billet (originally published in Electronic Intifada, republished with a blessing from World Hip Hop Market)

The Egyptian revolution is easily one of the most significant uprisings in decades. Millions of workers, students and unemployed took to the streets demanding that the US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak step down; it’s a struggle that continues even now, several months after Mubarak was overthrown.

Like any true revolution, the massive demonstrations and strikes sent a shock wave through the nation’s culture. Left-wing reporters and bloggers gained global attention, revolutionary poems were written and performed often on the fly in Tahrir Square, and countless songs dedicated to the uprising rocketed around the Internet.

Two of these songs, “Rebel,” and “Not Your Prisoner,” came courtesy of the trio Arabian Knightz, widely regarded as the first hip-hop group in Egypt. Both quickly became anthems of the revolution. After being vaulted to a national and international profile, Arabian Knightz are preparing their first international tour, and are releasing their new album Uknighted States of Arabia on 25 January — the one-year anniversary of the protests that sparked the revolution.

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The Mixtape of the Revolution

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

From the New York Times

The Mixtape of the Revolution

By SUJATHA FERNANDES
Published: January 29, 2012

DEF JAM will probably never sign them, but Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré, from a small town about 100 miles southeast of Dakar, Senegal, and Hamada Ben Amor, a 22-year-old man from a port city 170 miles southeast of Tunis, may be two of the most influential rappers in the history of hip-hop.

Mark Todd

Mr. Touré, a k a Thiat (“Junior”), and Mr. Ben Amor, a k a El Général, both wrote protest songs that led to their arrests and generated powerful political movements. “We are drowning in hunger and unemployment,” spits Thiat on “Coup 2 Gueule” (from a phrase meaning “rant”) with the Keurgui Crew. El Général’s song “Head of State” addresses the now-deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali over a plaintive background beat. “A lot of money was pledged for projects and infrastructure/Schools, hospitals, buildings, houses/but the sons of dogs swallowed it in their big bellies.” Later, he rhymes, “I know people have a lot to say in their hearts, but no way to convey it.” The song acted as sluice gates for the release of anger that until then was being expressed clandestinely, if at all.

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Anthems of the Arab Spring

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

A year later, a look back at 2 songs that inspired millions to action… and victory. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next reports from the Arab League (of Hip Hop, that is…)

Categories: Egypt

El-Haqed (Morocco) freed

January 12, 2012 1 comment

From Reuters

RABAT (Reuters) – A Moroccan rapper who has become one of the monarchy’s boldest critics was freed on Thursday, activists said, after he served a four-month sentence for assault, a charge which his lawyers say was a ploy to muzzle the popular singer.

“El-Haqed walked out of prison a little while ago shouting ‘long live the people’,” said activist Omar Radi, near Casablanca’s main Oukacha prison.

Earlier on Thursday, a court in Casablanca sentenced 24-year-old Mouad Belrhouat, better known as El-Haqed (“The Sullen One”), to four months and three days in jail and fined him 500 dirhams, sources in the court said.

Belrhouat was arrested in September after a brawl with a monarchist. Bail requests by his lawyers were rejected and the trial was adjourned six times.

“It’s a bittersweet victory for us,” said activist Maria Karim.

El-Haqed has become the singing voice of the protest movement, inspired by Arab world uprisings, demanding a constitutional monarchy, an independent judiciary and a crackdown on corruption.

Morocco’s main human rights group, AMDH, considers him to have been a prisoner of conscience.

His lyrics telling Moroccans to “wise up” have angered many monarchists. In one song, he says the king spends so much time giving orders that he has little time to count his money in Switzerland.

Belrhouat has struck a chord with young Moroccans who are disenchanted with the lack of jobs and one song “Bite just as much as you can chew” has had more than 600,000 hits on Youtube.

 

Categories: Morocco, North Africa Tags: ,

“Libya bleeds just like us”

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

From The New York Times

By LIAM STACK (Published: January 10, 2012)

TRIPOLI, Libya — A small crowd of boys huddled around the open door of a concrete shed turned recording studio to gawk at a trio of Libyan rappers in black baseball caps and oversize hoodies mixing tracks on a wide computer screen.

The men paid little attention to their wide-eyed audience and labored through take after take of their latest project: a public service announcement for a local television station urging trigger-happy rebel fighters to lay down their arms, something they still have not done four months after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was driven from power.

“Don’t open fire into the air; our lives are more valuable than the cost of bullets,” said Siraj Kamal Jerafa, 28, locked inside an improvised sound booth whose walls were covered in worn sofa upholstery. At the end of the night, he emerged smiling to a roomful of high fives. With nothing more to see, the little boys outside wandered back to their homes.

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Categories: Libya Tags: , , ,

Somali hip-hop vs. al-Shabaab

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

From The Guardian

Somali hip-hop band fighting al-Shabaab for hearts and minds

Waayaha Cusub remain defiant despite bearing the scars of the Islamist group, whose reach has extended to Nairobi

 in Nairobi

Shine Ali doesn’t scare easily. If he did, he would not be with his band in a basement studio in Nairobi, rapping lyrics that challenge the Islamist rebels who control much of his homeland, Somalia – and whose reach extends deep into the Kenyan capital.

Ali is well aware of the risks he is running. Three years ago, members of the al-Shabaab group broke into his home in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighbourhood and shot him.

“They said, ‘Your message is anti-jihad. You are telling the youth to give up jihad,'” the 29-year-old says in halting English. Ali edges down his baggy checked shorts, pulls up his hooded sweatshirt and shows a scar on his right hip. He has another one on his left arm.

“When they shot me, I knew that if I stopped the music, they would win but if I continued, my power would win.”

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