Friday, September 17, 2010

“Morocco Loves Hip-Hop”

In the Marrakesh market place vendors hassle tourists to buy their mass-produced souvenirs. “Come look at the beautiful crafts. They match your beautiful eyes,” the vendors told me. But, I didn’t want their dinky camel statues or Moroccan hats — I was looking for a Moroccan Hip-Hop CD.

This kind of music goes against their way of life — their traditions, religion and laws (No one is allowed to speak ill of the King of Morocco or criticize the government).

Hip-hop in the United States is about relationships, love, sex, and drugs. We all dance, sing and listen, but for Moroccan rappers music is their freedom of speech.

My quest to find Moroccan hip-hop began with a documentary in Video Journalism class. The film talked about artists such as Fnaire and H-Kayne working together in 2005 to put together Morocco’s first hip-hop concert “Morocco Loves Hip-Hop.” They not only struggled with getting sponsors, but with their family's blessing. Their songs speak about Moroccan politics, important historical events, and change.

I was worried about finding the CDs in Morocco because I didn’t know the language and knew the music was offensive to the majority of the population.

The first day, I got the courage to ask my waiter about Moroccan hip-hop, but he immediately said it didn’t exist. Then a few days later while I was on my Semester at Sea trip to Marrakesh I asked my guide, Miriam. She looked at me for a while and finally said she knew where to find them in the market.

There was a small stand pushed between a restaurant and convenience store. At first glance I could only see the typical “sounds of Morocco” CDs, but after asking the man and reassuring him that I really did want hip-hop music he pulled out a small box from under the counter. The CD covers were cracked, they weren’t covered in plastic wrap and the artwork looked like it was made on a home computer. I found the artists I knew and paid the man the equivalent of 5 dollars for each one.

Back at the hotel I was sitting down by the pool in my blue Moroccan dress with my friend. A hotel employee was passing by and complimented us on our dresses. After talking for a little bit and learning that his name was Aman, I asked him about the CDs I had in my hand.

Immediately he got excited and began talking about the different artists, where they came from, and how important the messages of their songs were. He made me promise that I would translate the songs, analyze the lyrics and learn from them.

I knew at that moment I held something important to the future of their culture.

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